Yes, my friends — actually it’s another one (in addition to the in-process novel set on Easter Island and the ongoing Doors project)….you see, I simply don’t have quite enough to keep me busy these days — ha! The book that I’m working on now, however, will likely never see the light of day because it’s not written down and I’m creating it only at night.
I have always been a bit of an insomniac, and the slightest hint of a lupus flare can leave me tossing and turning. And I’ve always been the kind of person who jumps into whatever I’m involved in with both feet and with 121% of my energy — and inevitably, that extra 21% seems to try to make itself felt long after the sun has set. I need something more effective than internally yelling at myself to “Quit working!”
So, I’ve started a new book and it’s helping me tame the sleepless monster.
I call it Jeanne’s Giant Journal of Joy. Silly title, huh?
The sub-title is “The Chronicle of my Complex, (sometimes) Contradictory and (often) Crazy life.” Also silly.
It started out from a serious source. Not too long ago, I read Monuments Men by Robert M. Edsel, a book about the Allied soldiers (museum curators, mostly) who, as Germany lost its grip on Europe in World War II, sought to keep remaining art treasures from the Nazis — and then these non-military types proceeded to find the plunder that had already been stolen. These art works include many that Peter and I have been lucky enough to see during our travels, including favorites like the Bruges Madonna and the Ghent Altarpiece. You can read more about this important historical incident here.
So one night when I found myself awake, I was thinking of these artworks and all kinds of other “monuments” that have graced my life. I realized I’ve not just seen so many special things, I have experienced so many special things.
So I started cataloging them.
The first list I decided to come up with: “Monumental Moments of our Trips.” Let me tell you — no lack of ideas for memories to include there. I determined something resembling the top five; then I fell asleep. The next couple of nights, I noodled with those some more in my head; yep, that list has remained somewhat constant. I’ve written about all of these, one place or another — mostly here in this blog — so won’t mention them here.
The next week, I thought I’d start figuring out what numbers six through ten would be — and I thought of at least 15 more absolutely incredible places and vignettes to include. Once again, I feel asleep each night, without allowing any “to do” items to crowd out my enjoyment of this simple recall exercise. Assembling them in some sort of mental order, and deciding it was OK that the some really great ones had slipped to “honorable mention” — good for several more nights.
However, I soon realized that even if I expanded this concept to several chapters, monumental moments while traveling was just too limiting.
Thus began the germ of the idea for a “bigger” book.
I now have a whole list of other lists that I return to, or add to. Something can be included in more (sometimes many more!) categories. Some happened in only once instance, other memories are more inclusive and were built up over time. There are absolutely no rules in this “game.”
I started by thinking of one theme per page. Then a theme might evolve into several individual ones. It’s fairly creative, actually. But most importantly, thinking about these wonderful memories turns off the noise in my head; seeking specific kinds of things in the file cabinet of my expereicne is a relaxing way to relive them — and to fall asleep.
For example, take “Historic Hikes and “Unforgettable Urban Walks” — lots and lots of those! Climbing Table Mountain the first time — going up the face trail in snow in early July — is one example of the former. For the latter, among many city-travel explorations, is a special one of the repetitious: when we lived half-way up Queen Anne Hill in Seattle, after dinner and washing dishes in our pint-sized kitchen, we would often head out to make about a four-mile circuit around the crest of the hill. Nothing particular unusual in that one, but we did it in the evenings, together, often going blocks and blocks either chatting nonstop or just enjoying the silence of a city evening.
Another easy-to-recall group is “Family Favorites.” You can read about some of these here.
They range from the ridiculous to the sublime. I’ve got a page about “Satisfactions,” with everything from being a good daughter-in-law and caring about my community to taking up knitting again and (still) liking to read. Another centers on Up With People experiences, from on the road four decades ago and through the years since. Some are embarassingly personal, like “Inside Jokes,” expressions that mean nothing to anyone but to Peter and to me, and “Faux Pas I Surprisingly Survived.” Topping this one was the time I cut an apple with a Swiss Army knife while driving 80 miles an hour on the Interstate across Wyoming — and I did not slice off a finger!
Of course the book is jammed with people — Peter, family, friends from near and far, children I’m invested in; “Angels” grace one whole list — loved ones I’ve lost who I like to think are smiling down on me from heaven.
The other evening, when I was thinking about writing this down here, I remembered a song that Irving Berlin wrote and Bing Crosby sang, in White Christmas. If you don’t know this short little ditty, it’s easy to learn, and the lyrics go like this:
If you’re worried and you can’t sleep,
just count your blessings instead of sleep….
and you’ll fall asleep counting your blessings.
Yep, that pretty much sums up the whole idea behind my Giant Journal of Joy! Next time you can’t sleep, give your internal voice a break and take a walk down memory lane. Give it a try and let me know if it works for you, too…. :)