Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Looking Back

I spent some time this week reading through my old journals. I had intended to just look for a specific date or time frame, like the month of October, to compare what was going on at different points in my life and see if there were any common themes or lessons. But it was very hard to limit myself to just a specific time frame. I found that my old journals are like a pandora's box. And once I opened that box, it was hard to close it.

I felt compelled to read on to see what would happen next, even though it was my life. So in theory, I should already know what happened next. I know that I wrote everything in those journals, but a lot of it sounded like another person. And my handwriting was all over the map. I have always thought I had the same loopy round handwriting for my whole life, but there was a time in the 90's when it was a more angular scribble and barely legible. I must have been writing frantically and possibly late at night with a flashlight after my family had gone to bed.

Another thing I found was that I wrote a lot about the same themes. And some of those are still the themes I write about today: relationships, family, my job and my desire for self-improvement. I guess those are probably the same for a lot of people. Of all those topics, relationships were definitely the most common theme in my journals. I spent so much time writing about boys and whether they would call and what to say to them and how to get them to like me. There was so much agonizing about relationships. And October seemed to be the month of new relationships and/or break ups.

In 1997, I was agonizing over Joe, who was a friend of my best friend from college. We had flirted back and forth for years, but he never pulled the trigger and asked me out. My best friend always told me that Joe didn't respect women, but for some reason he respected me. And that is why he never asked me out. Eventually we both found ourselves single at the same time and we started dating. Or at least I think we did. Most of my journal entries are about whether or not he would call me. And when we did talk, he never had anything to say. And when we went out, he would ignore me half the time as a "test" to see how I would react.

Needless to say, Joe was not a very nice guy. He was kind of a mess. But I was always attracted to those guys who were a mess. The ones who needed fixing. Before we started dating, he would bare his soul to me and send me e-mails with poems he had written. But then it all turned into a game. One of my favorite things I wrote about dating Joe was "Why did I trust him so much when we weren't dating and now that we are, I trust him less? We now have the power to hurt each other."

The following year, in the fall of 1998 I was dating a guy named Stephen. He was a law student and he quickly became known as "Stephen Gotta Study" because he was always ditching me to go and study. Stephen was a libertarian. He was very rigid in his beliefs and his lifestyle. He liked to lift weights in his basement and eat healthy. We dated for a few months and then in the fall he just suddenly dumped me out of the blue. He said that he was too busy with school and didn't have time to date. At the time, I was heartbroken and shocked. But then I wrote this awesome list of things that I didn't like about him:

1. He never answered the phone. I could not just randomly call him.
2. He ordered slowly at restaurants.
3. He argued so logically about everything.
4. He did not believe in fate or destiny.
5. Low fat eating.

I may have gotten my heart broken, but at least I could eat french fries and ice cream after we had broken up. That was a relief. Looking back through all of those relationships, it seems like I always molded myself into what the guy wanted me to be, instead of just being authentic. I am not sure I even knew how to be authentic back then.

No matter what happened in my romantic life, one thing was always clear. I was looking for love. Real and true love. And even after the most horrific break ups, I was still optimistic that I would find it someday. For some reason, in the late 90's, I had decided that the measure of a perfect guy was whether or not he seemed like the type of guy I could go to the dollar movies with. I am not sure why I didn't want to pay full price for a regular movie. But every time I met a new guy, I would ask myself whether he was that magical one who would take me to the dollar show.

I kept pretty detailed journals through the 1990's and into the early 2000's. Then in October 2001, I started dating my Mr. Big. We met at work and fell in love and everything changed. For the next five years, I do not have any journal entries, except for my annual New Year's Eve journal entry and resolutions. We were happy and I think our relationship gave me an outlet to talk about my feelings so I did not need to write anything down. Then in October 2006, my Mr. Big had his stroke. And I didn't write a word about it. I didn't pick up my journal again until May 2007.

By October 2008, I was ready to start dating again. At least to try. I met this really good looking guy named Brett. He was in the military and had been in Michigan for about a year, but he was moving to Washington DC after the holidays. So there was a defined time frame for our relationship. Most people would have backed off, but not me. If there was even a chance at love, I was all in. Brett was hot and cold. The night we met, he was flirty and fun. But then on our second date he barely spoke. I had to work at the conversation. I have so many journal entries about him doing super nice things for me and then backing off.

If I had only known then what I know now. He was a classic narcissist. And that is the worst type of person for an empath like me. He did not have the desire for a strong emotional connection that I was capable of. Nothing really seemed to bother him. When he moved to Washington DC, he left me with his copy of Atlas Shrugged. He thought it was the best book ever. I tried to read it, but it didn't really make any sense to me. And the font size was way too small. It sat on my bookshelf for years and finally I donated it to the used book store.

After that, I had a few more entries, but then in 2010 I started writing this blog. And I definitely used that as an outlet for my thoughts and emotions, as opposed to writing in my journals. As I continued through the archives, I found the journal I had started when I got sick in 2013. And the journal I wrote in when I dated my ex-boyfriend in 2014. He was another narcissist. It did not end well.

In 2015, after I graduated from yoga teacher training and left my corporate job I started a new journal. That journal has a completely different vibe from any of my other writing. My writing sounds more open. More content. Less fearful and worried, although I am always a little fearful and worried. And curious. I was so curious about my life and what would happen next.

By October 2015, I was dating Mark Johnson. And it was just around that time that we were saying "I love you" for the first time. And by October 2016, I was living with Mark Johnson in his apartment and wondering about my finances and how I could grow my freelance writing business so I wouldn't have to get a full time job. Here I am a year later and luckily I have been able to make it work so far.

I have been a much more frequent and consistent journaler since 2015. Mark Johnson keeps a journal too, and writing has become a part of our life together. It helps me to process things that are going on in my life. This year, I am processing the loss of my Dad. And more recently the discovery that I have skin cancer on my face and will need to have surgery to remove it. That has been on my mind a lot. And hopefully when I look back next year, it will all be resolved.

When I started this project of reviewing my journals, I was wondering if there were lessons that I have learned over and over. I thought I might find some answers or common themes. And now that I have completed it, I am not sure if there is a clear outcome. I definitely appreciate the value of keeping a journal. It has certainly helped me along the way. And while most of this blog has focused on stories of my romantic life, there were many other things I wrote about my work and family life that were also very therapeutic for me at the time.

Reading my journals has also helped me recognize my desire for self-improvement. I thought that was a more recent shift in the last few years, but it is actually something that has been with me for a long time. The desire to be more patient and kind. The desire to find a way to volunteer or help society in some way. The desire to learn more about myself and others. It's all in there.

So I guess I have learned some of the same lessons over and over again, just in different ways. And maybe that is just a part of being human. I am happy where I am today. That doesn't mean I won't have struggles from time to time, but generally speaking I am happy. And everything in those pages is a part of the story that brought me here. So in that sense, I am very grateful.

I am not sure how often I might delve into my journals in the future. It can be emotionally exhausting to read through them. But I am definitely planning to keep them around for awhile. There are some great potential Hallmark movies lines in there.

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