We use the term base for so many things: home base, he stole a base, his baser instincts, based on, I’m on base. When we were kids we played hide and seek; our object was to outwit our friends and make it back to the designated safe zone. The base. It was the one place our opponents could not touch us. We were safe. You can’t touch me; I’m on base!
As an adult I find that I am always searching for a place to touch down, a place to call my own. My island. Base. It’s the place I go for consolation when life seems to be too much. It’s the place I go to become untouchable, if only for a brief moment. I collect myself here. I read here; I write here. I think beautiful and terrible thoughts. I pause here. From here I decide my next move.
I’m not the only one.
Over time our bases may change; the places where we once sought refuge are no longer the primary places we go for comfort and consolation. The places we never expected to feel untouchable become our havens. But the need for some personal spot of refuge, a safe zone, never changes.
The Morgan Library and Museum in New York opened an exhibit on Friday called “The Diary: Three Centuries of Private Lives.” On display visitors have the privilege of studying the pages of journals and diaries that belonged to authors like John Steinbeck and Nathaniel Hawthorne. It sounds fascinating. But it got me to thinking:
Why do we write things down? Why do we chronicle our lives? And when we do, are we true to who we really are?
I have been a journalist from the very tender age of ten. My first diary had Spottie Dottie (a Hello Kitty character) on the front. It was also kept under lock and key. There was something about being able to decide for myself which secrets to share with everyone and which ones to keep to myself. When I put them down on paper, they feel more real.
In her essay “On Keeping a Notebook,” Joan Didion writes: “The impulse to write things down is a peculiarly compulsive one, inexplicable to those who do not share it, useful only accidentally, only secondarily, in the way that any compulsion tries to justify itself…So the point of my keeping a notebook has never been, nor is it now, to have an accurate factual record of what I have been doing or thinking.” We don’t write things down for other people, and we don’t write things down in an effort to preserve our past experiences. We write things down so that we can remember them the way we think they ought to be. If Didion is correct (and I believe she is), these writings are never intentionally useful to anyone but the person who writes them. This is only logical since our lives are most useful to our own selves.
I suppose the stakes are different for famous people who are in danger of having their private thoughts put on display in some library years after their demise. Understandably, they would feel compelled to censor themselves to promote the image they worked so diligently (or maybe not so much) to create. But it has been my experience as a normal person with a normal life and normal thoughts that censoring yourself in your writing is best left undone. Otherwise you revisit the writings later, and you have no knowledge whatsoever of the person you find there. That person is an enigma, a fictional creation that provides no bearing on where you’ve come from or what you’ve been through.
My writings to myself are much more frank and straightforward than they have ever been before. There are no self-imposed limitations or restrictions on what I am allowed to say to myself, and there are no omissions in the interest of future readers. If you seek to know me through my writing, you will know the truest, most honest version of me. If I can’t recognize myself in my own experiences years from now, what was the purpose of writing them down at all?
A few nights ago, I discovered that the Rainbow Brite cartoons are available on InstantNetflix. My initial response was that of great excitement. But then I realized that every time I revisit the cartoons and movies I loved so much as a child I am disillusioned. I find them to be annoying and trite, and I always feel compelled to call my mother and apologize for watching them so much.
How is it that we can love something so much as children only to find that, as adults, that object of our affection is in fact loathsome?
It reminds me of reading a Roald Dahl book (or watching one of the movies based on his books). As a child, I loved his writing. I loved the characters, and I loved the stories, although I could never have told you why. As an adult, though, I revisit these stories, and I realize why my mother always thought Willy Wonka was a creepy guy. I find it fascinating that things always look different through the eyes of an adult. I find it even more fascinating that there is no way to return to the vision we had then.
I have been burned too many times before. Pippy Longstocking. Shera Princess of Power. They have all proved to be less than the amazing entertainment I thought they were. So while I am enthusiastic that Rainbow Brite is available to me, I am inclined to do what I haven’t done and leave her memory in tact. To destroy one of the last bastions of childhood memory would almost be like emotional masochism. I don’t think I’m ready for that.
There are those of us who can only do one thing at a time. We do that thing to the utmost of our ability, and then we move on to the next task on the list. Then there are those of us who feel like the only way to be productive is to do a minimum of two things at once (and that’s on a slow day). We go about life simultaneously (so we think) getting things done. We are taking care of business times two. Or three. Or four. It all depends on how daring you want to be. But in the process of undertaking the role of WonderWoman (or SuperMan, whatever the case may be) are we really accomplishing what we think we are?
Is it better to accomplish a lot of things in a mediocre way, or should we focus on fully and accurately completing fewer tasks on the list?
I waver. Sometimes I feel like the only way to get done what needs to get done is to multitask. There are household chores and responsibilities that have to be done simultaneously to keep our lives in working order. Then there are days when I feel like the only logical thing to do is to expend all my energies making sure that a few things get done just as they should be with no corners cut and no shortcuts taken.
I blame graduate school. It would have been virtually impossible to complete graduate school without the gift of multitasking. No one can read that many books one at a time and write that many papers one at a time in the time frame of a semester. If you can, I want to know your secrets. Actually, I’m not sure that blame is the right word. I think graduate school is responsible for honing an innate skill.
I’m sure there are people who would suggest that championing the ways of a multitasker is wrong. But I am equally as certain that there are multitaskers who would claim that there are not enough hours in the day to accomplish things the old fashioned way. I suppose in cases like this the only thing to do is to decide for yourself, leaving all matter of scientific data in the dust.
Now excuse me. I have to finish the breakfast I’m cooking while I research data on how to save the world from itself while I pay the bills while I answer the phone…
Greetings from the afternoon! I promise not to make this a habit.
Every year around this time I find myself wishing away the months until warm weather arrives. With Christmas finished and the new year begun there really seems to be no point to the cold anymore.
In mid-December, the cold is expected and, dare I say it, welcome because it is the harbinger of the holidays. We want to hear about Frosty the Snowman and chestnuts roasting on open fires. Christmas comes and goes, and we arrive at the new year with a sense of hopeful anticipation and burgeoning potential. We countdown the seconds and throw our confetti while we snuggle in our warm coats against the current winter weather.
But then what?
When the celebrations are complete and normalcy has resumed, why does it need to be cold? I would contend that cold weather serves no purpose after New Year’s Day. The only thing to be expected of cold weather in January is a nuisance. For those of us lucky enough to live in milder climates, cold weather abates rather abruptly, and we are all the better for it. Bring on the blue skies! I have a new blue sundress waiting to make its debut…
Saturday morning is the only morning that I allow myself to read The New York Times in its entirety. Well, maybe not in it’s entirety, but I allow myself to read the sections that I don’t touch during the week.
Waiting until the weekend to catch up on technology news, book news, and fashion and style news turns a mundane task like reading the paper into a treat. I curl up in bed with a cup of coffee and the paper, and I stay until I’m finished reading. And because I have a whole week’s worth of news to catch up on, I am forced to ease into the weekend.
My Saturday morning ritual changes the pace for the weekend. And aren’t weekends supposed to be about slowing down and catching a breath after a busy week?
As counterintuitive as it may seem, the first and the fifteenth are my favorite days of the month because I finally get to sit down and pay the bills. Although today is not the fifteenth, it’s close enough, and I am able to complete the chore that most people find daunting and depressing.
I’m uncertain as to why people feel this way about paying the bills. These are the days of the month when I can finally make sure that everyone who wants money from us has what they require. Everything that comes after today is gravy. At least until we get to the thirtieth. Then I start fretting again, wondering if there is someone I have forgotten.
For today, though, I feel like I know exactly what money is mine and what belongs to someone else. The fun can finally begin!
Cathedral is my favorite word. It’s such a fun word to say. There are so many different sounds involved in making the word a success.
A first post is a lot more difficult than I thought it would be. It’s the problem of the blank page; there are so many possibilities, and it’s difficult to start exploring one without erring on the side of being pretentious. Since that is the very opposite of my goal here, I feel it prudent to move on from this subject and onto the purpose of this blog.
My morning routine consists of making coffee and then sitting down to peruse a variety of news outlets. Most mornings I find something that sticks with me for the rest of the day (or at least until the coffee mug is empty). It’s not always something important; in fact, most of the time it’s something so insignificant I wonder if I’m the only one who caught it. When I happen upon these bits of news, I often want a place to further explore them, and while Facebook is perfect for small inquiry, the space of a status update is rather limiting.
I will also incorporate information from the Twitter accounts I follow. More often than not, I find more thought-provoking stuff there anyway since people seem to be totally uninhibited when they log on to social networking sites. And as a student of literature and a journalism major, I must warn you: I have a great affinity for words, and I like to use a lot of them. So I apologize in advance for being excessively verbose.
Now, without further ado…