Journaling in the bookstore

Untitled by Toni Frissell

We went to the bookstore today. We were irritable, and we hadn’t left the house almost at all in two days.

At the bookstore, my gaze brushed across shelves upon shelves of journals – hardcover, softcover, cute, blank, interactive, religious. Every kind of journal, along with the memory that my smartest friends have started journaling or have written diaries for decades. I wrote a diary as a teen. Then, for fear of having my privacy violated, or out of laziness, or because of too many conflicting currents in my life (which do I write about?), I quit.

Maybe I could resume.

images.jpegMaybe, if I journaled, I would alight on the thoughts, the feelings, the actions I ought to engage right now.

I work. I parent. I am a friend. I am a daughter. I am a wife. I keep house. I keep my health. I pray. In all of those areas, I am angtsy and struggling to do better.

What I don’t do is know what I really want to do.

I rarely have the time to know myself. When I do, I sit and wait, surfing my thoughts, waiting for some identity, some dream to come to the surface.

Maybe if I journaled, I’d get back in touch with myself.

In the bookstore, too, is where my many potential selves, dreams, desires collide, clamoring for attention. The Annotated Alice reminds me of my original love of literary criticism. The two for $10 classics table tells me I haven’t even read all the classics that, in my 20s, I thought I would finish by my 30s. I’ve definitely read more than the people milling around me, but I haven’t done all I’d planned.

Maybe I should buy a journal, and jot down all my dreams, all my ideas, all my loves, all my questions, all my solutions, all my struggles – and then they’ll have a chance.

Or maybe that journal will end up, like the others, in a storage box in a storage unit. To be put away for that day when I have time to look at myself in the mirror and say, Who are you?

The Repentant Magdalen (1635) by Georges De La Tour

Maybe, that day, I will shamefacedly turn away from myself again. Maybe I will say, I am too busy with the dishes and the dust bunnies.

In the bookstore, 30-second Philosophy and 30-Second Physics taunt me with the other projects – some that I started as a teen and never really completed, some that I regarded as gaps in my knowledge and thought, when I’ve got a paycheck, I’ll pursue that. I’ll take courses! I’ll watch youtube videos! I’ll read books! I’ll do Math workbooks!

And always, the coffee-table books about nature, animals, birds inspire me to lose myself in wonder. My love affair with animals and birds started with this nice collection of encyclopedias my parents bought us at Ferozesons book shop in Lahore. I practically memorized those encyclopedias. The axolotl is like a Peter Pan. The red panda was my favorite. The gibbon was the acrobat of the forests. I never even dreamed of being a naturalist or a zoologist. It wasn’t even that kind of option.

There are too many dreams around me. And before me, too, is The Routledge International Handbook of Veils and Veiling, reminding me that I have a chapter to write.

I put the green $7 journal back on the shelf.

I’ll pursue my dreams when I can sleep again. These are days that are far too wide-awake. Every idea is a task and a chore. There are no dreams.

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