When I was about 15 years old, I started writing in my journal everyday. I sat in the back row of U.S. History class and wrote pages and pages, when I should have been paying attention. I wrote about what was happening in my life, my thoughts, my feelings, hopes and desires. Writing became my way of sorting through all the turbulence in my life at the time.
When I wrote, I never worried about expressing myself or giving my honest opinion. Afterall, no one read my journal except me, so it was relatively safe to express my self truthfully; and that’s what I did. Through writing, I began to know myself. I discovered what I believed in at the time, what I wanted to do with my life within the next few years: and I came face to face with my fears.
I’m not sure if keeping my thoughts and feelings on paper only, was such a good idea. As the years went by, I found it harder and harder to verbally express my thoughts and opinions. In a sense, I couldn’t get the words out even though I had a clear idea of what I wanted to say. As a result, when in group conversation and a topic came up I wanted to comment on, I chose to keep quiet instead of speaking up about what I knew, or what I believed to be true. I did this from fear of not being able to express my thoughts verbally and/or risk saying something dumb in front of others.
As the years wore on, I fell into a habit of not commenting on much especially if it meant giving a contradictory opinion. If I was engaged in a one on one conversation, I tried hard to communicate whole heartedly and express myself to the best of my ability. I wanted to be a participant rather than an observer.
Usually, I remained in the background as the observer while marveling at the ease and precison with which the group expressed themselves. On more than one occasion, during heated debates, this also required I dodge fiery bullets of opinion; and I often thought to myself, “Will someone hand me a pen and paper, please!”
After my children were born, I gave up writing for many years. I still kept a journal and it was there I continued to note my beliefs, feelings and opinions. I wrote ocasionally, but most of the time, because of my busy life style, I found it easy to say, “I don’t have time. ” I never formally pursued it until 4 months ago when I began this blog.
Writing is an adventure in self-discovery. It is a one on one conversation with our soul self and an expression of what lies inside our heart, and our minds. Every word is shaping the essence of our truth as we expand our thoughts and develop our beliefs and ideals.
My father, aka “The Wizard of Canoga Park”, was a psychiatrist by profession. He was also a writer who was extremely proud of two things: His Irish heritage and Harry Truman. His father, my grandfather, and Mr. Truman went to Law School together.
My father wrote religiously everyday. He wrote ocasional articles for magazines and he wrote letters to me from his home in Missouri. I remember routinely standing on my doorstep, like a soldier awaiting assignment at my home in California, while the mailman handed over my daily bundle of letters from my father.
He also became good friends with Lewis Duiguid, a journalist for the Kansas City Star in Kansas City, Missouri, whom he challenged continuously on almost everything the man wrote. If it was contoversial or had anything to do with politics, all the better for my father to voice his opinions. Towards the end of my father’s life in 2007, he and Mr. Duiguid had built up a respected and distanced friendship.
My father’s love of writing showed in the hundreds of letters he wrote to me, his acquaintances and friends. He always wrote about what he believed in and it didn’t bother him if not everyone agreed with what he said. He spoke his truth.
The last few days before his death, I was scheduled to fly out to Missouri with my son to see him. I knew the end was near. The thought of losing him was too painful. I decided to write him a letter like I used to do when I was a girl and give it to him in the hospital. If I tried to tell him what was in my heart, I knew I would cave in and nothing would come out.
When I was a kid, we developed a fun penmanship. We wrote letters and notes to each other everyday, and left them in different places around the house where we were sure the other would find them.
In this final letter to my father, I drew hearts on it like I did when I was a girl. I wrote about all the wonderful things he taught me, how he helped me through so much difficulty in my life, how I considered him my hero and how much I loved him. Unfortunately, he died one day before my departure. I was able to speak with him by phone, not knowing how much longer he could hold on, I told him how much I loved him and appreciated him.
Thanks to my father, I am a firm believer in Gustave Flaubert’s quote, “The art of writing is discovering what you believe.” It’s voicing our opinion on a variety of topics and it reveals who we really are. Aside from discovering what we believe, we also discover how to believe in ourselves.