worn down

Recently I reviewed some old blog posts from 2004-2005 (no longer online, but I have a personal archive), and I realized that I don’t really like to dwell on the negative, or blog about it.

This is pretty common, I know– there are no end of thinkpieces about people putting their best foot forward on social media, and not blogging or instagramming or FBing the difficult parts of their lives. A lot of those posts seem to assume this tendency is about “likes,” or online popularity, or embarrassment, or something like that.

I dunno. Maybe sometimes it is. For me, as I re-read those entries from 2004-2005, I find myself surprised at how forcefully cheerful I am– I chatter about sewing, baking bread, church, how much I love my husband and child, and holiday shopping. I recount visits with family, cute things my kid did, and social activities.

What’s interesting to me, reading those entries, is all the things I don’t say. At that time in my life, there was a fair amount of negative, unhappy things happening and a lot of heartache. I was pretty miserable, depressed, and lonely. I was still grieving my mom, yet incredibly angry at her. My husband and I were trying for a second child without any luck, and I was grappling with the reality of secondary infertility. I was furious, too, with my husband– we were in a rough spot in our marriage, and I felt disrespected, isolated, and lonely.

Almost none of this bleeds through in the entries. There are occasional throwaway lines about my disappointment over yet another failed pregnancy test, but the unhappiness of that era is most noticeable, to me, in the absence of mention: there are entries detailing endless fond anecdotes of my child, or my siblings, or my dad, or shopping trips, hobbies, and activities– but little to nothing about my husband or mom.

Mom used to say, if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.

There are long gaps of weeks or months with no entries at all, and then a flurry of chipper entries recounting breathless delights. It actually reminds me of a film I’ve long enjoyed, Just Married. There’s a quote near the end from Tom’s (Ashton Kutcher) dad:

Some days your mother and me loved each other. Other days we had to work at it. You never see the hard days in a photo album… but those are the ones that get you from one happy snapshot to the next. I’m sorry your honeymoon stunk but that’s what you got dealt. Now you gotta work through it. Sarah doesn’t need a guy with a fat wallet to make her happy. I saw how you love this girl. How you two lit each other up. She doesn’t need any more security than that.

I think for me, writing– journaling, blogging, online posting, whatever– has always been a form of memory. Snapshots of life preserved for the future– both for myself, my children, and future generations. I suppose, growing up Mormon, it was inevitable that I would view journaling (and all related forms of autobiographical writing) as archival rather than personal, and have always written with the sense of recording memories. And like the character quoted above says, we don’t preserve unhappy memories– just the good ones. We preserve the ones that help us get through the unhappy times, in hopes the good times will return again.

It’s a self-preservation strategy, I think. A neurological tool by which we as a species, no doubt, deal with the realities of day-to-day hardships. Relationships, friendships, work–life is hard. If you don’t preserve the happy moments and consciously focus on them, prioritize them, it can be easy to get dragged down into a negative mindset where everything is hard and miserable and nothing is worthwhile. Where the only thought in your head is, “Why? Why do I bother? What’s the fucking point?”

Life isn’t happiness and roses. But sometimes, really rarely, it is. And I guess it’s nice to pretend that it can be more often than not.

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