rereading Joan Didion in 2021
As Joan Didion wrote in her 1968 ‘Slouching Towards Bethlehem,’ “keepers of private notebooks are a different breed altogether, lonely and resistant rearranges of things, anxious malcontents, children afflicted apparently at birth with some presentiment of loss.”
At the age of seven, I started to write my many thoughts down in my diary due to my mother’s encouragement. Throughout my childhood and adolescence, I continued to write…even when I felt that there was nothing to say. Writing was what allowed me to better understand my own reality and the feelings that I often forced myself to deny or repress. Yet, there have also been periods of time in which I stopped writing altogether, too tired to attempt to process or understand my reality and my thoughts. This past year was one of those periods of time.
Over the past year, I have been rereading some of Joan Didion’s work and have consistently come across beautiful reminders that inspired me to start writing again in the midst of chaos and loss.
“We forget all too soon the things we thought we could never forget. We forget the loves and the betrayals alike, forget what we whispered and what we screamed, forget who we were.”
On self respect:
“To have that sense of one’s intrinsic worth which constitutes self-respect is potentially to have everything: the ability to discriminate, to love and to remain indifferent. To lack it is to be locked within oneself, paradoxically incapable of either love or indifference. If we do not respect ourselves, we are on the one hand forced to despise those who have so few resources as to consort with us, so little perception as to remain blind to our fatal weaknesses. On the other, we are pecularily in thrall to everyone we see, curiously determined to live out — since our self-image is untenable — their false notions of us… ”
“Water is important to people who do not have it, and the same is true of control.”
On finding oneself:
“It is the phenomenon somethings called “alienation from self.” In its advanced stages, we no longer answer the telephone, because someone might want something; that we could say no without drowning in self-reproach is an idea alien to this game. Every encounter demands too much, tears the nerves, drains the will, and the specter of something as small as an unanswered letter arouses such disproportionate guilt that answering it becomes out of the question. To assign unanswered letters their proper weight, to free us from the expectations of others, to give us back to ourselves — there lies the great, the singular power of self-respect. Without it, one eventually discovers the final turn of the screw: one runs away to find oneself, and finds no one at home.”
― Joan Didion, Slouching Towards Bethlehem
“Time is the school in which we learn.”
― Joan Didion
“…we never reach a point at which our lives lie before us as a clearly marked open road, never have and never should expect a map to the years ahead, never do close those circles that seem, at thirteen and fourteen and nineteen, so urgently in need of closing.”
“Life changes fast. Life changes in the instant. You sit down to dinner and life as you know it ends.”