I am not sure, exactly, how to start this as I loathe stream of conscious narratives. I have been circling this idea, documenting my inner journey, for some time now. Perhaps it is fear behind my avoidance or maybe it is uncertainty that there is even anything to find with introspection. But I have to try.
So.. start by introducing myself. I am a 43 year old woman, divorced (I know that is a blog on it’s own), off work due to disability, daughter, sister, friend. In the past 10 years, somehow when I wasn’t looking, I lost the part that is “me”. That spark, that burst of self recognition, seems to have been snuffed by time, life events, self talk and responsibility to others. I am afraid that, starting this, there may not be anything to find. What if that pilot light can’t be reignited?
I am a book addict. That deserves it’s own full sentence. I read constantly. It may be part of my being a Gemini but I am constantly thirsting for knowledge. Watching a television show, reading a news article, even just reading my Twitter stream always creates lists/bookmarks of books to read, places to visit, music to listen to, things I want to investigate more and reams of paper with jotted notes and words and names and connections clear to only me. I wish I could just live reading, exploring the ideas/people on the internet, learning and expanding my knowledge. I would be a student forever – with the caveat that I require a good teacher as I ask a lot of questions (Miss Finch would be my first choice) – if spending a life learning was an option anymore.
This all sounds great, right? Well, I have hit a wall. I stopped following through with my ideas, those notes of books and articles to read, places to visit, and have stopped mid-life. Not from thinking there isn’t more to learn – I still want to do all these things – but I feel like I am pouring water into a bottomless pail. There is no resonant feeling of absorption or receiving of these ideas, books, sparks of interest. I feel like my mind is constantly thirsty yet I am never satiated. Parched. And I derive no pleasure with each mini-lightbulb moment or piece of information that filters into my brain. It isn’t hopelessness or apathy. It is like the ‘self’ that I have been feeding just isn’t hungry anymore – if I am truthful – I think that that ‘self’ isn’t even there anymore. What happened, where did it go?
I have slowly been excavating, trying to find the ruins, see what is left, if anything, to be rebuilt. Not sure I can ever rebuild anything that will slightly resemble what my ‘self’ was before. I know ‘she’ is out there – a floating image, a ghost – but I am empty and she is out of my reach.
As always, I started by reading – devouring everything I could find – following every trail, every bread crumb of insight I could smell out. Using all five of my senses, desperately trying to find my way home. Frantic that I have lost my way and won’t ever get back again.
Well I have collected a vast amount of articles, quotes, books, ideas, people who, I feel, might have the puzzle pieces I am looking for.
I am not going to explain how I got here – hollow and adrift in my life – feeling like the Fifth Business in the book by the same title by Robertson Davies (witness to everyone else, used as a resource, but never a participant) because everyone knows how you can lose your ‘self’. Divorce, life, career, family, lack of attention, responsibility, inattention, not being a priority, media, electronics, the busy-ness of this advanced life we are all supposed to be living. All of these contribute to slowly eating away at the ‘self’ – pouring drops and dribbles of water to dowse the inner spark. (Somehow I always visualize the spark as a bright blue that sometimes blanches to white.) And then you are left, looking in the mirror and feeling that there is no one looking back at you. Like in the movie by Steven Speilberg Hook (with Robin Williams as a middle aged Peter who has forgotten Neverland and magic and joy) at the end of the movie, the journey, when the little boy cups Peter’s face in his hands and looks deeply into Peter’s eyes finally to say “there you are”…that is the loss I am feeling. Empty.
And I don’t want to stay that way. I want that spark back, I want to look into the eyes staring back from the mirror and see ‘me’ again. So, here we are. At the start. Maybe you’ll come along for the journey, maybe you’ve ‘been there, done that’ (in which case, congratulations), or this doesn’t even make sense (lucky person), but I am going to take this journey and share it. Feel free to be a silent observer.
When I was in university my roommate in first year was the most amazing, artistic, individualistic, unique, quirky, brilliant, creative woman I ever met. (Still miss Andrea Mortson) I feel like she was a glowing sun that I kept trying to get close enough to so I could be warm or, better, that I, too, would catch fire. Our last day in residence she gave me my first journal (bright yellow, no surprise there, spiral bound) and with 150 blank pages. She said that I should keep a journal BUT that the most important thing was to write it as if someone was going to read it, that my words couldn’t be vague or lazy – that I articulate my thoughts completely. So, I started my first journal – and that invisible reader is who I write to even to this day.
That first yellow journal started me on a 21 year habit that I keep to this day. Those journals have become my passion (collecting old hardcover books that I repurpose into journals.) And the trunk full of journals that I still add to. <My blog so I will end that sentence with a preposition.> These pages aren’t going to be my journal but a specific place for me to explore my journey (the trail markers I find along the way, the people that inspire, those happy coincidences that occur) to find my ‘self’ and rebuild it.
This Invisible Reader technique is something I have found I am drawn to in the books I read – Elizabeth Peter’s Amelia Peabody series of books and, my favourite book, by Elizabeth Von Arnim, called Elizabeth and Her German Garden from 1896. (I found a 1896 copy of the book at a garage sale back in my 20’s and it sat on my self, waiting to speak to me, until my 30’s.) Von Arnim and Peters use the first person narrator and break the ‘wall’ to acknowledge the reader directly. Both writers use the loving moniker of “Gentle Reader’ and I’m going to use that too.
In these postings I am going to share quotes, books, ideas, people that I dig up in my excavation – believing that I will be drawn to the sources that will aid me the most – so don’t be surprised where each post ends up,,, there is no map. I am going to be focusing on the journey and not the destination.
So here we go….Gentle Reader
Photo: EM Delafield in Life Magazine 1925