Ramblings: The Importance of Writing a Journal



You could ask yourself the question of whether it really is that important to write a journal. Especially nowadays when you can keep an ongoing collection of words and images and videos of your everyday life via social media sources such as Facebook, Instagram, Vine and other. If writing a journal is just tantamount to keeping track of what happened to you on a weekly or daily basis, then I suppose it isn’t that necessary, or important, not with all the other mediums we now have at our fingertips. I’ve been thinking about this a lot recently, mainly after reading the new Bridget Jones installment (Mad About the Boy – and yes, Helen Fielding hasn’t lost any of her talent or wit… I laughed and cried loudly all the way through it); and then randomly watching a movie called Stuck In Love, where a writer father makes his two kids write in their journals on a regular basis, as a way to train them to record their experiences and to be passionate about writing, just as he is. Both very different forms of journal writing (daily updates on the mundane activities of life with the occasional spurt of change, seemingly boring in theory but actually incredibly heartwarming and endearing; a collection of experiences, thoughts, poems and drawings created from a happening, a word, an encounter or just a thought in a day), but both technically a way to collect the threads of a life in writing. 

And in the end a journal is private, not meant to be shared with anyone. Which makes it still very important in my mind and heart – there are so many things that I want to express, but that I don’t want to post on Facebook, or even on my blog for that matter. 

All of this got me thinking about my own journal writing. However inconsistent in quantity my own writing has been over the years, I have always kept some type of journal, since the age of 10 when I was given my first diary as a Christmas present. I still have every journal that I have kept over the years. Sometimes a book full of the day to day activities at school and the boys I was in love with, sometimes a tremendously deep and sad recount of feelings and pain, sometimes an image of happiness, surrounded by pictures and clippings from newspapers or others. Here and there a poem, written on the spur of the moment and recorded that day, to be rediscovered years later and added to a collection of poems that I am trying to put together. I started to reprimand myself the other day for not keeping a “proper” journal anymore, when I realised that that is not true – I actually have several. They are just not the “traditional” forms of journals that I kept all these years. One is more of a “picture” journal, where you can find photos, magazine clippings, words, photos, random song lyrics, thoughts, movie stubs, concert tickets, post cards… The other is a collection of essays and short stories that I have been adding to a folder amidst other folders on my laptop for the past couple of years, all stories involving places and people in my life, all essays reciting certain experiences that I felt the need to record, all with the idea of publishing together one day. Now I realize that I don’t think I could ever publish these essays as they are, not right now anyway, as they are so very personal and don’t just involve myself, but other people who are very much real and alive. Therefore this is just my way of continuing to create a journal.
I don’t know why I do. It’s not like I want anyone to read all of these journals. Not while I am still on this earth anyway! It’s not like they contain my best writing either (although I sometimes do feel surprised when I come across something I wrote at the age of 16 when I was so unsure of myself and of my writing, and wonder why I felt that way because I had a way with words then). Even when I am at my least inspired I have always been able to write in my journal and I also think that this was (and still is) my only way to really describe how I feel and say what I really want to say in words. An outlet for emotions that are often kept pent up inside. A musician will release these emotions in song; I do it in words on paper, and on screen, the only difference being that I don’t want them to be seen. But would it be that bad if they were seen? Music has always helped me in good times and bad times and very, very bad times, so maybe my words could help another soul? I know words have always helped me too, be they in fiction, non-fiction, newspaper articles that hit home, song lyrics, poems… Even other people’s journal entries.  That said, I have never read anyone else’s personal diary (I am a huge stickler for privacy and would be the last person to go through anyone’s phone, journal, email, personal items, even if I feared the worst). I have only read published journals. From the darkest thoughts flowing from Sylvia Plath’s mind through her pen; a young teenager’s recount of being persecuted by the Nazis through Anne Frank’s eyes; trying to understand Kurt Cobain’s pain through his journal excerpts; to the fictional diaries of Adrian Mole that kept me laughing all the way through adolescence into adulthood (and still today). These journals (as well as others that I haven’t mentioned) are works of fiction in their own right, tales of moments in time that we may also have lived, or may be able to learn from, or just provide us with a historical reference to a time gone by, coloured with personal experience and thoughts.

Some of my favourite writers, Gerard de Nerval and Sylvia Plath for example, wrote their stories based on completely personal experiences. I find that I do this a lot too – although not all of the time, some of my stories are completely made up in my head, ideas conjured up by part of a conversation heard on the subway, or the sight of someone who grabs my attention on the street. Other stories are completely autobiographical and you just have to change the characters’ names to know who I am writing about, or what time in my life I am referring to.  I’m sure I have many, many more stories I could pull from my journals, stories that will finally help me finish this novel I have been working on, on and off, for the past three years. Or maybe they are all best staying right where they are, ink on paper, for my child to read when he or she is old enough to read my deepest secrets (if there is ever an age for that!). All in all, maintaining a journal has always been something that I cherish, and I will probably continue to do so until I die, in whatever format I feel like. I do miss writing, fountain pen and lined paper, but I always find nowadays that I start writing and finish by typing on my laptop and end up with random notebooks full of half-written essays and stories, as well as notes for blog posts and lists of photo numbers that I want to add to collections on Flickr. 

I just want to make sure I record everything I can… Not for anyone else, but just for myself. So that I can go back to my journals years later and remind myself that I have or haven’t changed. And just for that I think that it is incredibly important to maintain a journal – for oneself. A photo album in words.

Ramblings: Ah Jamaica!




 
I’m glad the holidays are over this year, as I really wasn’t feeling into them. I ended up regretting not going out to California or to England to be with my family, but at the same time I knew it wasn’t really going to be possible to take a whole week off, with work shifts needing to be covered, and the idea of planning a trip seemed too tiring. I felt very lethargic and uninspired for most of the month of December, in dire need of a holiday somewhere different and exciting, a new kind of adventure.

I mentioned to my mum that I wanted to go to Jamaica in January and that she should come with me. Next thing I knew we had plane tickets and a hotel room booked for a week at the end of January. All of a sudden life seems brighter again, and I have something to look forward to. A holiday in the sun in the middle of the cold New York winter, a trip to a country that I have always wanted to go to. It always seemed like some type of dream, Jamaica, but now it will finally be coming true. A real holiday, not one visiting family, but a holiday in a place I have never been to. It’s been a while since I have done something like this, as most of my time off over the past few years has been used going to California or England. Don’t get me wrong, I love my family and miss them a lot, and am always happy to visit them, but I miss travelling and creating my own little adventures, discovering places and people, taking photos and being inspired to write new stories and essays and poems.

We will be flying into Montego Bay and staying there for 6 glorious days. It looks like the temperature will be around 84 degrees every day and the ocean is warm enough to swim and snorkel in. I can’t wait to wear shorts again and walk barefoot in the sand with the sun warming my face, feeling free to do whatever I want, whenever I want. I’ve never been to the Caribbean before, and I haven’t been on holiday with my mum for years so it’s going to be a wonderful holiday that we both need so much. The main point of this holiday is going to be relaxation but also adventure; neither of us wanted to stay in an all-inclusive resort for the week – I want to be able to feel safe, but also really see life in Jamaica. I know that safety is important and I doubt I will be as reckless as I was when I backpacked around Egypt in my 20’s; but I want to explore and eat and drink and dance and meet people and collect as many different impressions and stories and photos so that I can use it all at a later date in my writing and photography.

To my delight I also discovered that there is a Jazz and Blues Festival taking place in Montego Bay while we are there. I really really want to go, not only for the artists, but also just for the atmosphere. I love music and I love shows and I love being surrounded by people who love music as much as I do. That coupled with being on holiday in a new and unknown place just makes it all the more exciting! So expect many posts when I come back, full of impressions and feelings and photos and anything else I can conjure up about my trip. I doubt I will write much while I am there as I will be too busy exploring, but hopefully I will be back with a renewed creativity and motivation!

Short Story: Of Instability and Growing Roots

Of Instability and Growing Roots


She walked out of the airport into the humid air, so humid that each breathe was a mix of droplets and warmth. She didn’t turn around to look behind her; she just walked straight over to the men with their cars, to what appeared to be a taxi rank, disorderly, loud but with the main direction of taking people where they needed to go. This was the start of all new, a place where she could soothe the aches and pains of a life that had failed her and find that core that had gone missing months before.
Another country, new people, a new adventure. Gone were the days of sitting at the bar and drinking the night away. Gone were the days of lying in bed under the covers, wishing for the time to stop so that she wouldn’t have to face anything outside of the house. Gone were the days of pretending to smile and laugh at everything and everyone, waiting for that one moment when she could start drinking and drown herself in oblivion. This wasn’t even a new start, just an awakening of sorts, a change and a time to reflect on the years lost and found.

“The beach please. Just the beach.”

Emily was your quintessential wild child. Rebellious and quiet as a teen, adventurous in her twenties and free-falling in her thirties. Strong-willed and strong-hearted, but lost in the world that surrounded her. She spent so much time looking for something that had departed so many years before; that she often forgot what it was like to actually enjoy her life in the way that it should have been lived.
There were the days in the squats, cooking vegetarian food over a gas stove, foraging the market for the cheapest foods and inventing meals that were filling and savoury on a tight budget. While Emily would go to school and dissect poetry and fiction, her boyfriend Neil would sell weed and coke in order to provide himself with the odd heroin fix. Nights were spent talking about the world and listening to old records saved or stolen, scratched and warped. It was hard to afford food, but the alcohol was always present, as was the white powder that would make its way into everybody’s noses at some point or another. Electricity was not always an option, and in the days of darkness the instruments would appear, or they would all pile into a van and drive around, looking for a warehouse party or an outside rave. Sell drugs, consume drugs and dance until the sun went down again, sometimes multiple times. The only milestone was the degree that Emily wanted to obtain, not for any real purpose except for an accomplishment. The first person with a degree in the family that she had lost sight of.

Emily tired of the squat and of Neil once his dabbling in heroin became a daily need, and branched out on her own, traveling to places that her eyes had never seen before. There were the days with a small backpack and random friends picked up along the way. Ashrams in India, third class train rides in Egypt, kibbutzim in Israel, barefoot walks on the beaches in Morocco. Postcards home with the words “I am safe, I love you”. Men who fell in love with her, and men who she fell in love with along the way, sad goodbyes and lies about being together again someday, somewhere else on the planet. Friendships forged over campfires and during bumpy bus rides. Cheap cigarettes and vodka, beach parties and long discussions involving copious amounts of weed and tobacco. Emily lost herself in the different worlds she ventured to, and came out of them with a new sense of self, with a confidence she had been lacking in her younger years and with a new sense of fulfillment and goals for the future. It was time to settle for a while.

“Left and then a right here. Go straight down the road until you get to the little shop on the corner, and then make another right.”

Emily contemplated the world outside the open car window, breathing in the smells of ash and incense, food and rubbish. People clad in garments of all colours and shapes, voices talking in different languages and cars honking at every intersection, trying to make their way through the traffic of people and cars and bikes. The only thing that mattered at this point was the beach and the peace it would always bring.

There were the days in the city, working in the office, scraping by to pay rent on a tiny studio that she only ever used to sleep in. Nights in dive bars and days picking up the brain cells lost in those bars, only to lose them again in another location the following night. Emily despised her job and the stress that she let overwhelm her on a daily basis, but persevered under the notion that this is what she should be doing with her life, conforming in her own way, tattooed sleeves under business shirts and barefoot wandering in airports during business trips. It couldn’t last, it just wasn’t for her. The partying took its toll and pneumonia and depression crept in, taking over the smiles and laughter that used to fill her days and nights. A sure sign of needed change, time to move on and find that natural light and happiness again.

Emily left those days one rainy, blustery day and found what she had been looking for for years, a life that she had always wanted. Jobs that she enjoyed and friends that had the same outlook as her. People who did not want to conform but who just wanted to be who they were, despite the fact that they may not always be accepted by others. She realised that there was no calling in life, but ideas and needs and destinations and sights. Places to go and people to see and experiences to feel. Freedom was always available; you just needed to take advantage of it. Some may call it another form of running away, but for Emily it was just another adventure, another place and another time where her insomnia died and her laughter came back. The simple parts of life that were so fulfilling reappeared and she woke up most days with a smile and an interesting thought. There were some days and weeks of grey areas, times when the tears would fall freely for a while, before drying up and leaving her be again. Emails came and went, with the words “How are you? Should I be worried” and the usual response of “I’m fine, doing great!”

Then came the days that the grey turned to black, and the light disappeared once again. Back to the bars and the oblivion that she had been fleeing for so long. Sadness prevailed happiness and the tears would never dry up, even when the sun was shining and the sky was pure blue. Christmas lights and songs of freedom did not help, all cares were gone and hugs could not fight the growing sense of impending doom on the horizon. Night turned to day and day to night and the most important thought was that of escape, once again. Ties bound her down, and the scissors to cut them were always just a few centimeters out of reach.

It was time. Time to leave and time to return. A small bag of belongings and a ticket to fly away, no looking back, no looking forward.

“You can leave me here. This is perfect.”

There she was, right there, on the beach, in the same spot as she had always been. In front of the hut, looking exactly like she always had. A few more wrinkles, lighter hair and the same ocean-blue eyes. Some things never really changed, even after months and years of outside changes.

“Hi Mum.”
“Emily… You came home at last! It’s time to let the healing begin and to rest within the confines of this paradise we have always called home. I love you child, I knew that you would make it back when the time was right for you. I never doubted your strong spirit would guide you back to me.”

Time may not heal all wounds, but love and peace may just do the trick. Home is where your heart never leaves.



Short Story: Wine Days (aka La vie en rosé)

Wine Days (aka La vie en rosé)


Tout seul dans mon placard
Les yeux cernés de noir
A l'abri des regards
Je défie le hasard
Dans ce monde qui n'a ni queue ni tête
Je n'en fais qu'à ma tête
Un mouchoir au creux du pantalon
Je suis chevalier D'Eon – Mylène Farmer, Sans Contrefaçon


“First stop at Hannibal-qui-n’est-pas-Hannibal for the wine, then Place Victor Hugo for Berlioz!”

“It’s been too long; we have so much to tell Berlioz, so much!”

Red wine for the winter days: dark and warm, stains your lips red and leads to a darker and thicker drunken state. Red wine to warm the soul while running around the streets of the town in the cold days, sometimes Port on a rich day, but mostly red wine of low quality, no more than 15 francs a bottle from the usual épicérie on the corner of Les Halles. White wine for the spring and the summer, fresh from the fridge if possible, but it’s not too much of an issue if it’s warm as it’s all going to be gone pretty fast. One bottle for now and another for the bag, as you never know how long of a night it is going to be.

It’s always important to eat before drinking, because you don’t want to get sick, especially if you don’t have much money and are leaning towards the cheaper bottles, or even the plastic bottles of near-vinegar if the finances are severely dire. Bottle opened in hand? Ready to go!

Place Victor Hugo, where our old friend Hector Berlioz resides in the form of an imposing statue, looking over the fountain and the people who walk through on their way elsewhere. This is where the Christmas market is held in the winter and where children jump through the fountain in the summer (as well as the occasion child-adults such as me). Who hasn’t jumped into a fountain and walked home soaking wet but laughing gleefully? Or maybe that is just me…

Mélusine and Marie-Antoinette, off with her head, skipping hand in hand down the old streets of the city, a bottle of wine in each hand and hundreds of ideas and thoughts racing through our mind. Berlioz is the beginning and the end; he listens without judging, never moves and never leaves us. The first bottles are opened at his feet and the race towards l’ivresse commences.

Sometimes in life we are lucky enough to find that perfect friendship that makes you feel free. When I met Mélusine she was shy and hid behind her hair in the corner of the bar. My friends would try to get her to join us, because she was beautiful and sweet, but she would not say more than one or two words at a time, until I gathered her up and took her with me along my own journey on a path I didn’t know existed. We discovered a mutual love for female-fronted punk and grunge bands, strong coffee, wine, 19th century literature and decadence, as well as playing hilarious pranks on men and women who we found annoying, insensitive and stupid. There were many of them around at the time, and they tended to congregate around us and our little group of misfits.

I had grown up with my group of friends, mainly men with a few girls who came and went as time went by. Mélusine appeared out of nowhere and stuck with us, becoming my best friend and favourite companion, someone who I could talk to about things that I couldn’t talk about with the guys. Crushes, love, sadness, fear and loneliness: the topics of misplaced childhood and youth. We were both shy and suffered from low self-esteem alone, but together we thought we could conquer the world, reaching the lowest pits of despair and the highest peaks of happiness together. Mélusine listened to me cry as I comforted her through her darkest days. I listened to her laugh as she held my hand when we skipped through the sunshine, picking daffodils along the way. Did you know that there is a fine for each public city flower picked? We are lucky that we were never caught because we would walk around with bunches and bunches of daffodils in the spring, leaving a trail behind us.

We were like polar opposites physically. Mélusine with her long, blonde hair and green eyes, me with my long, brown hair and dark brown eyes, but we were of the same height and similar skinny builds. We both dressed alike, although Mélusine was more understated than me and liked to hide underneath large layers. Ribbons in our hair and long red nails on fingers covered in fountain pen ink from all the writing we would do. Letters to others, letters to each other, university papers and diary entries were all written by hand in ink. Babes in Toyland in our ears and Fluffy lyrics flying from our mouths when we were angry drunk, Mylène Farmer when we were happy drunk. We liked to sing to Berlioz when we started to feel warm and fuzzy inside, before going on our way towards the adventures of the night.

Si je dois tomber de haut
Que ma chute soit lente
Je n´ai trouvé de repos
Que dans l´indifférence
Pourtant, je voudrais retrouver l´innocence - Mylène Farmer- Désenchantée


Café St Germain and then wine by Berlioz. One bottle finished, the next one opened and then en route pour l’aventure! Every night was different, we never knew where or what the stars would lead us to. Some nights we would roam the streets of the town, looking for parties to crash, other nights we would meet our friends at one of the local hang-outs, some nights we would go to the coureur de jupons apartment and invite everyone we knew to join us and other nights we would sit by the river talking about how much we despised everyone and everything and how life would have been so much better if we had been born in a different century.

“I want to kick that door down and tell them to stop hanging around those awful people. I want to punch that girl in the face and tell her to stop trying to be my friend because I despise everything that she stands for, stupid fucking hippie!!”

“Why do they all hate us so much? What the fuck is wrong with us?? I wish I had enough strength to tell people how I felt. I mean, I wish I could tell HIM how much I love him. All I can do is watch him out of the corner of my eye and listen to you and him talking about natural things and I don’t even dare open my mouth.  I hate myself!”

“Oh darling, stop beating yourself up about this, you know what he is like. He only goes out with girls who he can manipulate into doing what he wants. Those girls are like Rapunzel in their towers, waiting for him to come home after he has been out all night drinking with us. Do you want to be that girl? At least we are free to do whatever we want and say whatever we want… N’est-ce pas?”

No one had cell phones at the time, and we all used to find each other at some point during the night. There were a few spots where we would always end up, usually besides one of the many fountains or statues in the city; or at the barDock for an electro-goth night or at the venue if there was a concert on, smuggling our wine into the venue and drinking it in the toilets. If we found a house or apartment party going on somewhere we would wrangle our way in, pretending we knew one of the people there, make a beeline to the fridge and walk out with any alcohol we could find. The town wasn’t that big, and the center, although full of winding streets, was small enough to find whoever you needed to find, and big enough to hide from those you didn’t want to see. Mélusine and I tended to read each others’ minds, and our first concern was always the welfare of the other. Our friendship was one of such closeness that we could always feel when the other was in difficulty or danger. We loved the same men but never fought over them; we hated the same people and pushed each other to find the biggest and best pranks we could play on people.

I was a wild shy child, alcohol helped me lose the cloak I shrouded myself with and gave me the power to be myself in front of everyone. Alcohol gave Mélusine the force to lose her inability to speak in public and brought out her real personality that you would only see when she was completely comfortable in a group of people. It took her a while but she ended up feeling comfortable with all of us, throwing witty and funny comments out here and there, and surprising the people who had already put her in the “blonde-who-doesn’t-talk” box. I was just completely erratic, sometimes nice and friendly and sweet, other times sad and depressed, other times angry and sarcastic and rebellious. People tried to analyse us, judge us, become friends with us, tag along with us because they were feeling adventurous or talk shit about us because they didn’t dare be us. Most of the time it was Mélusine and me against the world, often with our male counterparts, poets, rebels, musicians, full of ideas and despair, discontented and angsty, wondering when the world would change for us.

Slutkiss girls
Won't you promise her smack?
Is she pretty on the inside?
Is she pretty from the back? – Hole, Pretty On The Inside


Mélusine came from a strict family and would constantly lie to her parents about her whereabouts and her friends. She stayed at my house whenever we went out, as I benefitted from a very free-spirited mother who trusted me to be safe and not to end up in a ditch somewhere, and, however much I drank or however much I smoked, I always ended up home, safe in my bed. We avoided drunken one night stands and we avoided dangerous situations, preferring the company of each other, our bottles of wine, our friends and our songs. There is really nothing to match that slow but steady warm and tingly feeling that starts in your stomach and rises towards your head once you start drinking, and once you start there is no going back… One, two or three bottles and the party is on.

My lie is true, My lie is true
It is I swear to you
My lie is true, My lie is true
It is I swear to you
You don't want to
You don't want to see me crawl
Do you know how hard I try
To never let you see me cry
I seem to have too much control
and now I feel cold – Fluffy, Crawl


“I want to leave this godforsaken city and move to Paris. There is nothing for us here except the deep, dirty waters of the Isere and the unrequited love of the boys who consider us to be just that: female versions of them. At least in Paris we can fade away into the crowd and not have to put up with all of this crap every day.”

“Let’s plan on moving there once we have finished university. We won’t tell anyone, we will just go and find new lives there. A little apartment in Montmartre, jobs in the bars around there, maybe we could sell books by the Seine and meet the loves of our lives there? I’m so bored of this town, nothing ever happens here, no one ever changes and no one ever falls in love with me. Or if they do I don’t know about it, because I’m obviously still single.”

“Dreaming… Dreaming… Dreaming of something else. But is there anything else?”

Every day was filled with written words, every night filled with singing and shouting, laughter and tears. Freedom was easy, but we still felt trapped in the town we had grown up in. Brothers and sisters in happiness and despair, so far but so near. Wine days make everything so much better, and wine nights are full of surprises. La Décadence.

 « Le vin, la moyenne de facilite de partir, partir loin d’aujourd’hui. Tout le monde il est beau, tout le monde il est beau… Le lendemain est moins euphorique, mais il reste toujours le lendemain soir et le soir après etc, etc, etc. Devenir fou ? Nous le sommes déjà… L’alcool aide à libérer nos grains de folie, de les faire voler, voler au-dessus de tout, dans le ciel noir et nuageux. Tout est mieux que la lucidité affreuse. » M.V.