My mind is full of unfinished things. We all like things wrapped up neatly, but some things just don’t have closure. Looking over this journal, for instance, I see I have 24 unfinished drafts. The oldest is from November 2004, the newest from yesterday. My life was very different in November 2004. I could not have imagined or planned how things have gone since then. Which is why I think it’s so ridiculous that I worry about my lack of solid planning, my complete inability to have any sense of goals past “don’t cry all the time”. Even if I had a 10 point plan of success with multi-columned roadmap, I’d still end up four years in a completely different place, with no way of knowing any of it right now.
I even knew that back then, as a draft entry in August 2005 says:
“I don’t know how to say it without sounding trite and Hallmark. But there are some things the songs and poems don’t tell you. Sure, we all know that when the road forks, we should take the less-traveled option, and the highway’s endless and then you die and all that. But what about when you’re driving the 5 to LA and you thought you were being all responsible by getting a tune up before the trip only the mechanic didn’t put everything back right and your spark plug pops out of wherever spark plugs are supposed to plugged in to and then you’re stranded on some offramp that is so far from anything there’s not even any signs that say how far to the next town? Or when you set out for Sacramento but you look up and you’re coming up on Reno. Or Budapest.
I don’t know where I got the idea that you planned your life and just followed the plan. Maybe I saw Dorothy following the yellow brick road too many times or heard that “life is a journey” crap. With a journey, you know where you’re going, even if you don’t know exactly what you’re encounter along the way. Life isn’t really like that at all.
Life is a series of seemingly random events, connected only in that you are the starring player in each of them.”
Reading through those unfinished 2004 entries is like reading about an entirely different person, someone I used to know and hang out with, but rarely see anymore. I remember all those things happening, but I can’t feel them anymore. Take for instance, the note from January 2004:
“My ex-husband invited me to lunch to tell me about his new girlfriend. You think of divorce as this specific thing, when really, it’s a chain reaction of events, taking months and years of your life. Last January, I was near the emotional end, but only the paperwork beginning.”
The entry from April 2004, however, reminds me of one of the reasons I was so hesitant so try Zoloft:
“I went off Effexor. It was one of the most horrible experiences of my life. I had gone on it the year before. My therapist thought it would help with anxiety during the stressfulness of the divorce. He didn’t mention the “discontinuation symptoms” you experience even with a tapered dosage. Six weeks of vertigo, emotional turmoil, brain shocks, crying, throwing up, insomnia. It hurt to move my eyes.
I talked to the doctor. He said that I should gradually decrease my dosage to avoid what the medical industry cleverly calls “discontinuation effects”. Apparently, what he actually meant was that if I went cold turkey, I would without question throw myself off a bridge. But if I stepped down gradually, I increased my chances of just considering it seriously. I got a doctor’s note and worked from home for two weeks.”
June of 2004 was when I both ended up in the ER for chest pain (that was diagnosed as chest wall sprain) and had my first (and hopefully only) night terror in which I woke up in the middle of the night screaming. But it was also the month in which I changed my last name to something meaningful. I still think of that as one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. Identity is important.
I have incomplete entries about both my mom and my stepdad that ramble on and on. I mostly don’t spend any time thinking about either of them anymore, and I think mostly I’m better for it. I do sometimes have that lonely wish for family, but you can’t make one out of what you have just because you want one. I might wish I had parents, but I never miss these particular parents.
I wrote one particularly rambling entry in March 2005 about my crazy ex-boyfriends. Like the one who joined the marines when I broke up with him to “show me” and the one who showed up at the same party as me after we broke up and handcuffed himself to the host’s bed and said he wouldn’t leave until I stopped talking to some other guy at the party and then finally, the host got him uncuffed and he was so drunk, he fell down the stairs as he was walking to his car, the guy I had been talking to drove him home. And then I dated that guy, who after I broke up with him, would drive five hours to my house just to sit outside of it.
By 2007, I was asking philosophical questions:
“Why is time sometimes out of order and why do sometimes things just fit like they’ve always been two halves of the same whole, just temporarily misplaced? Does the universe engage in foreshadowing or just in hindsight?”
Sadly, the entry trails thusly, “I know this if nothing else. If we believe in fate, in signs, in…” Now I’ll never know what it is that I know.
My existentialism continued when I read Eat, Pray, Love.
“I feel a lot of camaraderie with the author of eat, pray, love. I understand her absolute panic at the thought that one day we will die, we can’t stop it, it’s inevitable and my God, why are we just working and driving and sleeping in the meantime? And I understand how she feels when she says she doesn’t want to let go of control and I even get the idea that wanting so much to stop everything, to grab time with your hands and wind it tight like a string and not let it go, is just another way of trying to control something that’s impossible, impossible to control.
She describes our lives as standing on two horses — one under each foot. And both horses are galloping along at top speed and all we can do is hold on to the reins. One horse is fate and the other is free will. But I don’t know. It seems to me like we are riding fate and free will is how we decide to hold on for dear life or let go.
She tells of this dream where someone points at the waves and tells her to figure out how to stop them from happening. She tries everything she can and fashions seawalls and canals and dams, but nothing works. And finally, this person in her dram says to her as he points out toward the colossal, powerful, endless, rocking ocean. “Tell me, if you would be so kind — how exactly were you planning on stopping that.”
It seems to me her search for balance and all of her meditation only means she’s stoically accepting life, although maybe she’s right and maybe that’s the way to peace. And God knows I could use some peace, but everything inside me rebels this idea of stoic acceptance. A weakness, a failing? One of many I have, no doubt. But I’d rather experience life than accept it. Later in the book, someone says, “Whatever pain happens to us in the future, I accept it already, just for the pleasure of being with you now.” And that too I understand. That’s not stoic acceptance. That’s knowing that life is all we have and we don’t know the future, so all we can do is what we can.”
Of course, these memories are near enough that I feel them as well as remember them. Like my unfinished entry called “perspective” in which I said:
“I have these moments, that mostly only I see, where all I can see are my failings. And I forget that I’m not always that way and sometimes it takes that reflection through someone else to remember. There’s more to me than my failings. Some days are harder than others.”
That entry was followed by one in which I was going to list all the great things about myself. I only got as far as #1. I made pretty good cocktails.
It’s only fitting, I think, that I end with of more recent drafts, “and then”, which is just an unfinished quote from a song lyric:
“life’s like an hourglass, glued to the table, no one can find the rewind button now…”