Excerpts from my journal; May 2017

May 25

Fruit flies are the smoke of summer. Leave a bag of trash out for an hour, go to close it, squeeze the edges and poof! – out pop three of the suckers, whirling into the air like so much vapor.

Funny how the things you used to be scared of don’t bother you forever. I never wore contacts when I first needed glasses because I was scared of the idea of something in my eye. I could barely touch my eyes at all, and I was terrified a contact would roll back and be lost in my brain space. Finally I got sick of glasses and got over it and started wearing contacts, and got really comfortable touching my eyes and messing with them, as you do when you wear contacts. And then, today and once before, I’ve rubbed my eyes too hard and pushed my contacts up past my upper lid so they’re caught above my eye. Gross. A bit painful too but mostly just freaking annoying because you have to pull your eyelid out while you roll your head down and eyes up to get it to shift down again. Do that and dig with your other finger under your eyelid until you grab the thing. No worries. But I still won’t watch Minority Report.

My mornings are way better these days because I bought hazelnut coffee. My local small grocery store didn’t have it, so that meant that for months I just drank the other kind of coffee. But last weekend I went to the big store farther away, the one that takes me about twenty minutes to walk to, because I needed to get makeup. So I got makeup, and some on-sale shoes, and two bags of hazelnut coffee.

The shoes are cute, and the makeup is smoky because I had just read about beatniks, and the coffee is nutty and amazing and makes my mornings lookforwardtoable. You can get me up easy if you promise coffee.

May 27

What a day. It’s always strange to have a full Saturday when normally I just laze about at home and wile away the hours reading or watching TV.

It was Sports Day, and it went amazingly well. All the teams did something right. Even though my team had a sucky cheer, we came in second overall so it didn’t matter. And in the end, after the prizes are handed out the kids just want to leave anyway.

I got a sunburn, and my eyes hurt and my stomach hurts but I’m so happy it’s over. Sports Day is rough just because it’s outside in the heat and sun and extra chaotic. Other events like Wax Museum, being indoors, might take a lot of preparation but it’s easier on the teachers. I don’t just care about that but…yeah, I just care about that.

Today was also the day my brother and I finally pegged down our accommodations and tours for New Zealand. Sorry, Middle Earth. I should call it what it is. I think that was causing me a lot of stress too, not having those taken care of. I was worried we wouldn’t get the places we wanted or the tours would be sold out, yadda yadda. But we got them paid for and done, and we got our ETAs for Australia so we can enter, and we found all the amazing places to visit and eat around each city so…I think we’re good to go. Everything’s coming together, and it’s starting to feel like we’ll really be there. Oh man, oh man, oh man.

I even looked at souvenirs to buy, but honestly, I don’t want much. Maybe a poster or shirt or the one ring, but not a lot. Pictures and memories of good food and travel. Just seeing and being somewhere else. And seeing my brother have fun will be all I need.

May 30

I shake my shoulders and try to shake them into a place they fit. Music sends waves through me that jangle my soul up and shake the water, letting it settle more comfortably again.

Didion writes with no mercy. There is no soft justification in her. Just the facts, ma’am. Yes, sir. Cold and clear and hard. Got it. Meanwhile I spin a gossamer around every word. Pounding out word after word carefully, not to reveal too too much, not to hurt or imply anything uncomfortable.

May 31

“Keepers of private notebooks are a different breed altogether, lonely and resistant rearrangers of things, anxious malcontents, children afflicted apparently at birth with some presentiment of loss.” – Didion

I like to read Joan Didion. Her pieces don’t excite me, don’t thrill me, but they do keep me fascinated, keep me reading. There is some peculiar power there. And I recognize in my writing, even before I read her, an echo of her voice. She writes like me. To read her, and to read me, when I’m being honest, you’d probably think we were unhappy. We write like unhappy people, looking at life ironically, cynically, bluntly. They say INFJs have a sad soul with a happy personality. I am certainly that way. I’m rarely sad for people to see. I write like I’m always sad. I’m always melancholic. But I wouldn’t say I am a sad person.

Excerpts from my journal; Spring 2017

April

Today is the kind of day that makes me thrilled. It’s the kind of feeling that Korea translates as heart-fluttering. Sure, the sky is overcast and a thick grey that puts me in mind of fog porridge, and the temperature dipped down twelve degrees, but apart from all that, today is a wonderful day.

We’ve been very busy lately, to put it mildly, and I haven’t had space in my head to breathe. Everything was pressing down, my pace was quickened, just enough to keep everything taught. Now I can relax, take a step back, and let it out for a bit.

I’m eating better, drawing again, writing more, going out with friends, and feel more inspired. My life is going well, and I realize how the bad things that happen are so transient and don’t last. Stuff doesn’t last. Yeah, I’m happy now.

That could also be because I saw cherry blossoms about to burst today. Hmm, maybe.

May

Plant our own mound. Start a little molehill and turn it into a mountain. Mmkay.

Of course all my characters are me. I’m still trying to figure myself out. So I keep inserting my mini-me into different situations and seeing what I’ll do. Maybe one day I’ll make sense of me.

May

Listen, little soft girl. I am not “was just like you as a kid.” I am just like you. I am soft and unsure and wide eyed scared of everything. Only I seem larger than life and bright and confident, leading you here. But it is armor I have crafted, and not even that well. At night it shatters so I have to remake it before morning. Sometimes the light shows through. My light. But that light means the darkness can get in. Anyway what you think of as admirable is only my shoddy imitation of other bright people I have seen. I am like you. I am not like me.

I feel like way too many people idolize kids. I mean, I’ve taught kids. Kids aren’t magical and sweet and wide eyed, breathless with innocence. Kids pick their noses and make fart jokes and think calling the rash on a kid’s hand a brain is clever. Kids are just little drunk people with terrible jokes. 

 

About My Journal Excerpts

I’ve run the “Excerpts From My Journal” bit for a few weeks now, and I wanted to pause a moment to explain them.

As a writer and an INFJ, it’s strange, but journaling has never come easy for me. I kept journals off and on for years when I was younger, but never consistently. For years at a time, I didn’t keep them at all. As I got older and consciously tried to, I found that typing was better, so all of my journals since high school are typed.

I’ve lost some of those pages. At various points, I’ve gone back and read certain things and deleted them. I just couldn’t face them or wanted to make sure that shame was never brought to light. Whatever the case, there are some things in my life that were documented that are now lost.

I’m not even sure why I think it’s so vital to have journals. So many people talk about using them later for writing prompts, or for posterity’s sake, or to show your kids or whatever.

None of those reasons really made sense to me. In fact, the reasons why I kept journals at all escaped me until just recently when I read Joan Didion’s essay on journals. It was one of those times when I read something and said, “Yes. Yes!,” out loud as I read. I do that sometimes. Her reasons struck a chord. They’re the reasons I write.

(I have butchered the essay terribly, taking out lines that strictly relate to feelings about the journaling itself, but that is not how essays are meant to be read. I encourage you to read the full essay at the link below.* And ask yourself, if you journal, why.)

“I sometimes delude myself about why I keep a notebook, imagine that some thrifty virtue derives from preserving everything observed. See enough and write it down, I tell myself, and then some morning when the world seems drained of wonder, some day when I am only going through the motions of doing what I am supposed to do, which is write – on that bankrupt morning I will simply open my notebook and there it will all be, a forgotten account with accumulated interest…

…I imagine, in other words, that the notebook is about other people. But of course it is not…

…Remember what it was to be me: that is always the point.

It is a difficult point to admit. We are brought up in the ethic that others, any others, all others, are by definition more interesting than ourselves; taught to be diffident, just this side of self-effacing. (“You’re the least important person in the room and don’t forget it,” Jessica Mitford’s governess would hiss in her ear on the advent of any social occasion; I copied that into my notebook because it is only recently that I have been able to enter a room without hearing some such phrase in my inner ear.) Only the very young and the very old may recount their dreams at breakfast, dwell upon self, interrupt with memories of beach picnics and favorite Liberty lawn dresses and the rainbow trout in a creek near Colorado Springs. The rest of us are expected, rightly, to affect absorption in other people’s favorite dresses, other people’s trout. And so we do. But our notebooks give us away, for however dutifully we record what we see around us, the common denominator of all we see is always, transparently, shamelessly, the implacable “I.” We are not talking here about the kind of notebook that is patently for public consumption, a structural conceit for binding together a series of graceful pensees; we are talking about something
private, about bits of the mind’s string too short to use, an indiscriminate and erratic assemblage with meaning only for its maker.  And sometimes even the maker has difficulty with the meaning…

I have already lost touch with a couple of people I used to be; one of them, a seventeen-year-old, presents little threat, although it would be of some interest to me to know again what it feels like to sit on a river levee drinking vodka-and-orange-juice and listening to Les Paul and Mary Ford and their echoes sing “How High the Moon” on the car radio. (You see I still have the scenes, but I no longer perceive myself among those present, no longer could even improvise the dialogue.) The other one, a twenty-three-year-old, bothers me more. She was always a good deal of trouble, and I suspect she will reappear when I least want to see her, skirts too long, shy to the point of aggravation, always the injured party, full of recriminations and little hurts and stories I do not want to hear again, at once saddening me and angering me with her vulnerability and ignorance, an apparition all the more insistent for being so long banished. It is a good idea, then, to keep in touch, and I suppose that keeping in touch is what notebooks are all about. And we are all on our own when it comes to keeping those lines open to ourselves: your
notebook will never help me, nor mine you.”

In the end, journaling is an inherently selfish act. And for me, one that keeps me grounded as well, by reminding me forcibly who I used to be. If that is the sole aim, then Didion is right: “your notebook will never help me, nor mine you.” But I think a journal can also be a bridge, and that’s one point where I diverge from her thoughts. If I write truly what I feel when I do things, as truly as I can, even if the events themselves get muddled by time and perspective, and if you also happen to feel the same way in a similar circumstance, then we establish a common link, and finding commonality is good. It helps us feel not so alone, and vindicated, and seen.

I have a friend who is British-Nigerian, and she told me that in Nigerian, when you greet someone, you say, “I see you.” It means much more than to just notice. You are looking at someone. They exist for you. Seeing is important, and finding threads of commonality help us feel seen.

So I write journals for me. Solely for me. But I share them for you. To see you. To show anyone in a similar position to mine (expat, woman, INFJ, HSP, empath, teacher) that I have experienced things as you have.

Even if you don’t find a bridge, I hope you find understanding. And I hope everyone keeps a journal.

 

*On Keeping a Notebook – Joan Didion

 

Excerpts from my journal; Early 2017

February

What matters? The story. It’s always in the back of my mind, or should be, the ever running, ever-evolving storyline. I hold my imagination most precious, most dear to me. It is my greatest asset and more dear to me than anything. My imagination keeps me warm, keeps me entertained, keeps me happy, keeps me thinking and feeling and buzzed on life. The only thing that matters is the story.

February 

This past Saturday I ran my brother through the D&D Death House, the intro to “Curse of Strahd.” I was amazing, even starting out the encounter wearing a raven mask and with an amazing greeting. It was wonderful. And I had great music and didn’t flub or forget much. It made my throat ache and my head pound, but it was so worth it.

So no matter what happens, I am amazing.

March

I was thinking today about the fact that I used to read a lot of military history books. I was quite the ridiculous nerd in high school, and at one point I was absolutely enamored with tales of wars, prisoners, daring escapes, battles, politics, and intrigue. I remember reading “Ghost Soldiers” and really loving it. Which is odd, as that book entails graphic descriptions of some of the worst things a human can do to another. It didn’t really bother me. I think I was genuinely less sensitive to it than I am now, and I don’t really understand that.

I think if I read that now, I would cry. I would feel so much more deeply the horror and cruelty and wonder so much more at the things that made those soldiers do those things, that it would affect me far more. Why, when I am more mature, wiser, and have more worldly knowledge, would I be LESS capable of hearing about the horrors of life? I don’t get it. It’s interesting to me how much more things affect me. As an HSP, of course things will, but why does it get more pronounced as I get older? Is that normal? 

Excerpts from my journal; 2016

April 

Zoom in and smoke is seeping between the windows and the wall. Someone is burning rubbish behind their house and it tickles our noses and turns my teaching voice raspy. It’s spring, a fit time to burn, since the smoke couldn’t possibly be worse than the drifts of pollution, yellow dust, from China. A sign of the change in me; I now have an app to tell me pollution levels, and check it obsessively. Will breathing kill me today?

October

I have decided to be like Ernest Hemingway, and write clear and hard about what hurts. Right now, my lower back hurts from doing the dishes. I had to do the dishes because in Korea dishwashers are only for the rich, and people wear rubber gloves because they have to do the dishes and don’t want to mess up their hands. So two more things that have changed since I came to Korea. I have started wearing rubber gloves when I wash dishes, and I care about what my hands look like.

Today I also had to scrub up some mold that had grown on the bottom of my utensil jar and had crept to the cutting board behind it. I wonder if the mold on the cutting board made me sick. I’m sick now, by the way. First time in a long time, and it’s the season. It’s also PTA week this week. I shall tell parents their children are progressing nicely through a clogged nose. That will add to my emotional appeal, if not my rational one.

I talked to two people today. I talked to the cashier at the bakery where I bought my dinner. I didn’t want to make tuna spaghetti, and that’s all I had, so I had to go out. The other person was my brother. I was supposed to play video games with him today but I got sick and had no energy. So I laid on my bed while he made pan-fried fish in America at 1am. We talked about getting old. We talked about life being boring. We talked about what we wanted for the future.

My lower back still hurts. Is that clear?

October 31

Happy Halloween! I work at a Christian school and wore ears for Halloween, and when the students asked me about it and I told them, one child told me that God hates Halloween. Okay, thank you, please let me wear my ears. Always a hard decision to make on how to address that.

Anyway, had my first D&D last night! It was amazing!!