Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Some Preliminaries

I have kept a journal in one form or another for almost forty years! The journals from which this blog will emerge span the years from 1997 to the present. Starting in 1998 and continuing for several years, I followed the advice of Julia Cameron in The Artist's Way and wrote "morning pages"--three pages of unedited stream of consciousness (more or less), which means there's a lot of whiny, not so good writing among the many journal pages of those years. It can be a bit of a chore to read through searching for worthwhile stuff!

Sometimes reading my old journals, from the morning pages era as well as other times, I feel as if I have wandered into some kind of carnival crazy house, with randomly tilting floors and distorted mirrors where there should be doors or windows--a bit disconcerting to say the least.

At other times my journals are incredibly repetitive. If, as I quoted D'Israeli yesterday, we converse with ourselves in journals, I had a few conversations with myself over and over again!

Still, somehow, through the seeming craziness and repetition, occasionally a light shines and clarity emerges (and sometimes disappears again in short order). Some of my favorite passages involve things done or said by Bekah or Anna in their younger years. Other favorites are the records of certain key dreams (night-time dreams) that really got my attention. And still others are the beginnings of poems, or moments of full sensory appreciation of the natural world.

As I begin to select and to post journal excerpts from these years, I do not intend to present them in chronological sequence, nor in any particular thematic groupings of excerpts, unless such a grouping might evolve as a low-stress way to proceed. Moving around from year to year will, I am guessing, be more fun for me that simply trying to work my way through from one end to the other. There may even be large gaps of time that I skip over entirely. (Some years were pretty uneventful!)

I will always give the date of the original entry, thus leaving it up to you, the reader, to fit things into some kind of time line, if that's important to you.

I can imagine that I will want to make comments now and then, both to provide a context for a particular passage, or to add a present-day commentary on something from years ago. I will add those comments and commentaries in italics, to distinguish them from the journal extracts themselves.

And, as with all true experimental adventures, I will just have to see how this goes and how it feels. It will at least get me launched!

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

The Freedom Diaries Are Born

Earlier today I decided that sustaining two blogs was one blog too many. Now, at the risk of becoming the poster child for some sort of multiple blogging disorder, I'm starting another one a mere four hours later.

But this one's different. This one, in fact, has already been written. Just not published. 

This blog already exists as entries in my various journals--most in spiral-bound notebooks, handwritten in Parker's washable blue fountain pen ink (most of the time); some in bits and pieces in my computer's memory. All that needs to happen is for me to choose and copy journal entries from one format into blog format, and presto! The Freedom Diaries will become a reality.

For weeks, or more truly for months, if not years, I've been saying to myself and occasionally to others that I was going to write the story of my journey, first out of parish ministry, then out of the Episcopal priesthood entirely and into my present unfolding life as a writer and a painter and a collage-maker, all part of my "new life of freedom". 

From time to time I would make little inroads into telling that story but then I'd stop, feeling stumped as to how to continue honestly and compellingly without torturous effort. I'd feel overwhelmed by the task of having to shape some sort of over-arching narrative in order to tell the tale (thanks, Patty, for that observation yesterday!). I know, too, that fear of offending people who knew me as a priest often hampered my progress.

I'm not interested in too much torturous effort, nor in being hampered by fear or the challenge of shaping a great narrative. I want this process to be as enjoyable as possible. And I really want to tell the story in a gutsy, honest, funny, and compassionate manner or not tell it at all.

This morning I happened across some of my random journal entries in my computer's documents, usually filed with the words "ramblings" somewhere in the title. I opened up one such document and started to read, and something shifted.

"Why not just start putting these into a blog and out into the wider world?" I mused. 

I still get to decide what to publish and what not to publish. I can do minimal editing for clarity or humor or grace (but not too much grace! these are just journal entries after all), or to remove the names of the innocent. 

Why ever not? And with that I was on my way. 

I looked up "diary" in the Oxford English Dictionary and found this rather lovely line from D'Israeli: "We converse with the absent by letters, and with ourselves by diaries." 

And for a long time I've been savoring a snippet from Anne Lamott's book, Bird by Bird, and now I have a reason to use it:

"Toni Morrison said, 'The function of freedom is to free someone else,' and if you are no longer wracked or in bondage to a person or a way of life, tell your story. Risk freeing someone else. Not everyone will be glad that you did. Members of you family and other critics may wish you had kept your secrets. Oh, well, what are you going to do?"

And now, ladies and gentlemen, without further ado, I present to you: The Freedom Diaries: the previously unpublished chronicles of my midlife journey from Episcopal priest to free-lance human being.