December 10, 2006

Il Diario Rosso

Tonight, I finished a journal. I'm beaming, I'm so proud of me. It’s a small victory, sure, but how many of you keep a journal? Unless you keep one, it’s difficult to understand the sense of accomplishment that comes from filling every page of a blank book. Truthfully, do any of you, have any of you ever, for even a short period of time, kept some record of your daily life? Blogs don’t count, sorry to say. Too public. Just between you and me…

So, back to il Diario Rosso… My first entry was in Florence, Italy on September 27, 2005. Just 15 short months ago. This is the quickest I've ever finished a journal, not that I'm racing, but still, it is progress, isn't it? My first journal was the product of very sage advice given to me upon moving to Sweden in 1995. Someone told me to keep a journal of my time there; I'd surely thank myself for doing so later. I have never been given better advice. I read those entries, so few they were, and just laaaaaaugh... It was my first trip out of the country. I was in over my head, I was sick, I was cold. It was the single most defining (extended) moment of my life. I'm still learning lessons from that trip. And I'm thankful, above all else, that I took notes. After that trip, I very hap-hazardly kept a daily journal, mostly bitching about my life, setting goals, and trying not to whine about men too much, but it did instill in me a need to keep travel journals, something with which I adhere to in an almost religious capacity. My travel journals have always been separate from my daily journals, until I moved here. Well, until I moved here and finished my travel journal in Florence and needed to buy another. Which brings us pretty much full circle. I was in Italy, showing Melanie, Hippie, Bill and Twila around when I finished my Vespa travel journal. In need of another, I couldn't find a stationary store to save my life. Luckily, Bill and I got lost. We had been to mass at San Lorenzo that morning, a surreal experience for both of us, and on the way back to the apartment to collect everyone for the days’ adventure, we got lost and stumbled upon a stationary store, where I bought this journal. On the long walk back home, we had quite a conversation about faith, knowing oneself, and accepting life on terms that are not always our own. It was one of those conversations that either means nothing or resonate for years. I can still feel the sun on my skin it rings so loudly in my ears.

I remember wondering at the time, how long it would take me to fill this one out to completion. The Vespa Journal was the first one I'd ever completed and after reviewing the entries, I wondered if that would serve as an example or an anomaly. Turns out, I have much to say. And upon reviewing my journal tonight, I'd say I have important things to say to myself. Not sure if others do, but I re-read my journals; regularly as it turns out, and I learn a great deal from them. Which is the point, I suppose; growth, making progress in one's life, helping to identify habits, goals, needs.

Tonight, I was in Dowling’s, finishing the last page of il Diario Rosso, and then dipping into past entries to see where this book has been with me. Italy, twice, Paris, New York, London, Barcelona, Scotland, Dublin... not bad for a recycled tree. In re-reading my entries, I learned a lot about myself. The patrons of Dowlings learned a lot about me, because I laughed a lot during the reading of it. Mostly, I learned that I am just this side of crazy. At least that’s the way I write my life. But also, I learned it was a year of forgiving and getting things done. I did a lot this past year, emotionally and physically; more than I could have done had I scheduled it. It was a year of identifying those things I truly desire and those that are fly-by-night fantasies. That’s an important difference. Beating yourself up over the fly-by-night stuff is exhausting, and, it turns out, keeps you from accomplishing those things that are actually important to you. I learned the difference between 'friend' and 'acquaintance', another important kearnel of knowledge. I learned that my instinct is pretty much accurate except for one area of life. I also learned that I have a crappy memory. Big things I remember, but life isn't defined by the big things, not our simple mortal lives at any rate. Presidents are defined by big events, saints, cultural figures; but we simple folks are ruled by the everyday events that often escape our notice. Things that don’t seem to matter, that seem not to carry weight, these are the events/experiences/thoughts that give our lives depth. You remember being proposed to, but what did you think of your first boyfriend’s cologne? Do you remember what set you off that one day that made you resolved to change things? What was your grandmother like, really like when she was alive? Were it not for my notes, I would never remember such things, they are too mundane to recount. Except that they are what made our experiences worth it.

This is the accounting of my life I'm happiest I engage in: the ticket stubs, the business cards, and the maps shoved into my journals; my recounting of the day, even if it was uneventful, my recounting of the day if it was eventful, the very flavor of the trip, the bitching, the pitying entries, the goals set forth; that is what makes it all worthwhile. I'm glad I do this for myself. My stories are richer for it. So I will keep taking notes. Because it is thru my pen and paper that I remember best. Sometimes laughing, sometimes crying; but always, always learning.

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