Monday, July 25, 2005


This essay was written by robbush6 for Judithheartsong's artsy essay contest WHY I KEEP A JOURNAL.  Except it was finished too late to be entered.  Besides Robin has a private journal and no one would be able to see it.  I thought it was so good I wanted you to read it, too.  So I invoked the Guest Editor Rule, pushed a button, and voila, here it is at Mrs. Linklater's.  Enjoy this thoughtful piece.

Your employees!

For 30 days, the cursor, set against the backdrop of a blank page, blinked at me. It was September 24, 2003 when I aswered AOL's open invitation to write a journal. Without much thought, my URL became "MyFitnessJournal." It blinked. I typed in some silly garbage about walking and losing weight. My goal was to lose the last 20 pounds of "baby weight" now that my youngest child was four. I deleted it. Again, I was back to that incessant blinking. The cursor mocked me. "Who on earth is going to want to read that crap? Nobody gives a shit about your daily exercise plan and your careful monitoring of the USDA food pyramid. You suck."

All the world just stopped now
Let me take a deep breath babe . . .

Aside from my annual Christmas letter and weekly grocery list, I didn't write anything. I never kept a diary. I didn't write letters. I hadn't written a business memo in five years since I left my old job to stay home with kids full-time. I had a creative writing class in college back in 1985, but nothing since. I quit writing bad poetry in highschool, thank God.

You can run from your past. You can dodge angry neighbors. You can avoid the PTA President. You can lie to your mother. You can avoid the IRS.  You can pretend you're not home when salesmen come to call. You can ignore phone solicitors, Amway salesmen and the Jehovahs. The one person you can't hide from is yourself. Finally, that blinking stopped. The curse had been lifted. I decided I'd write amusing anecdotes about my busy life as mother of four. My first entry October22 in MyFitnessJournal began, "On a recent trip to the local Pumpkin Patch, it dawned on me that I've become everything I hate: a middle-aged housewife in a quilted black and orange vest decorated with pumpkins and candy corn." And so it began.

I think it's that girl

I wrote my amusing stories: slogging through mud to pick out the perfect pumpkin for Katie a mile from the wagon, falling off the porch swing and out of my parked minivan, my penchant for not remembering to keep my mouth shut at times it would have been prudent to do so, you know, stuff like that. It was fun. It was light. It was drivel. People began to comment and laugh along with me. Suddenly, I had a "readership." It felt strange knowing that people were watching. But performing wasn't my style. When my best efforts at entertaining an invisible audience fell flat, I'd tell myself, "What do they know? It's my journal and that's good enough for me."

And I think there're pieces of me you've never seen
Maybe she's just pieces of me you've never seen well

Over time, my journal became a surrogate for what was missing in my life: someone to talk to. I'd save up all the useless tidbits and stray thoughts that would creep into my headduring the day and store them up until I could dump them out on the page. It was a wonderful way to stop the slow and steady slide into madness of raising young kids. Lots of them.

All the world is all I am
The black of the blackest ocean
And the tear in your hand

I started to think of my journal as an old friend. The stories became less silly and more personal. I could write a travelogue or paint a picture with words, but so can anyone. Making it real took it to a deeper place. It began to resonate with others. People didn't always comment in the journal, but would share their own stories privately by e-mail. The instant kinship with total strangers was amazing. An Idaho convenience store clerk; an alcoholic in Tampa; an Arizona cop; a Boston Cowboy; a Michigan dog lover; a Georgia peach, miles from home; a commodities trader in the Tundra; a Southern Belle, emigrated to D.C., a stunner in Chicago who's been everywhere and done everything; a starving artist in California so engrossed in her work she'd forget to eat, until her husband would bring her bits of cheese. We all shared one thing: having fun with words.

All the world is danglin'...
Dangling'...Danglin' for me darlin'

I began to feel as if I knew these people I'd never met better than most of the people I saw in person every day. Nothing seemed to get in the way. Not social status, not physical appearance, not political views. The playing field was level. Anything was fair game. Frank discussions and hearty laughter. Poignant tales of illness and suffering. Outrageous and bittersweet by turns, each one a surprise. Deborah, in her best OuttaBody way, once said to me, "I love you more than anyone I've never met before." Struggling with my first Thanksgiving without the kids, Paul cheered me with, "I wrote this for you," and offered up a very personal window to his own painful holidays past.

You don't know the power that you have
With that tear in your hand

Then something else happened. Something I didn't expect. That woman I thought I'd become wasn't me after all. The woman inside me all along began to speak. She suddenly had a voice. A voice I gave her. First, baby steps. We walk before we run. We trip and fall and get back up. Like a teenage boy becoming a man, the voice was unpredictible and squeaky atfirst. With practice, it grew stronger. The best thing was, it was mine.

Maybe I ain't used to maybes
Smashing in a cold room
Cutting my hands up every time I touch you

The stray thoughts weren't always trivial. The journal became a conduit of self-discovery and introspection. I was restless and unhappy. Saying it out loud was the hardest thing I've ever done. But it would prove to be the best. "I am unhappy. I am restless and bored." Maybe I didn't say it in so many words, but the essence of the message was always the same.

Maybe maybe it's time to wave goodbye now
Time to wave goodbye now

In the spring, I asked my husband of 15 years to leave. Whatever we had wasn't working anymore. I'd had enough.

Caught a ride with the moon
I know I know you well
Better than I
Used to haze all clouded up
My mind in the daze of why it could've never been So you say and I say
You know you're full of wish
And your "baby baby baby babies"

Writing this journal gave me the strength to say, "I deserve better than this." It gave me the courage to reach out and grab that elusive "something better." It gave me the awareness to know what I was doing was the only thing to do.

I tell you there're pieces of meyou've never seen
Maybe she's just pieces of me you've never seen

People who thought they knew me didn't understand. Why would they? They didn't know me. I wasn't really sure who I was myself. I just always thought I was someone else. I was the right person living the wrong life.

All the world is all I am
The black of the blackest ocean
And the tear in your hand

Not anymore. Not once did I look back and think, "Uh oh. This was a bad idea." Not once have I regretted speaking the truth. No one else speaks for me anymore. I have found my own voice.And it is good enough.

All the world is dangin'...
Dangling'...Danglin' for me darlin'
You don't know the power that you have
With that tear in your hand

You don't know the power that you have until you choose to use it.


ksquester said...

Mrs. L. I am so glad you decided to spotlight this entry. Outstanding! Anne

gaboatman said...

This was an excellent essay on why I keep a journal.  I am sorry she missed the deadline, but so glad you gave us all the chance to read it, Mrs. L.  Robin, if you read this comment, you have made me want to read your journal.  

judithheartsong said...

oh Robin, this is exquisite................. how I wish it had made the deadline. Thanks for posting it Mrs. L.
Robin, would you add me to you readership? judi

ann7inflorida said...

Beautiful entry! Thank you for sharing this.

shaz19743 said...

Utterly entrancing stuff .....honest , frank , and beautifully crafted no doubt just like its writers soul x

artloner said...



coy1234787 said...

How great that you shared this!
Would have been a shame if no one would have seen it!
              *** Coy ***

belfastcowboy75 said...

I'm in here! I'm in here!

robbush6 said...

This makes me dizzy. I feel like I've entered John Malcovich's portal or something, seeing my entry in your journal. Maybe it's the lighting or the faux marble fireplace, but it reads pretty good in here. Thank you for breaking down the privacy wall, Mrs. L.

You are the Ex-Guest Editor with the most-est!

emmapeeldallas said...

This is a great essay, and I'm so glad that Mrs. L posted it.  I'd be honored if you'd add me so I can continue reading your journal.  Thanks.


cyndygee said...

It's amazing how we can begin to really know someone by reading ONE piece that comes from their soul.  

Thanks for sharing this, Mrs. L ...

courtenaymphelan said...

I am still taking baby steps in J-Land and have not yet found my voice; but I would love to read your journal to learn how to

ckays1967 said...

I use to read her journal daily but alas I wasn't invited when she made it private.  Thank you for sharing this and thank her for allwoing it.