Diaries

I love the concept of keeping a diary. I don’t love the reality.

My mom kept a diary in her later years, during the time when she was suffering from the effects of menopause, a stressful life, and a difficult past. She’d been given antidepressants and other medications which, I think, contributed to her deep unhappiness. The result of that was when she passed away, we found that diary. There were so many cruel things written in there. So many lies that were, for her, truths. Or at least how she perceived her world in those moments of medicated depression.

Mom and Lisa

In the emotional moment, I burned that diary. And then, full of horror that some day my child might read my diaries and be hurt by my words, I threw all of mine on that same fire. I’ve had regrets occasionally. I think that my son would have laughed to read all the drama of my young teenage years. And there were the diaries from my travels. All gone now. But for the most part, I don’t regret burning them.

There have been a few times over the years when I’ve tried to start one again, but it never goes anywhere. I keep a journal of canning recipes. One for gardening. One that has writing tips and quotes. All of those have pieces of me in them as commentary, but they’re not a ‘diary’.

Last weekend I hiked with my sister a couple miles into the Alpine Wilderness area. We talked about that diary I burned, and her regret that I burned it. We talked about the diary she keeps. She writes in third person, (‘she sat down’ rather than ‘I sat down’) as if creating a story, and doing a diary in that manner has allowed her to write in ways that give her insight.

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That intrigued me because it felt like writing a story. As if in third person allows a degree of separation between the writer and the words. For a few brief moments, on that path, I thought that maybe I could write a diary in the same way.

Then she gave me a binder that belonged to the sister who passed away in February. In it were affirmations, poems, thoughts, and happy little stickers. Her handwriting was always rounded, almost juvenile, and I could see the pen in her hand. And in her words I could hear her laugh. I am so, so beyond grateful she kept a diary. That we have her voice to rest our hands on and hold to our hearts.

So, will I keep a diary? Doubtful. I’ll just continue with this blog, which, I guess, fulfills the same thing.

 

Swimming

She goes into the river, swimming, where no one sees the flow of tears in the rush of mountain water. She swims with the salmon, returning, and returning yet again.

She seeks pools and eddies and wild current to sweep her away.

And through it all, her tears soak into the river, flowing, slowing, returning.

I go into the trees, tears soaking into forest floor, seeping between roots and returning, rising up through moss and roots and heartwood.

Rising through leaves to air, to clouds, to rain.

Rain to fall like tears into the river.

She goes into the river, swimming, when sun seeps into the depths, when snow falls, when turning leaves twist in currents. And in the water, in all our tears, she sheds her skin, sheds her grief, and for a moment, is borne away.

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Masked Judgement

I’ve seen some disturbing things lately about wearing masks.

On one hand, people not wearing them are immediately labeled as Republicans, right-wing whack-jobs, people who think the COVID-19 virus is ‘no worse than the flu’, or standing up for their ‘constitutional rights’.

On the other hand, people who are wearing them are immediately labeled as Democrats, left-wing crazy liberals, paranoid over-reactors, and sheep.

In other words, damned if you do and damned if you don’t.

So let me tell you a mask story.

A few years ago I was lying on a table. A warm, soft, pliable mesh was placed over my face and neck, and pressed tightly into place. It was held there until it hardened. Imagine how that felt. If you can’t take two fingers and press them against your throat until you gag.

That was the first step in radiation treatments. Every morning I was on that table, the mask pressed over my face, and then bolted down. Because I was receiving very precise radiation, no movement was allowed. Even if you thought you were holding still enough, you weren’t.

Every day.

Eventually my throat swelled. Eventually I struggled to swallow water. And then eventually it was over.

At the time, I knew it was difficult, but during treatments themselves, I just daydreamed. I’m a pro at sliding off into my imaginary world. The staff gave me roses and a certificate afterwards for being the first person they’d had who was able to go through it without sedatives.

I convinced myself it wasn’t that bad. I truly believed that. It was hard, yes, but just something to get through one step at a time.

Now people are wearing masks. Stores require them. A co-worker brought me a package last week. I took one look at them, burst into tears, and had to leave the office because I couldn’t breathe. My throat closed up. I couldn’t swallow. I stood in the fresh air, telling myself over and over ‘you can breathe’.

My husband, being the brilliant man that he is, suggested I practice at home, putting the mask on as long as I could stand it and building up to being able to wear one. I tried that this morning. For maybe a second.

The flip side of this is that my husband has an auto-immune disease. So he wears masks out in public to protect himself. He has no problem wearing them and needs to.

In other words, when you see someone wearing a mask, or when you see someone not wearing a mask, there are more stories involved than simple judgements. More hardships involved than politics.

Please be kind, no matter where you fall in the spectrum of this virus specter.