I love to write, but I’ve never liked to journal. I actually cringe at the word because I’m pretty sure it stimulates my gag reflex. It reminds me of being forced to write something when I either a) didn’t feel like it or b) couldn’t possibly ink out yet another ‘My Best Summer Moment’ for the 6th year in a row. Ugh.
You can lump scrapbooks into the journal category for me, too. I once got invited to a scrapbooking “party”. I showed up. Ready to party. Honestly, those two words should never be used together. Ever. I was surrounded by women in leisure wear with purpose built brief cases, special scissors, paper cutters, and theme stickers for every possible life event that is supposed to matter. I was in awe of the commitment to meticulously document their moments. But most of all, I just felt bad.
I had no proof of my own moments.
Because mine aren’t displayed beautifully or written poetically.
If I’m lucky, they are in a shoebox under the stairs. If they happened in the last 8 years, they may be digitally crammed into my phone or floating aimlessly somewhere on an invisible cyber cloud. (Still cannot wrap my head around that one.) BUT, if I’m being truly honest, most of my moments are simply laid bare in my mind, each one now just a fizzled sparkler in time.
Of course I continue to collect these pieces of life. It’s not like I don’t have them. My kids, my family, my friends, my work, my travel. There are dazzling sparks for me every single day. But I have always struggled to find a way to capture them. Find them all a place. Both the wild and the tame.
Every Brilliant Thing
If you haven’t watched Jonny Donahoe in the HBO production of Duncan MacMillan’s stage play, Every Brilliant Thing, go do it. I guarantee it’ll be the best hour you spend today. It is theatre in the round at its finest, fusing inconceivable tragedy with childlike purity. And in the midst of my tears and laughter, I found it. What I didn’t even know I had been looking for. I found a way to capture my scattered moments. Not in their entirety, but in their radiant, fleeting simplicity.
In the play, the main character chronicles his own split seconds of joy starting at the age of 7. These provide glimpses into his world that are both intensely personal and remarkably human. Literally, shreds of paper hold a lifetime of moments.
What made this even more poignant for me, was that only days before, I had stumbled upon two other lists. These ones were created by my own daughter.
Now, beside the fact that I had no idea my 9 year old hated potatoes, or why she re-does her ponytail 27 times before school, I was struck by her need to write down the things that mattered to her. There was something so uncomplicated and true about her life distilled into bullet points. Unedited.
A New Kind of List
So, inspired by the works of Macmillan and Ruby Jane, I started my own list.
Worth a try.
- Cold apple pie for breakfast.
- Wish chips
- Falling asleep in a sliver of afternoon sunlight
I wasn’t exactly sure where to go in my mind. So I just wandered. I swayed backwards and forwards with little stops in between. But my list grew quickly.
- Turning the pillow over to the cold fresh side
- The sound of a handful of pebbles being tossed into a still lake
The brilliant things tumbled out of me. One moment in time, led to the next. People, places, smells, textures. My life’s anthology in no particular order.
- Grabbing my grandmother’s soft, papery hand and twisting the rings on her fingers
- 937-8071. My first phone number. Ever.
- Garage sailing for treasures with my mom
- Rolling down hills with grass stained knees
And I kept writing.
- Back scratches
- Dirt covered carrots from the garden
I stopped counting the first day at 74. But my list has now grown to well over 200 things. I add them whenever I can.
- Snow days
- My son looking me in the eye
- Lilacs after the rain
One small detail at a time. The flashes of life that settle the mind and swell the heart…even if just for a moment.
So share it. Keep it private. Post it. But at the very least….try it.
And here’s to a lifetime of finding your moments and a never ending list that almost says it all.