I have a habit of romanticizing the past, sometimes to the extent of rewriting history. Part of it is my creative brain that likes clean plot lines and dramatic tension. Part of it is a crappy memory from sordid adventures in my twenties.
My journal is a great tool for bringing me back down to earth when I soar off into Wishville. To make wise decisions and keep growing, it’s essential to look at how situations actually were. Not how I’d like them to have gone down.
My present apartment is small. Really small. And that’s coming from a girl who lived on a 200 sq. ft. houseboat for a few years. I was recently bemoaning my residence, beating myself up for moving out of the Perfect Place I had. (I moved three times last year but that’s a story for another day.)
This Perfect Place was a sprawling haven of nutty hardwood floors and 20 feet of glass overlooking misty pines. It had ample storage and parking spot, for godssake. It had a sunny balcony where I housed my extensive container garden.
Oh, and it had squirrels.
I forgot about the squirrels. My sister and I are great resources for one another and frequently rely on each to provide perspective. Daily. That’s how much perspective we need.
While I was bemoaning my current situation and how fabulous my old place was and why the hell did I move? She comes back with, “The squirrels were screaming. It was terrible. You wanted to get away from them.”
Truth is, I forgot about the squirrels. And she’s right – it was terrible. The building next door reportedly had squirrels living in the attic, gnawing up the support beams. Granted, that could pose a problem. But their solution was to trap the squirrels in live traps hung on the outside of the building – directly across from my aforementioned sunny balcony and 20 feet of floor-to-ceiling windows.
I’ll get upset writing about this so I’ll give you the Cliff Notes version – tiny cage, squirrel in cage for 12 hours trying to get out, squirrelly friends trying to free him, sun beating down, squirrels all around screaming bloody murder day and night.
I’m an animal rights wacko from way back so I called a few organizations trying to get this remedied. But apparently the building manager was within the local laws since the cage was considered “humane” as long as he emptied it every 2 days. (By shooting the squirrels; I had to ask.)
On the verge of vomiting, I couldn’t sit on my porch and watch the squirrel frenzy. Even with my windows closed I could hear them squealing. I’m normally a nesting homebody, but I ended up spending as much time as possible away from the apartment.
I totally forgot about this whole thing. I pulled out my journals from that time period and started reading. At the time, I definitely wasn’t nominating that apartment for the Best of Seattle awards. But in my mind, in my edited version of history, all I could see were the elements of my old apartment that were better than my current one.
There was lots more material on those pages. From small gripes (neighbors’ cigarette smoke blowing in my windows) to the big ones (if I have to keep paying this rent I won’t be able to eat next month). Stuff I had blocked out.
It’s hard to ignore the truth when it’s spelled out in black and white – in your own handwriting.
I put my journals away and sat surveying the tiny abode with a newfound appreciation. Golden walls, amber shades, bamboo floors. And not a squirrel in sight.
Relying on my journals for an accurate version of history has helped me countless times. It’s very easy in retrospect to say, “It really wasn’t that bad…” From relationships and jobs to addictive behaviors, reviewing a clear picture of the way things actually were allows me to press on, continuing my growth and making progress.
This is one of the benefits of writing daily. You get the banalities as well as the dramas. The good, the bad, and the squirrely.