Notes from my journal: Seasons of Selfhood

Anya Schultz/File

“Notes from my journal” is a series in which contributors share excerpts from their private journals, diaries and notebooks.

When I was about 8 years old, I realized I sucked at writing and promptly abandoned my dream of becoming a poet. But for someone who perpetually promises to never write down any of her stupid thoughts, I sure have a lot of pocket-sized notebooks.

May 4, 2014: 3:42 a.m. rooftop cigarette:

the university


the moon waxes

and I wax too

(how long must it take

to swallow the sky?)

Filled with more than a decade of tiny, precious fragments of my life, out of all the notebooks I’ve owned through the years, this one is surely my favorite. A tattered blue-green faux leather cover betrays how ancient it is.

Nov. 11, 2003: “Faux” is not pronounced like “fox.”

In my younger days, sequence was irrelevant. Entries on neighboring pages are close in space yet distant in time, a juxtaposition of my past selves.

July 11, 2013: Last weekend, I pressed my face into a warm granite mountain and simply beamed: sunshine radiating from the sky to the rock — from the rock to my face — from my face to the sun (everything connects up just so).

Last night, I experienced intense suicidal ideation during sex.

I try to see me for what I really am but can’t get a grip on myself. I slip through my own fingers like trying to grasp water. There are things about me even I don’t understand: I am left piecing my actions together like a puzzle, as if intense self-analysis will suddenly render me transparent, reveal me to myself.

so I remain in limbo: the only thing I know to be true about myself

is that I’m constantly trying to find me

when instead I should focus on unfolding into the person I am

(because there is nothing I want more than to become)

Sept. 28, 2008: identity? jealousy? sexuality? violence? the universe? individual meaning? progression? tolerance? acceptance? forgiveness? empathy? personal maintenance? societal roles? addiction? moderation? promiscuity? repression? hell.

These quirky fragments paint a poignant picture of my adolescence. My coming-of-age story may be trite and cliche — fraught with too-big feelings,

March 9, 2007: I look at people and wonder what’s inside of them, you know? There are oceans inside me, it makes me want to know more about what everybody thinks about but never tells anybody (ephemeral, pure, perfect). The world is vast and amorphous and unknowable, which is a feeling as well as a fact. A swollen, tender bruise of something profound grows roots deep into my heart, blooming with a continuum of color just subtle enough to be called beautiful.

teeming with awkward encounters,

Aug. 26, 2012: boy and I dance in the big industrial kitchen with our faces touching: his scruffy beard on my freckled cheek, his cold nose rubbing mine. Each time the song ends, we step away from each other shyly; each time a new song kicks up we make eye contact, laugh with our whole bodies, dance closer and closer together. I tilt my head back just a little too far and almost lose touch with this reality of brown puppy eyes and a cigarette-stained smile, of the vibrating beat and the cold kitchen tile on my bare feet; suddenly my head is swimming and I am overwhelmed with the feeling of eternal isolation and the sharp pang of loneliness: what must be the nature of this barrier that invariably yet starkly estranges us all?

and underpinned by the vestiges of an undiagnosed mental illness —

Dec. 1, 2009: Rule #1, there are no absolutes. Rule #2, you may not kill yourself.

Dec. 2, 2009: I am a pathetic, worthless piece of shit sobbing in a church bathroom. Maybe if I drink enough water, I’ll piss out all my sins.

Dec. 3, 2009: The room writhes, throbs under my gaze. A huge, dizzying heartbeat. A physical manifestation of emptiness. I am thoroughly convinced that I don’t exist.

Dec. 4, 2009: I rot.

but at least it’s mine.

Instead of creating poetry, I’ve learned to find poetry in the world around me.

Nov. 27, 2006: We watched Pirates of the Caribbean in the car and I just hope nobody tells my mom, I hate that I’m not allowed to watch PG-13 movies. But none of this matters in the Sierra Nevada. Gazing out the car window, nose pressed to the glass, wiping big soft tears from my cheeks: I’ve never felt this way about a place before. There’s something unfathomable and wild about these mountains. Gentle moonlight on stark granite peaks looming over the horizon, it’s electrifying. Perhaps if I ever have a daughter I’ll name her Moraine so she can grow strong and bold like her namesakes. I think we’re going ice-skating tomorrow, I hope I don’t fall on my face.

These days I no longer yearn to be a poet, but to be a poem.

July 4, 2014: I am alone in this forest — lush and verdant, damp and cool, dense but penetrable — with you stuck in my head. How words unspoken hang in the air, like stars, like the moon perched over the lake, like the morning mist gently caressing the undulating ridgeline. I sprint up and down the hillside trying to kiss the sky like a Douglas fir; in my woody heaviness, I find unbearable lightness. Crypsis: I am a freckled tiger lily, tender and remarkable, dissolving against the landscape.

Maybe I’m lying to myself — maybe in the deepest crevasses of my heart I do earnestly wish that I could tame language, that I could pour out my heart in poetry

Feb. 19, 2011: I wish I was comfortable in language — there are so many things I’d love to say. Thoughts swirl violently through my head all the damn time, but when I reach for them I feel I’m unable to adequately translate, as if the words I’m searching for persist just beyond my grasp. Sequence and series, syntax and semantics, where does real meaning reside?

I am proud to call this menagerie of dated entries my own. This is the last page in my oldest, most beloved notebook. I feel myself at a crossroads, toeing a delicate line between my past and my future.

Aug. 8, 2012: I am multitudes, and this terrifies me. How can so many binary selves emanate from one bag of flesh? What does it mean to embody a constancy of personhood? Incarnate: I am convinced we are nothing more than animal bodies. And goddamn it strikes me, just how animal we are. Just how animal we are.

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