Saturday, November 14, 2015

Compare and Contrast

My desk

According to Eckhart Tolle, a man who I've come to (perhaps irresponsibly) consider my spiritual guide and one source of truth ever since an inevitable mental breakdown in August of 2015, we should always live in the present moment.  The future doesn't exist, and the past is nothing but a source for our guilt, shame, sadness, longing, and other negative emotions.  However, he makes an exception: our pasts are good to reflect upon to learn lessons, not make the same mistakes, remember how we handled a difficult situation.  I make two: looking back is good for succeeding, and also... to give yourself a confidence boost.

I'll expand on where both Tolle and I agree first: in light of NaNoWriMo, I decided that this was the year I was not going to fuck up, and I was going to gather my previously mentioned newfound stamina and inspiration to write a novel in thirty days.  Just in case you haven't gathered the obvious, it's 7:42 pm on November twelfth: across the country, responsible creative youngsters are hitting their 20,000 word count limits.  I couldn't find a way to close my prologue, so I decided to procrastinate on that, and now I'm writing this piece.  But that's not the point: if I was going to spend the next thirty days stuck in a room with my own writing, it better be something good.  So, I pulled out all my old journals.

I've been keeping a journal ever since I was six years old.  My first journal was pink, hardcover, and had Barbie on its front flap.  My first entry reads: I went to church today!  It was not very fun.  Monica was being a show up. [Author's note: I believe my six-year-old brain was trying to phonetically spell-out "show-off".]  Then we went to D'Volada and I got a chocolate cake and chocolate milk.  I spilled chocolate milk on my dress and mom yelled at me.  She is so angry.

It's a compulsion (one that I'm very interested in observing through a psychological lens--perhaps later) of mine, writing things down.  I don't know why there are some people who are able to live their life by living in it in the present, and not feeling the itch to translate the experience into an art form to immortalize it, and others who can't do this.

I write everything down, and one could argue (shooting a pointed look at you, Joan Didion) that this means I take myself too seriously: I think I have something to say, that the way I look at things is important and/or better, therefore I record my thoughts.

This has proven to be helpful to me, however.  I was reading through the journal I kept when I was fourteen and found this gem:

As I flip through my journal, it seems funny to me how many different times I wrote "I want to die" or "nothing can rain on my parade today!" And I was probably selfish most of those days.  Friends probably wanted to talk about something that bothered them, and I would change the subject to myself, repeating the same problem.  The school year is closing... I wish I could go back to so many times I could have been a better friend, a better daughter, and a better student.  But oh well, I'm not looking back today.  It's going to be a good day today.

That's as close to a literal pat on the back from my past self as I'll ever get.  Not only am I introspective and I keep myself accountable for a mistake, I also tell myself that it's okay to forgive myself and move on.  Learn from my mistakes.

This is what Eckhart Tolle has in mind: use the past to help your present.

my journal

Another good reason to look back on your past, according to me, is to compare your growth as a person.  This doesn't do anything essential other than it helping give yourself the credit you deserve.  I used to believe I was born without rhythm.  I couldn't dance in my own room because I'd stop before I began, cringing at the mental image of me trying.

I'm a good dancer, actually.  I'd say I'm in the slim area between being a good dancer and a great dancer.  This isn't the growth I made, though: I stopped hating myself so aggressively.  One day I'll be able to figure out why I was never on my side as a teenage girl; for now, this is a mystery.  But what's important is that I am on my side now.  I can dance in front of others and I can dance in the privacy of my own room because I now know that dancing is an extension of my joy: I don't do it as a performance.  Much like everything else in my life.  I believed that my own life was a performance piece.  I romanticized myself.  Unhealthily.

But life requires a balance.
Eckhart Tolle would like me to live in the moment at all times.  And who am I to disagree with a spirit guide?  But I particularly like to revisit my past because  in it there exists a dark person living in a tiny girl's body.  She visits me in the present with hostile intentions.  I want to help heal her so that we can be in the same room, in harmony, in the future.

Past-me is pretty funny, too.  I kept distracting myself in between writing this post by reading journal entries from when I was an eighth-grader.  I used to precede news by saying "And get this!", and according to a journal entry from March of 2009, I discovered the pronunciation of the word "hyperbole":

Also, finally I found out what a hyperbole was.  Except it's not pronounced how I thought it would be.  I thought it was "high-per-bowl", but apparently it's "high-per-bowl-ee."  What?  Then why not spell it that way, then?  How stupid!  I need to remember to look up whoever made up that name.