In the days of auld lang syne

I didn’t even look through it before throwing the calendar away. I used to page through them for kicks, to see what I’d written and reflect on how far I’d come. My grandmother made a practice of writing a short note on her calendars as a kind of journal at the end of every day and we still had those in a stack at my uncle’s place and got the one out for 1970 to see what she’d written on the day I was born. All life was whittled down to small things. To grocery lists and doctors appointments and near-miss accidents. Things of little consequence. You could jot it down on a wall calendar if you wanted, but what was the point? We were all cycling down the same path that ended the same way. We were all in various states of delusion fumbling around in the dark, tuning a radio in search of another voice.

A long time ago I stopped writing in my journals. It shifted to my blog and moved from “what I had for breakfast” to “what does breakfast even mean?” And like looking back at old journals, rereading old blogs only yields so much value. The journal is truly for the author and the author only, to claw their way out of the pointlessness of life—or like a crime scene detective, to rifle through the banal clutter of things to find a hidden connection. In this way the journal has very limited value for anyone outside of the author. You could read about Alan Rickman’s life for example, with a foreword by Emma Thompson, and perhaps they had a relationship, and you might learn about the dirt between him and Kenneth Branagh, but it would be raw and unprocessed in the words Alan used to make sense of his own life. And even he couldn’t do that. It would be exposed in a sense. And for that, it would need editing and curating prior to publication. And cease to be a true journal.

I think we journal for a few reasons, namely to make sense of things. Writing about your life elevates it too, gives it more legitimacy. It’s like making a commitment to value your life more just by taking the time to record it. I think I blog/journal in hopes to find more meaning. Or like my grandmother did, to preserve a few small details of my life so I can save it for others when I’m gone. And in that sense you could believe the dead are never really gone, if someone else can still read about their life and imagine what it was like.

But we are all fooling ourselves to think this way. And perhaps that’s okay, perhaps that’s the point. It’s one way to extend ourselves, to leave the riddle of what our lives really mean for someone else to solve.

Categories: musings, writing

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22 replies

  1. During some of the distressed times in my life, I wrote stream of consciousness notebooks. It was therapeutic, I think. They were kept for a while, then binned unread.
    Journalling is another matter, and perhaps I’ve avoided it because to attempt it might not reveal sufficient meaning to satisfy me. I probably should not have written this either.

    Thanks Bill – for writing.

    Be well and do good.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hey no I’m glad you did write this David, thanks! Wondering if you are in NZ yet for the celebration with Alex. Appreciate your reflection here too. The stream of consciousness can be really good, that’s a bit of what I’ve been doing lately on the bloggy-blog. You be well too, do good.


      • NZ is beautiful E.g the Botanical Gardens in Hamilton offer twenty-odd cultural takes on the garden that are fabulous. A bug is making me avoid crowds atthe moment although the geyser area in Rotorua bathes the air with sulphurous steam that might salve my bad throat. I am off the pace but motoring on.
        You back home?

        Liked by 1 person

      • Hey sorry to hear about the bug David, hope that will pass soon. Good call with the sulphurous stream. And yes, we’re back since last Thursday night thanks for asking. Saw our daughter Lily off to school in utah this morning and resuming normal routine here now. Denuded the house of Christmas this morning even.

        Liked by 1 person

      • My brain is a bit slow and composition skills compromised but I will post a few photos. Hoping all is good back home.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. During some dark times I’ve used day planners to jot down notes at the end of each day, just as a way of putting it behind me. And, surprisingly, a thought as simple as “This was a good day” could carry over into the next. Maybe writing it down helped. And I’ve been thinking about the handwritten journals I keep and how writing in them is like exercise—a thought that, funny enough, I’ve planned to turn into a blog post, but that’s another story.
    I think this sort of sharing, whether on calendars or blogs, is valuable, though, even if the value isn’t always clear.

    Liked by 1 person

    • “This was a good day” has amazing influence. I remember during a dark day thinking “maybe today will actually be good” when I had good reason to believe otherwise, and it was. So yes, a lot to be said for how we reflect on our days for sure. There’s some amazing, potent micro grace in that for sure.


  3. Forcing your inchoate thoughts and memories into words for a journal changes them, maybe permanently, but maybe it’s worth it if only as a sort of self-discipline and mental exercise, a way to clarify things? Or a way to vent and defuse anger, gain a bit of perspective, etc? Dunno.
    Maybe a lot of it is best forgotten and we could make a little ceremony of tossing the old year’s calendars, good riddance to bad rubbish! Like the folks who practice Tashlikh during Rosh Hashanah (New Year) throwing their sins in the river, a chance to unburden. Hope the new year is a good one and memorable, too.

    Liked by 1 person

    • What a nice piece here Robert, thank you. Love the depth of reflection you’re willing to go to and share here, agree about most of it possibly best forgotten and funny that right? The disk space analogy, I often come back to that. Thanks for using the word inchoate too. Hoping the same for your new year. Sitting in a parking lot now in the suburbs at a driving school where our daughter Charlotte (15) keeps doing laps with the driving teacher and I watch her go by in the rear view mirror. See there’s poetry everywhere right?! Ha!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I feel you have mixed feelings about the past. Perhaps we all have these mixed feelings yet we are the sum total of our past. Examination of the past from memory or journal/blog entries can help guide our future. Your blog post helped to remind me of this.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Well put my friend and spot on, those mixed feelings…for sure. Appreciate you visiting and reading and letting me know your thoughts! Glad you connected with it, and be well. Happy new year! Bill


  5. I had no idea this would happen when I started blogging, but it has become an amazingly detailed story of the past ten years. On the outside chance I ever become important enough to research. I’ve made things incredibly easy. Or maybe my kids will just read it when I’m gone.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Yep
    “The journal is truly for the author and the author only, to claw their way out of the pointlessness of life,”

    Liked by 2 people

  7. It’s like the intro to Hartley’s ‘The Go-Between ‘: “The past is a foreign country, they do things differently there”. I admire anyone who can bear to keep their old journals… I look back and cringe! Happy 2023 to you!

    Liked by 1 person

    • It is a foreign country! Like that analogy there, they do do things differently there for sure. Yes I keep lots but man, it’s certainly like luggage (or baggage) you can’t do much with, right? Happy 23 to you my friend and glad we met up last year. Appreciate you reading and sharing your thoughts. Be well! Bill


  8. I love this photo. I am obsessed with shadow photography.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. My journals have become mostly a form of record keeping. Jotting down story ideas and weird thoughts, yes, but mostly as a memory aid so I can say, “You did SO say that!”

    Liked by 1 person

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