Now that I no longer live in St. Louis, I don’t write for KDHX very often. I expected this; actually, when I first told my editor that I was moving away, I expected that I’d no longer be allowed to write for it at all. But I did a few reviews after moving to Seattle, and every now and then I write a quick piece for a live performance. It’s hardly anything but about what I can handle at the moment, when my brain only has room for one type of writing and I’m trying to finish a couple dozen fiction pieces that have been sitting in draft form for (in some cases) two to three years.
It’s like this for most art forms, actually. I have difficulty focusing on more than one at a time, so if I’m in a reading phase, I’m focusing on words. If I’m in a film phase, I’m focusing on movies. And so on. I’m currently reading, so while I haven’t been able to sit down with an album for awhile, I did spend some time yesterday listening to Jason Isbell’s “Something More Than Free,” and let me tell you something: “Something More Than Free” is a very good album.
As much as my brain processes certain kinds of art at certain times, it also processes music in different ways at different times. Sometime before Graham, I dated a guy who told me that he never listened to lyrics and I thought this was insane. Then, several years later, I found myself liking songs for melodic reasons rather than lyrical ones, and in some cases, I liked whole albums without having any idea of what was being said. I’m back in a lyrical phase now, so “Something More Than Free” is a direct hit to my language-processing hemisphere (called Broca’s area, btw, I looked it up just now) and if I didn’t need new tires and brakes on my car, I’d drive for days just so I could play this album and fully absorb it.
As it stands, though, my car does need new tires and brakes so I can’t drive for days. Instead I sat at my desk and played the album twice, and then I played the song “How To Forget” two more times.
“have a seat, have a drink, tell the jury what you think,
was I good to you
Was it hell, was it fun, did you think I was the one,
was I good to you”
And then this of course put in my head Gaslight Anthem’s “The Spirit of Jazz,” in which the frenetic refrain demands:
“Was I good to you, the wife of my youth?
Not another soul could love you like my rotten bones do”
And all this talk of past loves and youth led me to think about how Stephanie is going through a bunch of stuff from her old house lately, including teenage journals, and how I am thankful – unbelievably, ecstatically, might-actually-believe-in-a-higher-power-for-this-y thankful – that I no longer have my teenage journals in my possession. I did have them, though, for quite a long time. I carried them with me from state to state, apartment to apartment, shelf to closet to disused corner and occasionally I would read them, until I realized that any realization of the wisdom I’d gained since writing in them wasn’t really outweighing the discomfort and self-loathing I felt while reading them. I mean, I had gained wisdom. But I also have a thing where I sometimes recount every bad or embarrassing thing I’ve ever done in my life just before I fall asleep at night and I have a solid 20 minutes of full-body cringing before hating myself to sleep.
So obviously I don’t need to revisit the memories I may have already repressed, and I found that choosing to stop re-reading my adolescent journals fixed the problem (for the most part, at least as it pertained to most memories originating between 1992-ish to 2001). Solution: I got rid of those journals. I got over the idea that I was throwing away actual years and understood that I was throwing away skewed descriptions on paper from those years and once I did it, I felt a lot better. I did the same thing to the journals I wrote when I was first dating and married to the person who would become my ex-husband. After re-reading those, I realized that they were full of glaring red flags that I’d blithely ignored (or misinterpreted) and the very thought of those ideas in my house made me feel sick. So I threw those away, too.
I do still have old journals in the house. Probably beginning sometime around 2004, they’re not nearly as prolific as their predecessors because by that time I had a blog. You wouldn’t know it to read the fucking endless entries on my old old blog (I don’t think it exists anymore, thanks MySpace!), but I did actually censor myself quite a bit. I was already writing for an audience. The truly humiliating stuff, the stuff I couldn’t find the joke in, went into the journals. And I haven’t re-read them for several years by this point, although I’m not sure that I’m ready to throw them away. It’s not that they’re still relevant. It’s not that they can remind me of any lessons I’ve already learned but forgotten somehow. At least, I don’t think so. But I don’t need to read about how much I liked the probably gay guy I dated (mostly because he looked like young Marlon Brando), or how that drunk guitarist was clearly not that into me (which I knew but ignored at the time because guitarist), or about this guy, or that guy, or this boss, or that coworker, or about anything else that I thought was important then but would be loath to recall now.
Which is not to say I wouldn’t surprise myself. I did this with my adolescent journals, on rare occasions. There were glimpses of understandings well beyond my years, but of course, these were quickly buried by a tidal surge of idiot hormones and insecurities. Which I think is the main point of journals, actually, and why it gets easier and easier for me to throw them away.
If nothing else (well, in addition to a repository for curse words and pornography), my brain has an incredible talent for brutally honest hindsight. It learns shame. It learns hurt. It does not learn dirty jokes, unfortunately, because I recently realized I’ve forgotten most of them. ANYWAY. I don’t need the journals to be able to yank my own leash and tell myself to calm down, or to just sit back and be quiet for once, or to rap my chest above my heart and say sternly “I do not want to have to tell you this again.” I remember. I can cringe all by myself.