Journal On

Lit by Debra Celovsky, 05/01/12

I considered removing the previous 3 pages from my journal this evening. My voice sounds rambling and agitated and my thoughts wander around like whiny children needing a nap. Over my years of journaling I have discovered that agitation and irritation are sure-fire catalysts for filling up journal pages. Exasperation provokes the blithering muse. Vexation takes the pen to new heights of blather.I purse my lips and set my jaw and chronicle the aggravation of mankind, both general and particular.

This is not the case every night, of course. A survey of my journals would find those descriptions of marvelous moments, like the birth of a child, familiar to journal-keepers everywhere. Reaching deep, I try to describe the indescribable in rich prose. When I read other writers' published attempts at this daunting task, I'm often tempted to retch at the saccharine, clumsy portrayals. In my journal, however, I make every effort to be both heartfelt and moving, in a savory way - savory, here, being the opposite of over-sweet. What happens too often is what is occurring in this paragraph. The thought gets lost in the word-woods, thrashing around until it expires from exhaustion.

The glories of nature are set forth in language I strive to set down as both vivid and, well, different. How does one describe a drive over to the coast (fields, farms, cows,vineyards, redwoods) while avoiding the dreaded prosaic?

I try in my journal. I try hard. Dutifully pensive, I sit on the rocks at Salmon Creek Beach and think about my life while watching the everlasting waves roll in. I chronicle regret and what-might-have-been, achingly. But as I slowly chill to the bone, my thoughts chill, too, and I dash off final regrets before running for the car. This, of course, diminishes the sincerity factor. When I re-read my entries, I am peeved at this betrayal of my regretful self, which, after all, deserves a warm, empathetic voice, too.

I soldier on. Trips to visit family in the far-flung corners of the globe were dutifully chronicled for years in a beautiful, black, leather-bound journal. It made me feel Hemingwayesque, except I didn't have the cool, little portable writing table. The journal now rests in a drawer, having been supplanted, of course, by my laptop. I slip it in and out of its nifty bag a gazillion times in airports home and abroad, not daring to think how much easier it would be to have my quiet black journal just sitting there in my carryon, minding its own business, not threatening national security. Upon arrival to Wherever, I bang out sights, impressions of sights, meals, impressions of meals, family - well, you get the idea. And my feelings about everything are woven throughout each entry in a very determined way. How interesting will it be if I simply describe the terrific architecture in old town Belgrade unless I also say how I felt about it? In incredibly insightful prose?

There has, however, been a question wandering around the back of my mind as to whether I will leave this repository of soul-searching and self-revelation for posterity. It would be a blessed thing if a son or daughter or grandchild found these pages profound in observation, prescient, a treasure trove of life lessons learned (and alliterative, to boot). However, I rather worry that they might simply be seen as the messy ramblings of a generally dissatisfied woman.

But life is messy. It can be messy and irksome and boring and tragic. The question is: do I actually want to leave the chronicle of my particular mess behind? Will a granddaughter come across my journals in some dusty box about to be consigned to recycling and decide to sit with them awhile? Will she be so shocked that I wanted to run away from home on one particularly terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day that her memories of me are forever tarnished? Will one of my children take time to read a few pages here and there and discover that I was seriously, really seriously, displeased with them at times - as adults? What will they do? Spray graffiti on my gravestone?

Probably not.

So I'll keep journaling, setting down life from my singular perspective. I'll process through the grit and irritation, rejoice in the many favors of love, all the while keeping an eye out for the hilarious and the ridiculous. And it is quite likely that I will leave my journals for posterity. Intact.

I may decide that a few pages of explanation or justification in some kind of final note to my loved ones are needed; then again, I may decide such a thing would sound apologetic, and that would be silly. It was my life through my eyes, for crying out loud. And there may be enough wisdom in those painfully honest, sometimes blathery, pages to encourage them on their own journeys. I hope so. It has been an awful lot of work, but I confess, worth every minute. Every whiny, rapturous, vexing, blessed minute.

Debra Celovsky is a freelance writer in Santa Rosa. Recent articles have appeared in Just Between Us magazine,, and are upcoming in Caring, a publication of the Salvation Army. Her journals are still piling up.

Back to Lights