Yesterday, I sat on the floor of my office skimming through one of my journals. The other 19 5-subject wide ruled notebooks with 200 sheets lay scattered on the floor around me. Okay, a couple were only 3-subject notebooks. The notebook on my lap spanned from May 2002 to May 2004. I had randomly pulled it from the heap. I didn’t intend to open it but when I did, I was back at the VA in Durham, North Carolina planning to retire early. My husband and I wanted to take a special vacation—Italy for five weeks—staying at a monastery in Venice and a villa in Tuscany. Would the VA give me the time off? Maybe it was best just to retire and enjoy this trip.
I began to journal in the ‘80s when my job proved so stressful that journaling seemed to help me cope. In the ‘90s I began to take myself seriously as a writer. Natalie Goldberg (Wild Mind) and Julia Cameron (The Artist’s Way) touted daily longhand writing to prime the creative pump. I never bought into daily journaling. Over the years there were large gaps between entries in my notebooks.
In the journal I wrote that I had given notice of retirement to the Chief Nurse. Then I wrote questions on the last page. Will we take the Italy trip? Will I continue to write? Tap into my creativity? See more of the grandkids? Finally, I asked: What will the future hold?
That was 18 years ago.
Yes, we did go on an unforgettable 5-week vacation to Italy staying at the Casa Vacanza Madonna delli’Orto in the Cannaregio neighborhood of Venice for a week and later, at the Villa Casa Pavon in Castigline d’Orcia in Tuscany. In a rented Ford station wagon we made day trips to Montalcino, Siena, Assisi and visited the dark, cool altars inside small chapels that dotted the winding roads, stopping along the way at local markets for groceries and wine.
I continued to write, eventually publishing a book about working as a NP in a clinic in Chicago. Most of the stories had already been documented in my journals.
I took art classes in various media over the years.
Of course, I had discretionary time to enjoy the grandkids.
When I was done reading through the journal, the sun had set, and it was too late for my afternoon walk. However, I felt a sense of comfort in this reminiscent exercise. Or was it a nostalgia trip? Or, as Robert Butler first coined in 1963, did I experience a sort of life review?
Now as I am facing my upcoming 80th birthday, the last question on my journal page still remains: What will the future hold? I can only hope life still holds many pleasant experiences.
And maybe a trip back to Italy.