Friday, May 21, 2010


A few times in my life I kept journals. They helped me remember and process my sometimes difficult experiences and practice the art of writing. My older niece, Elizabeth, keeps one now, as did my paternal grandmother, Ann Saling, who wrote for a living, who taught me to read, who encouraged me to write, and who nurtured my love of this ancient craft. They both wrote about some very difficult experiences indeed. Reading their journals has brought me closer to them and helped me better understand the story of my family.

My friend Gary Tepfer thinks I should write that story. I'm slowly coming around to his way of thinking.

For a long time I thought our pains and joys, our political and religious arguments, our moments of brilliance and periods of madness and addiction would be of little use to anyone else, that they were mainly the grist for our own mills, for my family's struggles for sanity and health. Over the course of twenty-two years of personal therapy, though, I've learned lessons from my family's experiences that have made the difference in my life between success and disaster and between vitality and malaise. More importantly, these lessons have sometimes helped others who battled the same problems. Most importantly, every day in the world I see people suffering needlessly because they haven't yet learned these same lessons.

If I share my family's story, maybe some of you can learn from our sorrows and joys, or at least recognize the truth of them and know you're not alone.

For the rest of you, for those who think life is just supposed to pass the time as entertainingly as possible until you die, the ups and downs of my crazy family are at least as entertaining as half of the stories I've read. Maybe you'll agree.

In my life I've learned two stories worth telling that I might be worthy to tell. The story of my family is the first one. This journal will in part be my practice space, my story sketchbook.

The other part of this journal will be my remedial diary for keeping track of what's left of my life. Doing this is not at all easy for me. It is an act of faith, a suspension of disbelief. Without meaning to, my parents taught me early on that I'm unimportant and uninteresting; how I came to learn that will doubtless emerge over time within this journal. Horrified that I drew that lesson from our life together, they've struggled mightily for decades since then to unteach me that lesson. Even as I appreciate their efforts and love them the more for it, I've come to realize that some early lessons cannot be unlearned. I've been given the gift of humility (however imperfect), it seems, at the price of self esteem - a fair trade considering the hubris that plagues humanity.


In a nutshell, I don't really expect anyone to care about my life enough to want to read such a journal - I can't emotionally truly believe it - but I recognize that enough friends and family members have asked to be more a part of my life for long enough that I'm willing to take the leap of faith and try it. I do this partly for their sake, to be a better friend and relative.

My passion for journaling died with my hopes of having children, but it seems I have nieces and nephews who insist upon taking an interest in me. I do this mainly for their sake, because I love them and want to invest in their future by sharing my life more fully with them.

For those who fall into neither camp, those who find what follows to be just more noise taking up precious bandwidth, you have my sympathy and my genuine apology.

To use my blog as a journal represents a big change in the tone of this blog, but more of an addition than a replacement. I still love philosophy and will continue to write about it with the same frequency as before, but now the times in between will be filled with entries about my life rather than the barren desert of silence it has so often been.

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