I’ve been a journaler since I was a teen, and still have a couple of those angsty teenage chronicles - including the one that holds all the feels from when I met Rod and the details of how we managed to overcome all to be together. But that’s a story for another day.
Lately this habit of journaling has fallen to the wayside, but I recently read a blog about the scientific benefits of journaling (https://nurtureandthriveblog.com/reduce-your-mental-load/?fbclid=IwAR0u-EREI9mboqVSzw6QE0mQu01V9y3SjpSw1Mj4HkhfHmwqHHsvW6BizXA) which has encouraged me to reintroduce this old companion into my daily routine.
That’s when I realized why I stopped …
I have filled all the pages of my current journals! I was about to put off journaling until I could get a proper journal - again! I decided instead that all I really needed was a piece of paper and pencil (yes, I erase and edit my journal entries as I write). I located a small number of blank loose leaf pages that I had placed in a 3-ring binder for notes or other information pertinent to the designated purpose of the binder, and decided to get started.
I began writing on a piece of paper that has no predetermined home; it’s designed to be portable, it is unattached. No spiral rings or staples, no glue or string … nothing at all. Only three holes down one side that were made to fit a standard 3-ring binder, such as the one in which this piece of paper has found itself. And though these rings fit neatly through its holds, and it resides amongst other such pieces of paper, there is no permanent attachment or preset order.
Unlike a spiral bound piece of paper, this one particular sheet can be safely removed and relocated to another home, whether that be a different 3-ring binder, some sort of soft-side 3- pronged folder, or the pocket of a prongless one. The bound page would have to be torn from its binding in order to be relocated, leaving remnants in its former place, and taking with it the scar of it’s removal.
But this loose-leaf page can be moved, shuffled, and reordered among other loose-leaf pages; simply removed and replaced without evidence of it’s absence or damage to itself.
So which is better - to be a single loose leaf piece of paper amongst other loose leaf pages, or to be bound to a particular, specific grouping of papers?
Well, that depends on the pages, and what their purpose is.
If each page is a vignette, a poem, or a self-contained story, then the order of the pages is not critical. In fact, having each story be removable could be of benefit, giving the ability to change the order, or to remove a single page to share or take some other such action.
If pages must be organized in a sequential order, then the permanence of a binding might be in order. Think of a book with a story that progresses logically or chronologically. Were these pages to be loose leaf and somehow become scattered, the story would become incomprehensible or at the very least confusing. It would require time - and knowledge of the story - to reconstruct the pages, to replace them into their intended order. In this instance, it would make sense to have bound pages.
Each type of existence, whether permanent or transient, has its purpose and benefits.
Perhaps we are like writing paper; we all start off as a blank lined page, waiting for our story to be written. But are we loose leaf paper or are our pages bound to others?
A story that is bound to the stories of others provide a sense of acceptance and permanence. We hold the belief, sometimes the desire, that this is the way life is intended to be lived, so we choose to bind our story with another’s to create a single story.
Little did I know that that last bit wouldn’t come where I thought it would - at the end of our story. No, it seemed to come somewhere in what feels like the middle of my story.
Our pages were glued tight, y’all. Thinking we’d both live long enough for our story to come to its natural and expected conclusion, we lived our story so togetherly that it had indeed become a single story. But after he died, I knew that the rest of our story would never be written. The anticipated ending no longer existed. All those blank pages in our book were suddenly my pages, but my story would not fit in this book of our story. So those pages were ripped out of our book.
Just as our book bears scars of pages now missing, my pages bear the scars from where they were ripped from it.
-The scars of watching the new season of our show without him, of friendships lost and trips not taken.
-The scar of a wedding he will miss; the one we laughed about how he would get from the front of the aisle giving away the bride to being in front of the couple performing the ceremony.
-The scar of being empty-nesters, running around the house in our underwear (is that a thing? I’ll never know), having changed the locks so the kids wouldn’t walk in unexpectedly.
-The scars of us getting to know each other as grandparents and seeing who would spoil those babies more; of the grandbabies who will never know their Lolo; of being that old couple who sits on the park bench holding hands, smiling at the young couples as they pass by.
-The scars of everything else that was supposed to be written in the rest of our book but now will never be.
I used to believe once bound, always bound. Life - or perhaps death - has taught me otherwise.
What if life is meant to be a series of 3-ring binders where the loose leaf pages of our stories come alongside certain other loose leaf pages, for a time, until we choose to move them to a different binder, and then another, and so on over our lifetimes?
Imagine we start out as a single loose-leaf page in our parents’ binder. They add pages to ours until we eventually have enough pages to warrant our own tab in their binder. We begin to add other loose leaf pages of our choosing to sit amongst our own … for a time.
One day we may remove our tab from our parents’ binder - with all it’s pages - and begin our own 3-ring binder. We add tabs, like School or Work, and begin to add pages to each section as our stories intermingle with the stories of others … for a time.
We may get to the point where we add a Relationship tab, and maybe even add a tab for our own child and begin their loose-leaf story. And so the stories continue.
I’ve thought about a lot of things I had never thought about before Rod died. I have asked questions about a great number of things, and I am learning how to sit with the not-knowing, the unknowable, and the unknown.
I have done things that I’ve never had to do before, things I didn’t even know I could do. I’ve figured out and implemented solutions to problems, and I’ve gained confidence in making decisions.
I’ve gained an understanding and the friendship of a group of people who were basically invisible to me prior to my becoming part of them. As Rod put it when he was diagnosed with cancer, “I am now uniquely qualified to minister to a whole new set of people.” In this, I now have a desire to serve, support, and advocate for widows.
And I’ve conquered technology. Oh, wait, that page is still blank. At least for now. ;)
As a loose leaf page, I can benefit from the freedom to redefine myself, to find purpose in loving and serving others as I intersect with their pages, laugh and cry with them, or simply sit with them, wherever they may be … for a time.
And then I can move to a different binder and find my place amongst other pages to offer what I can, and experience what they might have to share with me … for a time.
Despite my scars, I have no regrets about my decision to be part of a bound book. They are evidence of an amazing book that will forever tell of the beautiful story I was once part of, the story of Rod and Gail that was mine … for a time.
Writing about widow life, grief, and general random ramblings.
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