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Joan Didion on being a keeper of a private notebook/ Through Journaling I developed a deeper relationship with the self

We live our lives searching for freedom. In the Spring of 2021, I watched women place sunflowers delicately behind their ears as white linens fell from their skin, symbolizing protection, love and beauty, and rocks that contained magic decorated their body. These rocks, supposedly, carried the energy they wished to invite into their lives. Recently released from quarantine we were a people filled with conspiracies about microchips in vaccines, quarantine being used to divide the American people, and the omnipotent “they” “them devils” were working overtime in order to prevent us from knowing who we were. Everyone we met was a reflection of ourselves and shared a past life connection that could possibly interfere with the current relationship that made ancestral, Akashic, and Ifa readings necessary for love. These conversations, around love, freedom, trauma and healing, happened at Osun Festivals, ancestral yoga classes, and events where the only covering for the flesh was paint; our knees fell before alters covered in–white, for purity; green, for wealth; red, for love–candles that were invitations to worlds invisible to the unenlightened eye. We, no matter how much we attempted to deny the truth, were no different or any more special than the Catholics, Hindus, or, the sect that caused our disillusionment, Christians; our humanity, our need to feel special and find freedom, revealed itself through the practice of “ancient” spirituality. We, like everyone on this planet, will search for freedom until the last letter has been carved into our headstone. Transcendence, freedom, comes from presence and gratitude. I learned a lot about the avenues one can take to acquire freedom through watching the world and bringing my journal.

“But your dead will live, Lord; their bodies will rise, let those who dwell in the dust wake up and shout for joy, your dew is like the dew of the morning; the earth will give birth to her dead.”

“The healing Journey” a term being used that symbolizes the potential of our lives changing, love being found, and a willingness to take responsibility for our lives. This journey revealed itself to be more difficult than imagined, and the darkness that hid behind the white linens, amethyst crystals, and conversations around “building our own” came bursting from the actions, and hearts, of every follower. The chakra chants, money affirmations, and dances around a pot filled with fire could not hold back the tears that were necessary for a authentic journey. We discovered communion in these circles, and many were new to conversations; most people have never had an intimate conversation with themselves. The inability to take the practice where its needed most, the home, in privacy, created an imbalance between the potential of the conversations to encourage presence, and our spiritual progress. We didn’t have the qualifications to be each other’s therapist nor the responsibility over each other’s lives. We ended up lonelier after knowing communion but being unable to nurture the space it all dissolved. I discovered the illusion of absolute freedom through the conversations had under trees; life is about balance, and chaos always balances out its opposite. Through these conversations I learned empathy, and the immortal words of James Baldwin rang through my heart, “You think your pain and your heartbreak are unprecedented in the history of the world, but then you read, or hear something or see something. It was books that taught me that the things that tormented me most were the very things that connected me with all the people who were alive, who had ever been alive.” April 1st, 2021, I carried those conversations into my bedroom, and started the long process of learning to create an internal dialogue. Throughout her wonderful essay, On Keeping a Notebook, Joan Didion, apart of her wonderful collection Slouching Towards Bethlehem, captures the intimacy, truth, vulnerability, and beauty of documenting our internal lives onto paper.

Joan Didion

“Since the note is in my notebook, it presumably has some meaning to me”, Joan Didion says capturing, in her wonderful collection of essays, how even the most insignificant events can trigger us to document them; those moments come, especially for me, from the silence of contemplation. For example, walking the lake alongside my house, and watching the sun create thousands of dazzling dancing diamonds against the water’s surface, and every evening listening to the cicadas in the magnolia trees and every night the sounds, ideas, and smells from these events fill my journal. Writing nurtures our intimacy with the world. Through creating a internal dialogue we discover, or learn to articulate, the emotions shaping our relationship to the world. Journaling slows us down to the patience of life, and we can move in communion with the world at large.

My first notebook was a Big Five tablet, given to me [at age five] by my mother with the sensible suggestion that I stop whining and learn to amuse myself by writing down my thoughts. She returned the tablet to me a few years ago; the first entry is an account of a woman who believed herself to be freezing to death in the Arctic night, only to find, when day broke, that she had stumbled onto the Sahara Desert, where she would die of the heat before lunch. I have no idea what turn of a five year-old’s mind could have prompted so insistently “ironic” and exotic a story, but it does reveal a certain predilection for the extreme which has dogged me into adult life.”

“I wonder if Mary Ann will ever love me”, was my first journal entry, early signs of a hopeless romantic, about a quirky blonde girl that captured my heart. This journal became a space of expression and solitude; it was a private collection of attempting, with the writing skills of a 9yr old, to speak in a world that was inarticulable. Today I only remember Mary Ann’s crooked smile, and while the emotions have passed and the memories have faded the journal, that I once wrote these simple verses, reveals the emotional ambiguity of a self that will never come back. We remember the moments that once contained love, and the moments where pain felt eternal, but spending time ciphering through a old journal reveals life is always progressing. Before us, carved into paper, the people we once were sit before us, and demand to be remembered and cherished. We must tell the truth during our moments of documentation in order to appreciate the people that once occupied our bodies; we must reflect on the people we were in order to understand the people we are becoming. If we overlook the distance we have traveled it wont be long before we stop moving. The only thing that matters is getting closer to the truth of our emotions.

“How it felt to me: that is getting closer to the truth about a notebook. I sometimes delude myself about why I keep a notebook, imagine that some thrifty virtue derives from preserving everything observed. See enough and write it down, I tell myself, and then some morning when the world seems drained of wonder, some day when I am only going through the motions of doing what I am supposed to do, which is write —on that bankrupt morning I will simply open my notebook and there it will all be, a forgotten account with accumulated interest, paid passage back to the world out there. It is a good idea, then, to keep in touch, and I suppose that keeping in touch is what notebooks are all about. And we are all on our own when it comes to keeping those lines open to ourselves: your notebook will never help me, nor mine you. “So what’s new in the whiskey business?” What could that possibly mean to you? To me it means a blonde in a Pucci bathing suit sitting with a couple of fat men by the pool at the Beverly Hills Hotel. Another man approaches, and they all regard one another in silence for a while. “So what’s new in the whiskey business?” one of the fat men finally says by way of welcome, and the blonde stands up, arches one foot and dips it in the pool, looking all the while at the cabaña where Baby Pignatari is talking on the telephone.

Journaling allows us to remember the lives we have led, and remembering gives us the grace to appreciate the many paths we have walked. This collection of essays contains the wisdom and beauty necessary for a world constantly in a rush and where people seem incapable, and unwilling, of slowing down. A wonderful collection of stories, Slouching towards Bethlehem is becoming an all time favorite.

Slouching Towards Bethlehem