Memories have their purpose, and nostalgia is not a danger in small doses. It can be good to remember what has made us who we are, to reflect on what has made us stronger.
Yesterday, when Ben opened our attic to store the Christmas tree and decorations, he found boxes of books we had packed down at our old farm, and that are waiting for our library shelves to be built (sometime later this year, we hope).
I have a little space in my writing room bookcase, so Ben dragged a few boxes out for me to go through, as every box is marked ‘N-BOOKS’.
Curious, I opened the first one. Here were books I’d sourced as research for as-yet-unwritten novels. Poetry books. Favourite stories. It was like finding old friends, and I sorted them into piles, ready to load onto my shelves.
The next box was similar.
But the third box? It threw me a little.
I have always been a keeper of diaries, someone who fills endless notebooks, someone who journals. This box was willed to the brim with my old scribblings. I heaved the contents out and onto a table, and sat down. Here was a notebook I began in early 2000. In the back I listed all the birds, plants and animals I was able to identify on our farm in the Lockyer Valley. In the front were stud notes for our Droughtmaster cows and bull. I felt a tenderness spring inside me as read what I had written about one first-time young mum who calved while standing one frosty morning, and how her calf had been injured as he fell to the frozen ground. How we fussed and fretted, trying to save his life. How I cried when we lost him, weeks later.
In journal after journal, stretching back to the eighties, were my new year musings about making this a better year and FINALLY getting my health sorted, so I could return to normal and ‘get my old life back’. I became quite choked up, reading those. So many journals, all saying the same thing, over so many years.
At fifty-five I no longer write that. I have accepted that ill-health is my lot. It’s what I must carry, and now all I hope for it that my health is manageable, and my pain not too great. It sits as background music, and I no longer let that be the main tune in my head.
As I cracked open book after book I read about droughts and floods and bushfires, the death of loved ones, and friends passed too soon. I read about wonderful travel adventures, and other precious moments of life that I had recounted on the page, and which now came flooding back to me.
I read about my hopes for having a family, and my sadness and resignation as that slipped away from me – all that pain packed away in dusty journals.
The other common thread in these notebooks was writing. So many ideas, so much lack of faith in myself, so many struggles when brain fog made it impossible to hold a cohesive storyline in my head, or even to remember what I had written at the top of the page by the time I made my way to the bottom.
As I put the journals away with the others on my shelves I realised that after all this time I have actually made progress on the writing part. My brain has been working so much better this last twelve months. My editor recently told me a manuscript I submitted to them is a terrific read, and only needs a few more tweaks before submission. I have another work in progress that I am happy with, and finally I am writing again in a way I have not been able to since I was very young. I’ve also made progress on some non-fiction works, that I hope to publish in 2023.
Getting older is truly a privilege, and I am grateful to sit with my younger self for a while, and to hold her gently and with love as I comfort her and am reminded by her of my flaws and failings, hopes and dreams. I’m such a messy work-in-progress, but I am finally at peace with myself – the shadow side and the light.
I wonder what the next years will bring?
Love, licorice tea, and my fresh new journal for 2023, Nicole xx