Sunday, July 1, 2007

Writing a Life

"It’s the people who write, who last. If any woman out there has any inclination to to remembered in the future, the next few generations, she’d just better get busy and write out her story, her experiences." --Claudia Bushman

I haven't been very satisfied with the writing of my own story. I wish I had a more representative record of my life. I began journaling in 1974 when I was 14 years old. I had a diary all through my high school years. I was certain that when I was a teenager I had some intelligent thoughts. But reading back in my journal, I am not so sure. By what I wrote, it seems that I thought about nothing but boys. Many things happened during the years I was in high school. The Watergate scandal, and the resignation of President Richard Nixon. The war in Vietnam. Unrest on college campuses and the Kent State Massacre. Manned space flights to the moon. The first test tube baby. Affirmative Action and Title IX. Radioactive leak at Three Mile Island. I remember all these things happening, but I did not find them important enough to write down. Instead, here is a typical journal entry, written on the date of the fall of Saigon and the end of the Vietnam War:
30 April 1975
This morning I had a big fight with Mom because someone took my toothbrush and I refused to go to school without brushing my teeth. I finally used someone else's. Later we found out that Kenny had it in his room. Don't ask me why. Today I made up the math test I missed on logarithms. We had swimming fifth block. We had a boy in our gym class that was swimming with us--we all wondered what he was doing there. He was a good swimmer though, and pretty cute. After school, Kenny, Doug, Mark and I sat outside and fooled around with a magnifying glass trying to start some paper on fire. We did, a couple of times. A cop car came by and Mark sat on the fire. Doug kept putting his arm around me. I wonder if he likes me again?
Tonight was Allison's night to go somewhere with Dad but she wanted to see the movie "The Great Waldo Pepper." But all of the rest of us wanted to see it too, so we all went. It was starring Robert Redford!! He is the best actor and so cute!! The only other movie I want to see is "Tommy." It has Elton John (the singer) in it. I want to see him. He is the greatest!! And he sings the best songs!!

I joined the Church in 1979, when I was in college. For several years my journals are very saccharine and faith-promoting. I write a lot of quotes from the Book of Mormon and books I've been reading such as "Faith Precedes the Miracle." I did find one entry that gives an insight into what kind of person I had become as a Mormon:
30 Nov 1979
A very sad experience happened to me before I left for Christmas. I saw T. drinking coffee in the cafeteria. She is a member who has not been attending meetings lately. I went over to talk to her and asked why she was drinking coffee. She said the doctor told her not to drink any beverages except for coffee and tea. I mentioned that it might be better to just drink water. She was very upset with me. That night I received a package which contained a Book of Mormon, a D&C, and two Institute manuals. This note was with it: "I give these things to you and you can give them to someone else but just don't drive them up and down a wall and away from the Church as you have me. Don't approach me on campus and don't come down to the room to talk about it cause I will not answer the door."

Hopefully I learned something from this experience!

You've already had a few samples from my missionary journals. I probably did a fairly good job representing myself, the ups and downs, and the things I was learning during this time. Soon after my mission I married and started having children right away. I wrote very rarely. This is the time I really wish I had kept up my journal. It seems that during these years I only wrote when I was angry and overwhelmed.
1 Oct 1991
Thoughts are flying through my head like crazy--I can't get them down. The RS class and the article set off some kind of dissatisfaction in my mind. They seemed so basic and so boring--I tried to tell [a friend] how I felt but I didn't really feel like she understood me. She said they'd had that discussion in their family and they'd concluded that the Church had to gear materials to the new-convert-type member, or as she put it, "the least common denominator." I don't know why they can't include more meaty talks along with basic ones for new converts. I just feel so disappointed, jaded and cynical.

And then there are some entries about cars that break down, and financial troubles, and fights with the husband, and it sounds like I don't have a positive thought for the next ten years.

Now that I've started to blog, it looks like I may have fallen into the same trap. Though I am an active and faithful member of the Church, I tend to use my writing for airing my grievances. Apparently, I give the impression that I am an apostate or disgruntled member. I don't know quite how to remedy this. For when I read blogs that are supposedly encouraging and faith-promoting, all I can think is "Yawn!" I want to show the spiritual side of myself, but I refuse to write a bunch of smarmy pablum.

Unfortunately, Sister Bushman, my writings probably won't be of much interest to future historians. Neither am I representative of a twentieth-century Mormon woman. I'm just one of myriads of bloggers, sitting at a screen and pouring out the day's frustrations, hoping to make a couple of sympathetic connections and stay sane at the end of the day.


WendyP said...

I love the teenage entry and the overuse of exclaimation marks!! I did that as a teen too!!

Thanks for sharing. I think your entries show a wonderful progression. This stuff certainly resonates in the here and now and I believe it will in the future as well.

Mark said...

It is fun looking back at what your thoughts were at different times in your life.
You have a great mind and a loving heart, keep writing, what you have to say is valued.

sarah k. said...

I come here to learn from someone who has been where I am now.

J G-W said...

Of course you write about the stuff that aggravates you; you write when you feel overwhelmed. I call this "going to where the pain is." I think it's a critical part of our growth as human beings.

I think you have to write through this stuff (and live through this stuff) in order to get to the more affirming stuff.

I like the honesty and the humor in this piece. I'm not sure I would think your journal entry was better or more interesting if you had written about Vietnam or Watergate or whatever else was going on back then... Unless, of course, that is really what interested you back then! What I find interesting is to read who you were and what you were interested then, as a girl, in 1974.

Téa said...

I know I've enjoyed connecting with you, and I wouldn't be so quick to dismiss your current and future writings.

I destroyed most of my teenage diary entries because their content ran as a parade of sins. I kept the ones with some redeeming value (I suppose the former could be handy for blackmail or a scandalous biography)

I can't wait to get home and flip through what I have, though, thanks to your post.