I am thinking about three things this morning: personal imperfection, CV-19, and diaries. Diaries bleeds into various kinds of personal writing, but for the moment I want to think about diaries.
As a consequence of social distancing, CV-19 links to solitude, which I have been writing about for several years. Just announcing these topics makes me want to thin them out, or else I’ll be writing all day; nevertheless, these are the topics I have on my mind, and I want to think them through by writing about them this morning.
I have been practicing social distancing with a vengeance. I stay home most of the day. I do the mask and gloves whenever I might be close to strangers, have my groceries put in my car, and talk a lot to my two dogs, Lola and Sawyer. I play my guitar, read historical novels, the Times, Washington Post, Harrisonburg Daily Record, the Huffington Post, and Rawstory. And I write a lot, mostly in my diary because I’m a diary addict. I am not in complete isolation because I also ride my bike over to my daughter’s house, where I spend about two hours every day working with my adorable granddaughters, twins of 9 and the younger child of 7, on their writing. The three of them are busy writing long fantasies. I love this part of my day. I love them and my daughter like crazy.
Nevertheless, I spend most of my days alone—with my dogs. I’m pretty good at hanging out alone because of my dogs, my guitar, and writing.
I have no reason to whine about being alone. Somewhere between 20 and 30% of Americans are in serious trouble, many of them having lost their jobs, some with no place to stay. I don’t have to worry about money, shelter, or food. Particularly in these troubled times, this degree of security should be cause enough for inner peace, despite my solitude. Nevertheless, I often feel a kind of emotional itch, like I’m not quite where I should be. I think of George Herbert’s poem, “The Pulley.” My restlessness pulls me in quite a different direction that did Herbert’s, but I know what he was talking about.
I have a few friends who seem to have worked out the problem of restlessness—or at least they present to the world an inner serenity, signs of having figured it all out. Maybe I don’t want to go there because I might not get such pleasure out of my guitar and writing.
Which leads me to diaries. I am an expert on diaries—not that I have studied diaries as a subject, but because I have been writing/typing in my diary probably an hour a day, almost every day for over fifty years. I know diaries. I was also a writing teacher for forty-three years and regularly held forth to my students the benefits of writing in a diary. I often wonder how others get along without recording their thoughts and emotions, just letting them rattle around in their heads and hearts.
We have a lot of evidence that writing contributes to healing, notably with soldiers combatting PTSD. I used writing to pull myself out of the abyss after my wife of forty-three years died eight years ago. I wrote a book about it and put it away. I didn’t need to have anyone read it; I just needed to write down all that happened and what I was feeling. It’s difficult to explain how this works. I suppose it’s a bit like when young children talk to their imaginary friends.
I read an article this morning (which led to this post) in which the writer suggested that people start writing in diaries about their feelings and experiences in these extraordinary times. The writer gave some ideas on how people could start recording their thoughts and maybe let others see them, which is exactly what I’m doing here. This really was my diary entry for the morning, but I also knew it might be something I might want to post on my blog. This little diary/essay is way too long for a blog post, but these thoughts have been rattling around in my head, and I wanted to get them down. I’m posting them in case other social isolationalists have too much alone-time and found themselves looking for something to read. I would feel that I had done someone some good if they started a CV-19 diary and discovered the deep satisfaction of writing when they are their only readers, of dancing when no one is watching, of singing although no one is listening