(photo credit: Princess Fiona by hui-chun chen. https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/2.0/legalcode)
This I know: writing a daily public journal about one’s private life is a scary thing.
Non-writers may think it is nothing for somebody like me, to whom writing has always come easily, to post a short piece each day, drawing on something I did or thought or felt or observed. And it would be, if I left my heart and soul out of it. Which I don’t know how to do.
For most of my life, I’ve kept handwritten private journals. Whenever I’ve reread parts of them, the sense of panic that somebody else might discover the inconsistency of my innermost thoughts and feelings lessens because I realize that my handwriting is so illegible that it’s highly unlikely that anybody would take the time to try and decipher the marks on the page.
Even though I know several people who are comfortable with themselves (usually after years of soul-searching and hard work), I cannot think of a single person who is comfortable putting the good, the bad and the ugly that resides within each of us, out in the open for others to see and judge.
On social media, we get to choose how much we show to the world, curating our photos and thoughts, selecting only the pithiest quotes from others, along with articles and cartoons laden with wisdom and humor and humility. We don’t exactly lie to each other with these representations of who we are and how we live, but we mislead. And while we may know that we’re misleading, we forget that others are also misleading us, and we begin to compare our true selves to their curated ones, leading to feelings of inadequacy or sadness.
From its conception, I’ve wanted “FIFTY” to be an authentic picture of the life of a woman in middle age. That’s why I decided to write something about me and my life experience on every single day for an entire year. There are bound to be days when nothing happens, when I’m unwell, when the last thing I want to do is share with anybody else something from my boring or upsetting or horrible day. If I write on those days, I get to remind myself and others that often, there isn’t time to clean up every mess. The silver is not always going to be polished and the refrigerator will not always be stocked and our children will make mistakes and we will too, and that’s not just okay. It’s normal.
The occasional day that works out exactly as we’d hoped? That’s normal too.
Like most people, I’m not comfortable putting the good, the bad and the ugly that resides in me out in the open for others to see and judge. But I am also tired of comparing my real life to the curated ones I see everyday on magazine covers and in movies and on social media.
Kelly Corrigan gave a life-changing speech called “The Mount Everest of Human Emotions” at the Nantucket Project (link here) where she talks about how we are often tempted to project simplified narratives onto our own complex lives and how embracing life in its full complexity is one of the most liberating experiences that we can have. She says we need to acknowledge the nature of the beast and the beast’s nature.
On day 23 of 365 days of “FIFTY,” I am a little bit self-pitying and a little bit self-righteous and a little bit afraid of what I’ve set out to do. But, I am also a little bit proud and a little bit humbled and a little bit thrilled by how freeing this experience has been thus far for me.
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