Sunday, December 25, 2011

Spiral Notebook Sunday: Monday, September 5, 1983

"Stick with me kid and we'll go places." If Garfield had only known what he was getting himself into...

I've always loved this snippet from Anne Lamott's Bird by Bird1: "I started writing sophomoric articles for the college paper. Luckily, I was a sophomore."

While digging around in Volume 1 of my journal to choose today's selection for Spiral Notebook Sunday, I had to remind myself several times that I was a sophomore (and a high school one at that) when I scribbled such immortal lines as "The president is on TV. He has just set Dr. Henry Kissinger up as 'special aid' in Central America. No one else seems to agree with that idea. What with as Ronald, dear, puts it--'the inaccurate stereotypes' about Kissinger. He is talking about Watergate. I am too young to remember--and have no idea what Kissinger had to do with it. (At this point I don't particularly care--I really wish RR would shut up and put A-Team on.)"

That little nugget is one of the more coherent paragraphs amid lots of song quotes, soap opera plot summaries, random shifts in subject and frequent tantrums about how the Army and/or my parents and/or my geometry/Spanish/French teachers and/or any and all of my siblings were ruining my life. I was reading awkward passages aloud earlier to Daughter-Only and commented that the style could really be called extreme stream of consciousness because there's so little filtering--it was clear I was writing whatever popped into my head at a given moment, often midway through a previous thought.

So that's the field from which I chose the following passage in which my mother lays down the law about the bickering among her four children.


Monday, September 5, 1983

Family discussion time---one of the really lovely one-sided ones where Mom tells us all what's wrong with us and gives us a lot of "or elses." Well, this time it's get along or else no Guiding Light. Well, no TV or Atari anyway. Which means no Guiding Light, which means no Grant2, which means we're going to get along. But for me the threat is the only reason--Guiding Light is the one thing the Army can't take away. They took everything else, though, and wrecked my entire life! And Mom isn't much help, lately..."You're not in Pennsylvania anymore." and "You're living six to eight months in the past." and so on. It was a really lovely conversation, believe me...Don't think I don't realize that I'm being bitter, childish, bratty, unreasonable and living in the past. Because I do--I mean I would have to be dense to not realize it with everyone telling me so.

1. There are many, many writing books that I consider valuable, but really only two that I consider essential: and Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life by Anne Lamott is one of them. Anne Lamott has a knack for delving right into the heart and soul of things and the book is full of wisdom that is applicable not just to writing, but--as the title indicates--to life as well. The other essential writing book (that also has includes some sneaky life lessons) is Writing Down The Bones: Freeing The Writer Within by Natalie Goldberg. I have owned multiple copies of both books because I have a tendency to give them away to anyone who shows the slightest interest in writing.

2. The actor who played Phillip Spaulding on Guiding Light and I were on a first name basis, obviously. Throughout this volume of the journal, he competes for space--handily holding his own--against various crushes from high school.


  1. "I wish RR would shut up and put the A-Team on." Absolutely priceless! What a treasure you have in those old streams of consciousness!

  2. I think finding earlier journals and diaries from "your young self" is like a treasure trove of wonder. I'm so glad you have this amazing resource. ~ Red Dirt Kelly

  3. I LOVE Anne Lamott and read anything that she puts out there - and I read Writing Down the Bones years and years ago - it is time to pick it up again .
    You are fortunate to have saved those journals. Once upon a time I had a collection of journals written between the time I was about 18 and 24. As a result of a breach of trust, I ended up burning them - really a stupid thing to do in retrospect but seemed dramatic and appropriate at the time, I guess. One thing I still have though from that period, is a whole pile of letters written to and from the breacher of said trust. It is embarrassing now to read them so I don't.......

  4. You are very brave! I do not believe I'd post anything I wrote back in my angst filled teen years. Too embarrassing!

  5. I'm with Michelle-- you are incredibly brave to post from your teen years. But on the other hand, your angst sounds SO familiar from my own teen brain. I would not be a teenager again for any amount of money.
    I wonder if Anne Lamott has any clue how much her words have meant to so many of us. She is a treasure.

  6. OMG- didn't you just hate Mindy and the way she manipulated Phillip? (I was so in love with him.)

  7. I tried keeping a few journals before, as a child, but they never lasted more than a few weeks at a time. I think I didn't see the point of keeping them, if it would only be me reading them. I'm thinking I want to go hunt through my old "personal stuff" boxes and find them, for fun. Also, if I ever do want to 'Write' (with a capital 'w'), I will know who to go to for resources to get me started:)

  8. I have contemplated burning my journals out of a fearful "what if" moment that will likely never come. What if my husband finds them? What if my boys find them? What if some random stranger breaks into the garage and decides that it's the black footlocker in the rafter he wants and then POOF they are gone forever to be later found on some public domain? I'm just a little paranoid about my writing getting out because I am not the person I was back then.
    I too love Anne Lamott. I have read and reread all of her books.
    Hope that you had a great Christmas. Thanks for sharing!

  9. Hey everyone--there are definitely embarrassing moments for sure in looking back (and this passage was really the least of it), but I also think there is a value in it as well. It kind of goes back to that post about the puzzle pieces and possible different outcomes for our lives that we tend to forget about. There is even a weird time-travel feel about reading some of the old stuff--since it's present-tense writing, it's almost as though those alternate selves still exist out there somewhere.

    As for the possibility of someone reading them, I was pretty aware of that danger all along (there are several times in this "volume" that I used the phrase "anyone reading this (on the sly or otherwise)" and I did edit myself somewhat in the beginning. At some point, I decided that as long as what I was writing was true to who I was in that moment, I would stand behind whatever it was, embarrassed or not. I wouldn't be happy if, for instance, someone's feelings were hurt by something they read, but I decided that by reading work meant to be private, that was a risk they took.

    Jewels--YES! I hated Mindy. I still CLEARLY remember the first scene she was in--in the stables with Phillip until her daddy (Billy) grabbed her up by her belt and pulled her off of Phillip. The hussy!

  10. And in a few clickity clacks of the keys, both books are on the way to the kindle. w00t!