Dear Diary

how to journal.

Recently I shared something non-consequential and non-personal out of my journals with my best friend and my brother (we have a group chat). For the sake of the narrative, I’ll modify the dialogue, but all of it is still true.

Look what I found, I said. Pays to be an anal-retentive journaller of ages.
Woah, my friend said. You’re not a journaller. You’re a fucking chronicler of ages.

And I continued thinking about it on the backburner, and I do believe it is true. I am more of a chronicler than a journaller, ages or not. Even when it comes to writing down my days in a notebook that will, in all likelihood, never be made public, most of the time I look at it through the prism of events happening around me and a certain degree of rationale.

I did that. This happened. The smallest shit annoyed me, here’s ten pages of solid reasoning why (because I’m perfect, and everyone else is not). I thought this. Had a phone talk with B, B was sad. I didn’t think this. My cats are cute. Here’s a train ticket. F called. I don’t think I want to meet them. They don’t feel well, though. I read this. I sympathise with this character. He’s a murderer. More shit happened. O called. Spoke for four hours. Here’s a brief narrative. A croissant sticker. Here’s another ten pages why everyone sucks, but this time I suck too. Act of terror. Thoughts on news reporting. A bus ticket. A tea tag. Ten thousand things inside my mind that I need to dump somewhere to find three minutes of peace. Supermarket receipt. Museum pamphlet. To do list. Habits to work on. Derp cat sticker. Two pages of thoughts on neofascism. Three pages of plans on my impending move to the woods. Five pages of thoughts on why this singer’s music is like a balm to my everything, yet that singer’s music gives me actual physical nausea. Random thought of why I am glad such and such is no longer part of my life.

I am not the one for feelings. I have said so repeatedly and will say so again. I don’t do feelings well unless it’s something physical, so all my acts of love – which I am likely to refer to as ‘keen interest’ – have always been that – acts. There’s the obvious physical act of desire. Then there are the less obvious acts of listening so intently (while looking like I’m on another planet), I end up knowing you better than you know yourself. Which is fine, your secrets are safe with me, as I’m not the one to talk. (You may wanna watch how often I journal though.) Then there’s remembering of the littlest things – not the big ones though, like the names of your family and importaint dates, these take me a long-arse while. I still sometimes pause to think to remember the correct birthdates of my brother and my best friend, arguably the two closest people in my life.

I mean the littlest things, the things that you wouldn’t connect until I told you they’re connected. And I probably never will. The smallest things, like you liking the I dunno, vibe of a summer camp ten thousand moons ago, and me finding out everything about that summer camp to make sure that we catch that vibe in a cafe somewhere. Like you casually saying you hate two colours combined together – I’ll do everything possible to avoid the combination or stir you away from it if it’s in our path. You hate a band – you’ll never hear it. You like the soup – you’ll have it again, but not too often. You don’t like cacti – say less. You’ve been searching for a book with a certain mood – I’ll be searching for it too.

It’s not to say that I go out of my way to please somebody. I don’t love bomb, and I don’t keep a roster of ‘all the things I’ve ever done for _____’. If I remember them, it’s because I’m like a fucking elephant with the vast majority of things that pass through me (except dates and names), plus I keep a record, as we have stated above. It’s just the way I’m… built? A flaw in the design. It doesn’t matter if you’re a friend, a lover, or even a coworker I find pleasing – I keep shit in mind, and I make sure to deliver you your sticky notes once every two months because you will forget, and I will not offer you anything sugary once you mention you’re on a diet.

I am aware of what and who you follow on instagram. I have a map of your interests in my brain regardless of the strength of our connection, and if we’re not close enough for me to barge in with a suggestion, but I still want to give it to you, I’ll manipulate a conversation or a situation to go a certain way so I can do it. Because I know it will be helpful. And you will find it a better alternative. But I am not a blunt force.

Also, I am aware how this design flaw of mine can take on an intrinsically sinister tone. Which is why when I have a fall-out with somebody, especially if it really was their fault, I try my damnedest hard to pretend they don’t exist.

Because I remember every single thing you dislike or find painful as well.

There’s a person in my life who always finds pink marshmallows and mint candy on their desk. And I make sure to always speak to them in the language they dislike most.

Like I said. Design flaw.

But back to the feelings. I don’t really talk about them or write about them. For a while – and sometimes still – I just believed that I don’t have them. Maybe they’re there, but it’s really hard to dig them out. “Oh you just habitually repress them” – no, I don’t. I do not. There’s- It’s all in the head, you know. I understand feelings. I can express them when expected. I just don’t get them.

I think this shit is called masking. Masking of what, though, I don’t know, because even by a generous margin of error I don’t pass the assessment for autism. Psychopathy is a little bit closer, but still doesn’t cut it. It’s true that I have a weak moral compass, though. It’s all very grey from where I stand.

What I’m about to say is obvious as fuck, but we process things through ourselves. Some of us quicker with better – no, easier – discernment, others slower. Me, I’ve always mucked around in piles of shit trying to find reason behind literally everything. It’s good that I’m moderately quick-witted, otherwise I’d be fucking paralysed most of the time by the perplexity of the degree of, I dunno, rudeness. And again, it’s not that I am offended or frightened or saddened by rudeness, and even though I’m a damned narcissist, it’s not a ‘why me?!’ narrative unless you’ve really tried to make it about me yourself – I just need a valid reason why. And there’s never a valid reason why, is there?

But I am not obsessed with logic. I’ve always enjoyed bouts of completely illogical shit. Something doesn’t have to make sense for me to enjoy it. The absurd is fun. Chaos is fun. Order is fun, too, but it’s a different type of fun.

I’m not sure where I’m going with this. I started therapy recently because my psychiatrist recommended me I do. I suppose the therapist saw too that I need it, because at first she was hesitant to see me, because she didn’t know if she’d have a window, but after first session she put me on her schedule. I am not against therapy. It helps many people. It saves lives. I suppose my main problem with therapy is that I’m not really a talker. I’ve aways found it easier and faster to type things. Also talking feels like complaining ever more so than writing things down. And I also don’t know what to say. I know I’m not expected to say anything in particular. That doesn’t help. And I also jump from subject to subject, because I’ve got all the tabs open, all the time. Three of them are playing music, two more a podcast, one a video with autoplay switched on, a couple are frozen, and others have a limitless “open()” going. What other metaphor can I use to make sure we all understand how loud it is in my head? It’s not a narrative of brilliance, mind you, there’s some quacking sounds, and a farting joke in there deafening everything else more often than not.

Anyway I told my therapist that I keep a journal, and that I’ve always written things down, but I don’t think we’re on the same page as to what journalling means to me and to her. All my notebooks are essentially junk books. I never cared to keep them pretty. Sometimes – okay, most of the time – I have attempts at chronology, and if there’s anything particularly important that happened, I might write a page number or a date on the last page as a really lame ‘index’, but that’s it. When I have access to a printer, the amount of photos might increase. Do I reread my journals? Not purposefully. Do I keep them? Obsessively. Are they of any use to anybody? Hardly. Do I talk about my feelings? Maybe of annoyance and lust and boredom. Do I find them therapeutic? Only in the sense of closing a couple of open tabs.

Plus it’s important to remember that ever since I had access to a computer – and the internet, gods the internet – I’ve also kept a file or an online log/ journal. Last time I tried to summarise all the pages into one file was in … 2009? At that point the file was somewhat under 1500 pages long. Default line spacing, font size 12 I believe. No double spacing between paragraphs, no page breaks. Obviously some of what I’ve written was lost in hard drive crashes and favourite journalling services going down. And that’s just journalling, my attempts at novel writing and poetry (ugh) and short stories aren’t part of 1500 pages.

I remember telling my mother the amount, and she was both impressed and horrified.

I used to have a small site dedicated to my journals with some scans and pictures of my books – which is how I found that image that I sent to my brother and my best friend, by looking through an offline archive of that site – anyway, yes, I had a site because I somehow found myself part of an online community of journallers, and keeping an online journal of your offline journals was a thing. I remember my best friend at that time trolled me about it, and well I can’t really disagree with the trolling. Keeping sites (Instagrams, Twitters, Youtubes, whatever) for journals still is a thing, and I’m still vaguely part of that community. It’s enjoyable, what can I say. A completely different way of navel-gazing, which is somehow therapeutic from the mouths of most women and marginalized, and increasingly annoying and preachy from the mouths of the middle class and up basic bros who discovered The Daily Stoic Journal (which, by the way, is not all that bad). Anyway, the site was called ‘Patient History’, because I was in my late teens or early twenties, and I thought I was clever. Though somehow I still like the word play in this one – because what’s more patient than a notebook?

I no longer remember where I was going with any of this, but if you’re still here, impressive! We’re pushing 2000 words. If you’re that far gone, may I persuade you into keeping a journal of your own? I know so many people want to start journalling, but they don’t, because they think it should be some kind of a big monumental thing, but it’s not. Sometimes it’s just a page with ‘god this shit sucks’ written on it in the fanciest of fonts with a brush pen marker. Other times it’s a purrito sticker with mentions of an act of terror around it. Then there’s a todo list with a candy wrapper.

Give it a try.