When my coffee is all prepared and ready to drink, I carry my mugs and oatmeal into the dining room and sit down at the table with my breakfast and my log book, my daily journal. I keep a daily journal of things I need to get done that day, things I did the day before, and other notes that seem important to me. I’m not sure how much I can actually write, today. This morning feels like more of a challenge than usual. Everything feels like it’s going in slow motion. I have a muddled sense of unreality… I cannot hear very well, and I cannot thought clearly.
Willing myself to be present, I set down the mugs and bowl of oatmeal to my right, on top of a napkin so they don’t accidentally dampen the place mat underneath them, and I pull out my notebook. I always use the exact same kind of notebook – 3-hole punched, spiral bound, college-ruled 8×10” – and I usually use the same pen – a good, solid clickable ballpoint pen that takes refills. I relish the familiar feel of the weight in my hand, which balances me and soothes me. Writing by hand is tremendously comforting to me, too. There’s something about the movement of the pen, the sensation of its tip moving across the paper, and the stillness of it, that soothes me. I’ve been writing like this for decades, and it’s long since become an regular aspect of my self-care.
Keeping a journal is a part of my daily ritual that’s emotionally very important to me and is an integral part of my practical life for more than 25 years. I have been keeping a journal on a daily basis for all my adult life; I started keeping one (irregularly) in my teen years, but then my writing became more important – almost compulsive, in some ways. I have many, many notebooks filled with my thoughts, feelings, and experiences that I recorded during the course of my life. My journal-keeping for most of my life is involved with keeping track of my internal world, my exclusively internal experience, to ease the pressure of daily living and to soothe the agitation that I felt. But since the end of 2007, I’ve been logging my external experiences in order to see what is really going on in the world around me. I need to track the outside world things that happen to me, and track things that I do in response – things that I say, things that I experience, which turn out to be poor choices or get me in trouble.
When I keep track of my external experiences I sometimes find it difficult to put into words what actually happened and I sometimes have to think very hard to remember the exact course of events the prior day. Some days, I will write down what I think is the beginning of what happened. But then I’ll remember that there were several events that happened immediately prior to that. I often start in the middle and work back towards the beginning and then have to work forward toward the end. But the place where my memory kicks in, the place where I start to think, is often in the middle of the progression of events. So I end up going in opposite directions at the same time and it can get me turned around. Sometimes I get so turned around that I get lost in what I’m writing and today is no exception.
Today I have gotten lost. I have lost track of time.
I look up at the clock and I see I’m about 20 minutes behind my planned schedule.
I am falling behind.
I finish my notes quickly and put away my notebook till tomorrow. Then I carefully take my one empty coffee mug and empty oatmeal bowl into the kitchen, rinse them out, dry my hands thoroughly, let the younger cat out of the laundry room, and take my remaining half-full mug of coffee upstairs with me to drink after I take my shower. I move stiffly and robotically, pivoting on my toes as I move. My motions are stiff and jerky, and I’m not feeling at all coordinated this morning.
I move painfully slowly up the stairs, hanging onto the railing and putting one foot carefully in front of the other. Irritation wells up in me, but I press on.