"The truth of the journal does not lie in the interesting and literary remarks to be found in it, but in the insignificant details that tie it to everyday reality." - Maurice Blanchot, French Author
In March of this year, I was able to buy a couple of books from Amazon and had it shipped in my Uncle's balikbayan box. It took almost four months for the books to reach me but when I opened the box, it was the first thing that I zeroed in. One of the books that I bought featured diaries, letters, and journals throughout human history. It roughly covers two thousand years of writings about personal experiences, world events, and everyday lives.
I've never had the discipline of being able to sustain a journal. I would normally prepare for a diary by going to the bookstore or a stationery shop, choosing a good quality notebook, and testing several black pens. After buying the materials, they would stay in their own packaging and start gathering dust until I'll remember that I bought them. I would bring them out and place them on top of my desk and would eventually end up being a doodle notebook. These notebooks, in a way, would not be given the chance to fulfill their original goal.
I greatly admire people in the past who were dedicated in their correspondence. These diarists would produce volumes of stories, thoughts, and perspectives that would be preserved by their recipients, family members, or enthusiasts. Imagine, physical pieces of paper that can become brittle with age, eaten by termites or bugs, burnt, and torn apart surviving harsh conditions and being able to be brought forth in the light for generations to study or read or be inspired.
Turning each page of that book made me see parallels in my life. I felt the writer's frustration, their anger, their sadness, their happiness --- all of their fears; flashes of brilliance, moments of glory --- covering once pristine white pages. It wasn't limited to words, you can also see sketches, caricatures, and drawings. All of these summed up their reflection of themselves, their perspective in life, their emotions.
Maybe that's one of the reasons why it is difficult for me to start a journal, I am afraid to write down my own truth. There is a sense of personalized introspection when you put pen on paper. Reading what you wrote becomes an embodiment of reality. Writing in a journal or diary is an intimacy that one might find challenging to control.
One might say that writing a blog or creating a video is another way of expressing your ideas or musings; for me, you can still have a sense of controlling what you want your audience to find out about you. You can set the stage. But, personalized writing, for me, has the opposite effect.
"I myself feel, to the point of being mentally crushed and physically drained...The day will come, though, when people will see that they're worth more than the cost of the paint and my subsistence, very meager in fact...the hardship of producing paintings will ... have taken my entire life, and it will seem to me that I haven't lived." Vincent's 1888 letter to his brother, Theo
Looking at the Table of Contents of the 'Remarkable Diaries' book, I was thrilled when I saw Vincent Van Gogh's name. I am not sure why I feel a certain affinity to Van Gogh. In the first place, I am not an artistic person. I don't know how to draw, I cannot do color-matching, and I don't have any sense of style. But, whenever I see a photo of Van Gogh's paintings, I feel emotional. I see the man behind the creation and not the artist. For me, Vincent Van Gogh is one of the most tragic art figures in history... a cautionary tale. He was unrecognized, he felt unloved and not appreciated. For Vincent, every idea he ever had resulted in failure. I cannot imagine how I would be at that point of despair...self-doubt and loneliness --- the very existence that Vincent felt when he took his life.
Hope seemed to be elusive to Vincent.
"You are smart...You are capable...You belong"
One Blank Page At A Time
"When I write I can shake off all my cares. My sorrow disappears, my spirits are revived!" - Anne Frank, April 1944
It has taken me almost three weeks to decide if I wanted to join this year's writing contest. The theme is all about being a survivor amidst this global pandemic. I couldn't think of any topic that I wanted to write about.
A few years ago, I wrote an article about being a procrastinator. Knowing that the deadline is near gives my limbic system a reason to go into overdrive. A huge dose of adrenaline courses through my veins and fuels me to complete the task on hand. Yeah, I feel stressed, tired, and anxious while going through it since the deadline is looming but I'll do it all over again.
It's been a long time since I wrote a letter to myself. The last time that I did was for an assignment in one of the leadership workshops that I've attended many years ago. It's been 16 months since the world entered its own version of a Twilight Zone episode. And it looks like that episode will turn out to be more of a series as we experience more twists and turns rather than an ending. This Covid-19 Pandemic is becoming more of a cliffhanger every day.
The years 2020 - 2021 have been the saddest I have experienced. Being away from my family, missing that social interaction we have when we go to work, or even just having a cup of coffee at your favorite coffee place without being afraid are like feathers in the wind --- you can see them fly by but not being able to catch them. Flinging moments of sanity.
The events that happened to me personally are not extraordinary compared to others who actually survived COVID-19. I have friends, relatives, and acquaintances who got the illness; who were hospitalized or quarantined at home, went through the stages of being ill and conquered it. But, I also have people I've worked with, interacted with --- who died from Covid-19, other health complications, an accident, and natural causes. The sense of loss has been overwhelming at times. I fear for myself, for my loved ones, for everyone. We don't notice it but the anxiety builds up inside and we are not conscious of the effects it has on us.
The sense of loss and regret has been amplified. Even the deaths of celebrities or of a personality have a profound effect on us.
Tonight, I will start writing on my new notebook --- smooth pages, no ruled lines for me. I will be a blank page.
"Your life is a diary...every day is a blank page...continue writing on it..."
This story is an entry to ComCo Southeast Asia’s “Write to Ignite Blogging Project Season 2: Dear Survivor”. The initiative continues to respond to the need of our times, as every story comes a long way during this period of crisis. The initiative aims to pull and collate powerful stories from the Philippine blogging communities to inspire the nation to rise and move forward amidst the difficult situation. The “Write to Ignite Blogging Project” Season 2 is made possible by ComCo Southeast Asia, with Eastern Communications and Jobstreet as co-presenters, with AirAsia and Xiaomi as major sponsors, and with Teleperformance as sponsor.