Today we start the 2022 chapter of our time together on this planet. For some of us it was a better year than 2020, for others not so much. People all over creation tend to look at a new year as a new chapter in the book of their lives and for some folks, the new year can represent the chance to rewrite the whole book. For writers in particular, this idea can be a very literal exercise. A writer may view the new year as a chance to finish that story, to begin writing that book or maybe to take a tenuous step toward putting what they’ve written in front of actual readers. Me, I’m hoping to do something this year in my writing that I touched on in my first post on According to Lisa– which is to put my honest experiences, thoughts and feelings into words and share them with readers who may (or may not) appreciate the end result.
While writing for the past 5 years on Off My List, more than once I published end-of-the-year type posts. I wrote with thoughtfulness about the topic of change and how hard it can be to live through it. I rehashed both global and local events of the past year and drew my own conclusions on what I had learned from them. These topics, however interesting or thought provoking they may be, can be fairly easy to write about and share with others. Utilizing this style, a writer can offer their personal opinion and commentary, but still distance themselves from deeper thoughts and feelings- in other words, the kind of subject matter that might cause possible discomfort for both the author and the reader.
I just finished watching the brilliant Netfix series Maid, and the last 2 episodes of its inaugural season drove this point home. I could write an entire post just on what a compelling watch Maid is and I won’t rehash the plot lines or dive into a character study here (if you haven’t yet watched this show I highly recommend it), but one of my takeaways was that however difficult one’s experiences and feelings about them are, getting them down on paper and then sharing them without fear of judgement can prove to be extremely rewarding, in more ways than one. While watching one particular scene in which the main character asks a group of peers to write down their honest thoughts on what they felt was their best day, I had a flashback of sorts on my own past. It was not on what my best day was and in fact, it was quite the opposite, but it triggered an insightful realization as it relates to my own writing nonetheless.
Many years ago, I embarked on a doomed from the start relationship in which I was hurt quite deeply. During this period of my life, I was constantly writing- either letters to the object of my affection about my feelings for him, or in my private journal where I poured out my emotional journey and thoughts on what was happening to me, to us. At that time, I felt I could best sort out the chaos inside my head in a much more organized and meaningful way by writing everything down. I always felt much better after writing, and getting it all down on paper was wonderfully cathartic and at times, helped me gain some perspective, however slanted, during a messy and confusing time.
I couldn’t bring myself to pull out those pages and read what I had written there for years, and when I finally did I was struck by an odd observation. On many of them, the writing honestly expresses my hurt and sadness over events of the relationship. On certain other pages, I build myself an argument for staying what was clearly a situation I should not have been in the first place. But more surprisingly, in yet other entries, I wrote what seemed to be composed for another reader besides me. In re-reading my journals, it was clear that sometimes I had tailored my private thoughts narrative for an audience other than myself: I had written those thoughts in a way that I imagined he would read. And then he naturally would see how together I was, despite all the tears and meltdowns that were actual proof I wasn’t. And if my imaginary journal reader was not him, it was some other family member or friend who could be convinced of an alternative truth of my own creation; a made-up truth that simply wasn’t based on the reality of the situation. In hindsight, certain of those pages come off as super self-conscious and pretty inauthentic. Because even in my own private journal, I could not write, let alone face, the truth: I was in a destructive, dead-end relationship that was never going to work. While re-reading those old desperate pages of my journals, I felt a bit sad and even embarrassed for my long ago self.
Which brings me back to my reality today and hopes for 2022. Here’s to writing new chapters that are more authentic, more about what’s really happening and not what we wish was happening. Both on paper and in our daily lives. Sharing an Instagram perfect life is fine for some, but it’s those moments that reveal us for who we really are when not trying to present a flawless version of ourselves that unite us all in the imperfectness of living. This year, may I have the resolve and courage to bring more authenticity into my own work and life. And in doing so, also enhance the lives of those around me. It’s about time we live and tell our truths in this New Year together.
©2022 Lisa Ihnken, All Rights Reserved; photos excepted