One of the nicest parts of this exercise (or practice) of going through my old journals is re-reading them. I know a journal which is written specifically for yourself is not the same as writing for an audience, even if the only audience is other folks writing blogs.
Blogs started from online journals which weren’t necessarily contemplated to be read by others. I, long ago, had a journal on LiveJournal – does anybody remember that one? It pre-dates blogger and wordpress by a lot. I set my LiveJournal to private, but at some point I allowed certain people access to it. I don’t recall writing in it a lot to begin with, but once I opened it up, I started emotionally shutting down and eventually the LJ just petered out.
It’s my dilemma with the public vs. private self. Most people who are natural writers somehow figure this out – maybe they only write for public consumption (novelists, journalists, screenwriters) and so you don’t necessarily know much about them at all. Others waver between the public and private spheres and I guess we call them bloggers or “writers who have a blog,” and then there are writers who only keep journals and never have a blog. Plus there are the vast majority of people who don’t do any writing at all, except maybe the occasional work email.
Except for the first group, I’ve been in all of the others. I didn’t keep any type of journal before I was an adult and in intensive therapy. And even then, I didn’t start it until I had been in therapy for a few years, even though my therapist encouraged it at the beginning.
Of course, my inconsistency with writing, generally, and with personal writing in particular means that I was very happy to find this gem.
From my journal dated September 30, 1998 (but also in early October 1998):
I am out at 5:45 am in my neighborhood, walking. Two women stand talking at the NE corner of Carlson Park – about walking and writing. Two subjects that I, too, think are connected.
I am here. I am here. And what does that mean? I find walking around the park a bit boring, but the across-the-street cat comes over and we chat it up. Hello, I say and he responds with a meow? – a definite request for a petting.
Now as I write this in early October, I see some houses already covered in cobwebs, grave markers on the lawn – even over the course of a few days it is darker later – soon our late summer will finally be ended. I crunch along on dried leaves and hear the crunch crunch crunch of the woman and her dog across the street.
On several corners I see the missing pet flyers posted. Where are Sasha and Poo, I wonder? When I moved here, Toes (of course a six-toed cat) hid out silently for hours under my wall unit. This, I assure you, is not a quiet animal. So I assumed he had, in the trauma of the move, run down the street. Distraught and teary, I walked up and down my block, calling him and talking to my new neighbors. It was a strange way to meet people, but a shared experience for many. Later, Toes just appeared from his spot, ready to resume complaining about this and that.
I am here. My mantra. But what does it mean to be here in this community? In my sweetheart’s New Hampshire hometown, it takes three generations before you are considered to be from there. Thankfully, in transient, fluid Southern California, it is less. But it’s probably more than the six months that I’ve clocked in at. Now when I tell people where I live, I get comments like, “Oh, Culver City is looking great these days . . . “, “It’s a nice place . . . ” “Good schools . . . ” and all of these factors led me here, to one extent or another.
But more fundamentally, I sought a home for me and my (somewhat fractured) family. And as I walk early in the day I realize that this community, while not perfect, while fraught with all manner of problems and concerns, is perfectly human. Which makes it home.
Permanence. Two brothers live on my street; their mother used to live across the street and they are as close to a Culver City or Southern California family dynasty as we get.
When I lived in Los Angeles I felt very small and insignificant. Here I feel like I could go to a city council meeting, that my voice could be heard, if I chose to speak. There is cohesiveness and a livable scale. Problems? Of course. I’m just beginning to sense what those are, and I don’t want to shrink from them, nor do I want to maximize them beyond all bounds.
I am here. I am here. My early morning mantra. My feet move across the earth, my arms swing rhythmnically, my back straightens imperceptibly, even as my spirit soars.
I am here. And I am home.
I realize I wrote this on several different days, although it is only dated on the last day of September. A few pieces of information: Before moving to Culver City, I had lived in a suburb of Los Angeles where I owned a condominium which had an upside-down mortgage. Yes, before 2008, there was another big downturn in real estate that I had the luck (bad luck) to participate in. Eventually, I made the difficult decision to go through a non-judicial foreclosure which meant I was able to leave the condo, but I obtained my first (and only) bad credit rating and it took awhile to find suitable living.
Eventually I did in a smaller community near West Los Angeles. Culver City had its own school district, which was attractive since my son was just entering high school and I really did not want him in the LAUSD. I lived on an older street in a duplex. It was small, but still had two bedrooms and a stacked washer/dryer. I was thrilled to find it and thrilled it was affordable and even more thrilled that I wouldn’t have to go to a laundromat. I loved the neighborhood. Plus my son could walk to the high school and I was close to work.
We lived there about five years, and a lot of changes happened while we were there. I broke up with my boyfriend (the “sweetheart”), I changed jobs, I went back to graduate school and finished my masters’, my son graduated from high school and started attending Santa Monica College. 9/11 happened to all of us and I started interning as a therapist.
Re-reading this entry, it doesn’t just seem like a typical journal entry, but something I may have written with an eye towards possible publication. I’m not sure about that, but it does seem to have a rhythm and cadence that indicates to me that I thought it might be worthy of submission. I never did submit it, though. I could write that my non-submission is the story of my life, but here I am, sharing it on a blog. Many years after writing it, I’m submitting it to you.
I still think it’s a gem.