I stopped journaling when I met Chris.
Before I wrote constantly. On the bus, during breaks at school, and definitely every night before bed. But when I met Chris all that stopped.
My poetry stopped, too. I dislike talking about ‘my poetry’ because it’s so typical, but here it is: I used to write it, it was autobiographical, it didn’t rhyme, it created and perpetuated my own internal legends, symbols, and stories, and when I met Chris it stopped.
In the beginning, I was puzzled. Where did the magic go?
Journaling and writing poetry were very important to me. Poems were little pieces of myself made manifest; little magical toys I wound up with words and could then replay at will. Journaling was how I kept track of myself, how I knew what I was thinking and where I was going.
To find myself without these things, without even the urge to create them, was… puzzling. Not troubling, because I could no longer bring myself to care. But definitely ‘curioser and curioser’.
At times I thought it was part of growing up, becoming an adult. I met Chris when I was 18 and got a ‘real’ job soon after, then bought a house a little more than a year after that. There were many changes, and my writing wasn’t getting as much time as it used to.
Then Chris and I went through a bad period where the engagement was called off and he moved out. Whereas before with my journaling and poetrying I simply didn’t feel called to create, now I felt dead and empty. My counselor advised me to start journaling again, to figure out what I felt. I remember sitting on the concrete steps of my front porch in the evening, alone, my hand cramping after writing only a paragraph of the most boring, un-insightful words ever.
What had happened to me?
Chris and I got back together, and this time I actually wrote while in a relationship, but I still didn’t journal. I think what changed is that for 2 years I was crazy in love, and there wasn’t much time in my life for anything else. The breakup we went through made me acknowledge and depart from my clinginess, and when Chris and I got back together I was more adult-like and independent.
I would hope it’s obvious from my posts that Chris and I love each other very much, but there’s also time and space in our lives now for pursuing our own hobbies. And for the past 2 years I’ve been a real, dedicated writer again.
But not a journal-writer, and not a poet. And I finally realized WHY.
There are two reasons. The first is somewhat obvious: poetry and introspection (read: creativity) is often spurred by sadness. There have been a plethora of articles coming out linking mood disorders to creativity. Google ‘depressed people are more creative‘ and you’ll find a bunch of them. Is it any wonder we have stereotypes of tortured artists?
This really hit home for me as I found myself drawn to Florence and the Machine’s song Breaking Down lately. The first time I heard it I got chills. For me it was an amazing, beautiful anthem in the atmosphere of my own teenage poetry, talking about Florence’s relationship with the muse. To me the muse embodied is a sinister figure, capable of delivering creativity in episodes similar to religious ecstasy, but there is a cost to such gifts.
Imagine the irony when I learned that what I had took for a song about the muse was really about Florence’s battle with depression.
I was not a happy child. Which is funny, since my brain chemistry naturally leans towards contentedness. And yet before I became an adult and realized my own worth, I felt powerless and unlovable, a great deal of which had to do with my height, but was also bolstered by my personality type, as discussed below.
When I met Chris all that changed. Because I was finally happy. Happiness does not lend itself easily to creativity. My poetry stopped.
The second reason has to do with my Meyers-Briggs results. With who I am as a person. Why I always felt alone and isolated, even among friends. Why at the author’s reception last weekend, in a room full of ‘my people’, I still felt like an outsider. Before I used to journal because I didn’t really have anyone to talk to. And when I met Chris, suddenly I did. There was no reason to write down my thoughts in the journal anymore because I could finally tell them to someone, and be understood.
The moral stresses in my job (I hire and fire people; it’s ugly sometimes), the dance of finances, concerns about my writing career, thoughts about family, etc… all these are now shared with my life partner. It’s a different type of communication than with a friend, even a close friend. In a long-term relationship, my burdens are Chris’s, and vice versa. Our lives affect each other in a very real, up close and personal way.
And I realized that with this type of relationship and communication, I feel heard, and I don’t have to talk to myself anymore to get that.
I discovered this, ironically, as I found myself desiring to journal again. There are some things that can’t be shared with friends, that you also don’t want to keep bothering your boyfriend with re-hashing, and these things are perfect for journaling. Like waking myself up at night because I’m making ‘Mmm’ happy noises in my sleep because everything is so great right now. Or my sudden blazing insecurity about the quality of the sleeping beauty story. Or how totally, uneasily WEIRD it is to not have a project looming over my head.
It feels really good to return to a habit I carried for so long. To spend even more mental time immersed in the world where I am a writer focused on writerly things. I feel I am becoming more and more my authentic self, something that is oddly compounded by my relationship with my hair:
I’ve spoken about hair before, and it sounds totally shallow to talk about, until we consider the very, very important role hair takes in our self-confidence and mental image of ourselves.
When Chris and I met my hair nearly touched my butt. With the wisdom of hindsight that was too long, but whatever. Then when Chris and I broke up 2 years ago, I cut my hair. It was a change, a way to update myself, and also probably a symbol of mourning. Later I cut it more. A lot more. Less than shoulder length. As someone who has ‘great hair’, and who takes pride in their hair, this was a very, very big change for me. I didn’t realize, until it started to really grow back, how much it affected my feelings about myself, and about who I was as a person.
My hair is back to being long now. I want it to be longer, but it’s getting there. It gets ringlets in it now, which I used to love (and my mom used to bug me to brush out), and which I haven’t seen in a couple years.
Anyway, all of this (completing projects, journaling, growing my hair out) is coming together to make me feel like myself again. It’s a return to the person I used to be, the person I like myself best as. I physically and emotionally resemble my projection of ‘myself’ in my brain, and that is a wonderful thing.
But then again, when you come down to it, it really just means these things are happening:
Which I guess is really more of a ‘DUH!’ thing than anything else.
So, yeah. That’s where I am right now.
What about you? What makes you feel like your authentic self? Are you feeling that way lately?