Where to start?

Where to start?

I’ve missed blogging, interacting with bloggers, and the way my mind clears after writing a post.

There’s a book I want to read, _Ongoingness_, written by a woman, Sarah Manguso, who kept a journal for decades. I’ve been keeping one since age nine, and only since 2012 has that process involved not only a personal journal/sketchbook, but also this blog and, now, a Family Book, and a Mom Journal.

It’s a lot of documenting!

These passages from a sample I read online of Manguso’s  book resonate with me:

“I didn’t want to lose anything. That was my main problem. I couldn’t face the end of the day without a record of everything that had ever happened….

“I wrote about myself so I wouldn’t become paralyzed by rumination—so I could stop thinking about what happened and be done with it…

“More than that, I wrote so I could say I was truly paying attention. Experience itself wasn’t enough. The diary was my defense against waking up at the end of my life and realizing I’d missed it.

“To write a diary is to make a series of choices about what to omit, what to forget.”

Obviously, this book is gonna be my jam.

In 2007, when I went to therapy for the first time, with a Freudian therapist on the Upper West Side–a sassy Jewish woman named Judy with a brown helmet of hair, who never went easy on me–I would come to sessions with incredibly detailed journal entries, listing all of the things I had processed that past week and all of the things I wanted to process in our session that day.

“You ever think of not working so hard?” Judy asked me.

“Eh?”

“How about next week you come to the session without a journal entry? Without a list?”

Blank stare.

“And how about you don’t write about the session we have today at all? You just live it, and live the aftermath, and come into the next session with just yourself and no journal.”

This developed into a conversation about why I think I have to work so hard to record everything, my anxiety over not doing enough, not remembering everything I need to remember, not wanting to miss any opportunities for growth and insight.

I think we live in a culture today that stresses the importance of documenting to a degree that would have seemed absurd to our parents in the 70s. We take photos of our children every single day of their lives? Videos, too? Looking through old photo albums at my parents’ house, I see   the difference clearly. There are a dramatically lower number of photos of my brother and me than there are of S, and he is only one year old. How does that affect memory? The photos help us not only recall specific moments but also shape those memories, tell stories about those memories. How will S’s sense of himself and his childhood be influenced by the sheer amount of documentation that exists of his early life?

I’m not saying it’s unhealthy or bad or wrong. But it’s a facet of parenthood in the 21st century that I think about a lot. Probably because I’m a writer, a diarist, a photographer, a singer, and I’ve had a keen interest in documentation since the time I was young and started carrying around a tape-recorder everywhere I went. I eventually graduated to a “boombox” that recorded with an attachable microphone. What I wouldn’t give to hear those cassette recordings today, but I destroyed them in a fit of teenaged self-consciousness.

Then again, maybe it is for the best that I destroyed them. Because I do remember them. I don’t have actual recordings to listen to, so I have to search the back pages of my brain for bits and pieces of the songs and movies and skits I created with my cousin in the woods behind my house. And that brain-work might do something interesting to the memories. It certainly makes them seem very beautiful and strange.

So when I find myself feeling that creeping sense of anxiety about recording all of the details of S’s life, I try to keep it in check. During the first year of his life, I was pretty diligent about writing in my Mom Journal…up until around November – now. There was his 1-year birthday party, his doljanchi, our three-week visit to Ohio, Christmas, S’s two major illnesses (more on this later), and only now is everything starting to settle back into a pattern. Thoughts creep in…I didn’t write about the day he took 8 steps, I didn’t write about all of the new words he has picked up, I didn’t write about the new inside jokes, etcetera.

Then I remember Judy and her advice to try to stop working so hard.

Then I remember that not having those cassette tapes is not so bad. Trying to remember the recordings makes them seem even more precious.

Little S. I just soak him in and in. I am learning to be more like him. More present-tense, more in-the-moment, more appreciative of the profound hilarity and gorgeousness of the world. No matter if I don’t capture it in words or in photos or in a recorded song. Just living it is enough. I think this lesson is one of the greatest gifts S has given me.

That said, I’d really enjoy writing an update soon! So when it feels right, I will. Until then, I have some pretend tea to drink with S in his play kitchen.

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3 Comments

  1. I’m the opposite of you, I’ve never kept a journal. Tried to start one a couple of times, but could never make the daily commitment. I started blogging because I really needed to get some thoughts out so they’d stop circulating on my mind 24/7. The support of other bloggers has been great too. I hope you keep sharing!

    Reply
  2. Polly

     /  January 11, 2016

    I thought I would take zillions of pictures of my LO but I find I’m almost always too caught up in enjoying the moment to go find my camera. The pictures that sneak in – and my memories – will just have to suffice. -Polly

    Reply
  3. I’m also a bit the opposite of you…I never did a baby book or monthly blog updates because I just figured “Oh, I’ll remember this, I don’t need to document EVERYTHING”. I have a bunch of photos and videos on my phone which I think is probably enough for me but who knows if I’m going to look back and wish I’d done more. I’ve also been terrible lately about blogging and commenting, but I’m trying not to feel guilty about it. Mamas need some time to themselves too you know!

    Reply

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