In the past, I mainly journaled to navigate challenges. By challenges, I mean relationships. After graduation, I cried on a yellow legal pad as my first grown-up “love” dissolved. We’d moved in together. The skid from college and its comforts (including a social conglomerate of which I sat high on the pyramid) down to adulthood, gave me diaper burn. To assimilate I charged a pair of khakis and a full-sized futon with the Discover card I had no way to pay off, and I clocked in with the rest of the grown folks. I’d moved to Chicago to follow destiny which was supposed to include bright light, big city realness and a forever bond with my dude. Instead, I nestled into the only stable relationship within reach: the one with my journal.
How many ways could my pen write disappointed? My journal knew them all. Heartsick over my “roommate” plus contempt for my soulless job forced my lips into a permanent frown. On weekends when I wasn’t taking a 12-hour nap or eating, I’d scribble why and WTF over the legal pad. Because of good time-management, I’d usually squeeze in equal parts of all three. Eventually my roomie boyfriend resurrected his bed back at his mama’s house. I was left to plummet into the deep blue futon abyss—alone, pissed, and puzzled.
I was living and working full-time in the big city, wasn’t I? Wasn’t this one of my dream bubbles? I’d gotten some of what I asked for plus some of what I didn’t, like withdrawal symptoms over losing boundless friends and a rapidly thickening waist and hip circumference. With tubes of room temperature cookie dough to keep me company
(I don’t think salmonella poisoning actually exists) and a Sade record on repeat, I entered into Saturday night staring contests. Eyes on the phone, then the wall, then the phone again. Twenty-two years in Eastern Iowa had not prepared me for the reality I was experiencing. Why were people so eager to become adults? My inner Voice groveled when I wrote about this in my journal. Toughen up, girl. The Voice said. Organize a city attitude. Go hang out in coffee shops like you did in school.
Plop me in any city, anywhere on a map, and in three weeks I can tell you where the coolest cafes are. In that LA cafe under The Bodhi Tree bookstore I wrote myself into and out of a romance with an older man who had four Emmys and a casual habit with cocaine and pot. Doma Cafe in Greenwich Village felt like Italy. I’d dedicate twenty minutes of journaling to exorcise my real-life Gnome, Phil, who was my Italian lover and ex-boss. Afterward, I would slog through first drafts of college papers with Lauren who wrote the foreword to this book. Oh, then there’s Max Cafe. I wrote half this book there. I journaled at Max more than any other cafe in New York City. Journaling at Max got me through two other romances—one weird and one amazing, and… Let me stop right here to ease your mind again: this is not a book about the best cafes across the country nor is it about how to get over your exes. It’s just that my journals were bridges over those kinds of challenges. Journaling handed me an understanding of why I choose certain relationships. You know what else I want to tell you? Journaling about my lovers in cafes fared safer for me. Seriously, how much cursing or crying could I get away with on a public sofa?
The journal has been a mirror. Regarding relationships, my journal revealed what I was allowing and what I was blocking. The entries reflected what I really thought beneath my surface. I was uninspired by the concept of marriage. During adolescence, I lacked faith in the forever scenario. I considered marriage a fairy tale. I didn’t believe forever love was real.
I never journaled about my wedding or imagined the perfect dress. I didn’t cry when tin cans rattled from car bumpers. I gave my pen and imagination to romance. I dreamed of having conversations on the terrace at sunset, sharing dinners in cozy restaurants, singing and playing games during long car rides. I wrote about these things as much I wrote about my distrust of matrimony. Connection, romance, and friendship were my ideas of relationship bliss. The things I wanted and the things I feared about relationships, I experienced in real- life. It was is common for my exes to call years after the break-up to chat, be friendly, and ask me out for cozy dinners. It made sense that I kept becoming buddies ever-after with my long-term boyfriends.
This pattern matched the decision I’d made unconsciously, a belief I’d programmed unknowingly. I manifested the kinds of relationships I was available to receive. If I wanted to manifest a life-long bond or a lasting marriage, I would have to imagine, decide, declare, and believe in one. I’m doing that now in my journal.
Okay, what I just told you about my relationship imprint is a recent revelation. My journal exposed my contradictions to love while I was writing this book. I can envision and declare the kind of love I desire, now. Right there… another reason why I’m happy today, and another reason why I journal every day.