The Open Book Test

The Open Book Test is a n experiment.  You know me, by now. You know I’ve been a journal-keeper for 35 years.  Maybe you read some of the posts from my first diary, under the heading The Red Diary Project, a few months ago.

My intention, throughout 2015, is to post entries from my lifetime of journals, one every other Monday. I will choose an entry from the current month, written the number of years ago that corresponds to the calendar date of the post.  Today, on January 19, I have chosen something from January–19 years ago, in 1996.

My purpose is not to hurt or embarrass anyone—least of all myself—so, of course the entries are edited. Sometimes the whole truth is too much of a good thing. Names may or may not be real, or may appear as just initials.

What, then, is my purpose?

I don’t have a good answer for that, yet.  I just like the idea.  Maybe, the answer will come to me as I go along.   For the life of me, I can’t think of one single reason why I shouldn’t at least begin…

* * * * *

When: January, 1996–19 years ago
Where: Guaitil, Cost Rica
What: I’ve been in Costa Rica for 6 months. The town’s water pump broke, and, for days, we have only had hand-drawn water from old wells.
Age: 25

They say that the ditch is dug, and the pipes are nearly laid, and tomorrow we should have water from the new well. This morning Lorena and I went and washed at Irma’s, because she has a well right by the wash sink. I drew buckets of water until my hands were red. We were using the washing machine and there were 2 of us – imagine what it must be like to wash alone, by hand, drawing water from a well.

As I have thought 100 times before, I thought again: it is the poor who understand the rhythm and mysteries of life. I have sat in the laundromat while my clothes spun, closed-up in a machine that sits in a row of machines. When the machines stops, the clothes are assumed to be clean, and into the dryer they go. Cleaning itself becomes a mystery. It is done in the dark washer that you must not open while you wait. Today I knew each bucket of water, and I already know which clothes have which stains where. Then Irma gave us lunch and Lorena and I went to Santa Cruz.

Ok. Now. Yesterday I had a life-changing revelation in the shower, where I have a history of finding life-changing revelations. I was taking a shower at Dona Daisy’s, because she has her own water pump. I was thinking this: I am a great writer. I am great and brilliant. Just because I haven’t had anything published, does not mean a thing. There are tons and tons of published books and poems and magazine articles and plays that I would die of humiliation to have written. I write better and see more clearly and interestingly than half the people who make their money writing. I always think to myself, “Well, if I become a writer and am well-known and loved, then it will all have been worth it. If my loans go into default, and I’m starving and miserable, it will be worth it–if I become a great writer.”  Everyone thinks it’s charming that Emily Dickenson was off her rocker, Einstein got bad grades in school and Vincent Van Gogh cut off his ear.  But they didn’t think it was one bit funny, I’m sure.  They didn’t know that everyone would end up loving them.  So it’s wrong to think, “This will be worth it if I become a great writer.” I AM a great writer. If I never make a dime, that’s on a different chart than my ability. Right. I shouldn’t think, “maybe I will be a writer” because I already AM one. A good one. Anyway, even if I don’t have millions to inspire, I have my sisters. I have my friends. I have my family and loved ones to write for, and that’s probably better than writing for millions, anyway. Right? So what does this mean for me? Well, I’m scared. But I will proceed, because I’m a young brilliant writer and it’s all worth it. The loan companies can’t lay a finger on my soul.

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