1.19.2010

A Dusty Mirror.

Not everyone has a door that opens directly to their past. I do. I wrote every day for nearly five years, from ninth grade to the summer after my freshman year of college. Struck with sudden curiosity, I ventured down to my aunt’s basement yesterday in search of the dusty stack of collage-covered Meads that envelope my youthful angst and hormone-infused thoughts.

Atop the stack was my last full journal written the spring semester of freshman year at Judson, for credit in Advanced Essay Writing. Beneath that lay the journal from my senior year of high school, the one that didn’t get written in as often because I was burning the midnight oil to get straight A’s. Beneath that, the journal from the summer before senior year when I was giddy with freedom from a not-so-nice boyfriend that stuck around far too long. Beneath that, I couldn’t crack open another collage-adorned notebook without provoking my gag reflex.

I should just throw them away. I certainly don’t want to leave them for someone to read through in the event of my death. I don’t want to lug them from apartment to apartment to house, from stage of life to stage of life, as a way of reminding me how na├»ve and artless and sometimes cruel I once was. What once seemed as smart, funny and wise now seems peculiar and false, like looking at my reflection through a cracked and dusty mirror. Somehow, most of what I wrote there has been sloughed off, and what remains is a much different figure than I perceived before.

I will probably keep them, dust them off every once in a while and find that there are truths reflected beneath all of the immaterial things I thought then. Everything else I can take with a grain of salt. The question that the experience actually sparked is this: will writers inevitably look back at their work and see only a jumble of emotions and poor writing? Or am I just a bad writer, one that lets too many of my emotions get in the way? Does everything we write have potential? Do we have to possess the value of hindsight in order to write something true? Does experience make up for what we wrote in the past? Do we ever get over the insecurity of reading our own post-dated thoughts in black and white? Do I need to keep those journals, or can I, should I throw them away?

1.13.2010

The Writing, Reading Woman.

I'm telling the truth when I say that I have started at least four blog posts in the last week, and have only gotten through two or three sentences before losing steam and deciding I am too tired for my thoughts to make sense here. I have written several times in my journal where I feel more free to let my mind wander unhindered from deeply personal things to the more reader-friendly subjects I might have posted online. I like blogging, but my biggest enemies are the back button and the little red "X" in the upper left hand corner of this window. I'll try to make this short and succinct before my motivation runs dry.

I am currently reading Traveling with Pomegranates, a co-authored memoir by Sue Monk Kidd and her daughter, Ann Kidd Taylor. The memoir walks readers through major life transitions of both mother and daughter, set against the backdrop of a richly feminist view of Ancient Europe. Sue is a 50-something woman coming to grips with the end of her youth and the beginning of her writing career. Ann is a 20-something woman coming to grips with the end of her undergraduate studies, and subsequently her plans for graduate school, which have been rejected by the only university she applied to. Ann has no alternative plans and has fallen into a deep and nearly inconsolable depression while Sue has fallen into her own state of despondency as her body begins to exhibit premenopausal effects.
As Sue passes the torch to her daughter and Ann hesitates to accept it, both experience spiritual awakenings and personal enlightenment that are heavily influenced by divine feminist figures, from the mythical mother-daughter connection of Demeter and Persephone, to Athena, to the Virgin Mary and Joan of Arc.

This read has challenged, inspired and comforted me as I find my own struggles reflected in those of the characters. Sue, who is best known for her fictional novel The Secret Life of Bees, describes in sincere and raw detail her struggle to augment her lofty dreams of being a novelist into a tangible work. Ann pours out with frank, but almost lyrical honesty the inner pain, healing, and growth that led her to what she is now- a writer. Both women discover the necessity of drawing inspiration from wherever one may find it- the earth, recurring images, one another, and oneself. As I continue to read, their experiences both validate and soothe my own insecurities as a woman, as a wife, as a writer and as a daughter. To recognize inspiration and allow it to change one's life, Sue and Ann avow, is truly divine.

"You must learn one thing. The world is made to be free in. Give up all the other worlds except the one in which you belong." - David Whyte (quoted by Ann Kidd Taylor in Traveling With Pomegranates.)