• Barbarella
  • Story alerts
  • Letter to Editor
  • Pin it

Journal writing is a voyage to the interior.

-- Christina Baldwin

I looked around for something to throw. The thought of lashing out physically caused my heart to skip a beat in anticipation of such animalistic satisfaction. In a panic to find a release for my mounting frustration, I considered each object around me: Boa? No, too flimsy; a wimpy, feathery flutter will only disappoint. Paperweight? Too heavy, I'm upset, but I don't want to break anything. I could hit something , but that might hurt my hand. While scanning my bookshelves for an inanimate victim that I could chuck to the ground, my eyes fell on the topmost right shelf, where my journal waited for me to notice it. The last words spoken by my sister echoed in my head. She had disconnected the call with cruel swiftness during the first syllable of my response. I wanted to finish my thoughts, express how I felt, whether or not she was willing to hear it. I needed to know what was beneath the anger and rage simmering inside of me; perhaps more frustrating than not having the chance to explain my position was that I didn't really know what my position was. As I reached for my leather-bound confidante, my face began to cool, the blood that had rushed to heat it returned dutifully to my veins and organs.

I held the book in my hands, and its weight, whispering the promise of inviting blank pages, transmitted a calm that began in my fingertips and spread its soothing warmth through my body, causing the tension in all of my muscles to dissipate. It is always the same when I turn to my journal -- irritation and emotions build until I want to explode, but I know, as do the pages already covered in my scribbled ink, that transforming my feelings into words is the one true remedy.

I went about converting the room into a space worthy of confessions and epiphanies. I lit a candle and stared at it. This was my favorite candle, a cylinder of deep burgundy hinting at the berry fragrance that will emanate as soon as the wax around the wick begins to melt. Later, when I extinguish the flame with a gentle, focused breath, the scent, mingled with a swaying stream of smoke, will deepen in complexity, and its sugary sweetness will become musky and heady. The following morning, upon waking, I will breathe in its faint memory to trigger the sensation of serenity my brain will forever associate with the aroma of writing.

I sat in my favorite chair, a dark wood-framed brocaded rococo armchair more suited to a Victorian-era tearoom than where it is settled, in the corner of my office, facing a room filled with contemporary furnishings. I selected a blue ballpoint pen -- I had let go of my preference for consistent-colored ink years ago, when I decided the only things that really mattered about a pen were the way it felt in my fingers and the fluidity and ease with which the ink ran from its tip onto the paper.

My best friend lay closed on my lap. I hesitated to open it, savoring the righteous taste of anger, because I knew once I lifted the front cover, I would have to surrender to the truth beneath my mask of rage and embrace the part of me that is as insecure and uncertain as the feeble old wizard cowering behind the curtain. I thought of my father's new-agey theory that anger does not exist, that no emotions exist outside of fear and love, and that every other feeling we think we have can be boiled down to one of those two common denominators. In the case of sibling rivalry, I reasoned, it's a mixture of both.

It took me two years of journaling before I was honest with myself for the first time, honest in that ugly, poorly lit naked way in which we are petrified of seeing ourselves. I was 19, and though I cringed at what I saw reflected back at me through this mirror of words, I soon became addicted to the clarity and peace of mind journaling gave me and used it as a form of self-medication.

As the candle began to emit its intoxicating essence, I opened the journal and flipped through the pages before stopping at June 21, 2002 . The words were uneven, messier than the entries surrounding them: I have that feeling of lonely despair ; I know I've felt this before. You know the drill -- I'm surrounded by people, friends, family, coworkers, etc. -- and I feel so unbearably alone. I feel like nobody gets me. Like as close as they think they may be to me, they are kept by me at arms' length.

But I wasn't alone, I thought, running my index finger over the words, as if I might be able to touch the very pen that spilled this black ink four years ago. I turned to the first blank page toward the end of the book, the fourth of its kind, its predecessors filled from cover to cover with my ranting, raving, and soul searching. Suddenly, with the same disbelief I experience when emerging from a dark movie theater to see that the sky is still lit by the sun, I realized the last of my anger had vanished.

I allowed my stream of consciousness to pour forth, my pen a funnel through which only one word could fit at a time, forcing order and sense from what would otherwise remain a jumble of ideas muddying up my mind. I transcribed the argument and, once it was down in blue and white, I did my best to explain how the argument had affected me, to question the true source of the white-hot anger that had coursed through me 30 minutes earlier.

I gave myself over and without discretion to the pen in my hand, allowed it to write every thought that entered my head. I feel like... if only I knew how to finish that sentence , I wrote. I guess I don't know myself as well as I thought I did. It is amazing how candid one can be when all potential for judgment is removed. Right and wrong are ideas I attribute to myself as I consider my thoughts. I don't want to see her hurt. I love her. She's tense. She's quick to anger. She's a lot of wonderful things as well -- but I'm starting to forget what they are. And that's just tragic.

  • Story alerts
  • Letter to Editor
  • Pin it

More from SDReader


Sign in to comment

Win a $25 Gift Card to
The Broken Yolk Cafe

Join our newsletter list

Each newsletter subscription means another chance to win!