combing through notebooks

After work I went through my current spiral notebook. It’s time to start working on my next long project book again after a long break over the holidays, and I wanted to see what notes I’d made. (KFC is Monday, and I really want to have something. Anything. I no longer worry about wasting their time.)

There were a lot of one-page blocks I wrote in the early mornings, mostly recounting dreams. I have no memory of a lot of them, even when I read them in my own handwriting. But it’s still neat to know that my brain came up with Colin Powell trying to build a filing cabinet around me in the garage.

And this notebook had reminders that Louie’s last few months were hard, especially before we knew his death was imminent. The first page, August 29th, starts with

The dog doesn’t get off his bed now. He doesn’t come sleep on the bedroom floor to be with us. He’s here when I come out to the living room. Yesterday I got a wagging tail; today just a measuring look.

In his last few days, it was easy to be resigned and indulgent with taking him out all the time, and cleaning up after him. I forget that when the end was not quite in sight, it was much more adversarial:

There is this old dog, and he is trying to kill me. Or he is trying to get me to kill him, is what I would like to believe, because I want to. He is trying to kill me with guilt. He has watched our struggles with guilt all these years–it’s coming from inside the house!— as we do or don’t yell at him over puddles of pee on the floor. As we yank his leash, then hug him. He found it pretty funny, the whole thing, and now he is going to kill me by panting and stomping.

Jo Ann Beard wrote a beautiful essay with her old collie in it, and that is nothing like this, because I am sleep deprived, deprived of time without toenails clicking and dragging on the linoleum, time without panting amen.

And the next day:

The dog is whining from across the room. From seven to eight I ignore him. That is how we can live in peace. I don’t even know.

The notebooks will never be a representative sample of my emotional life, because I write more in some emotional ranges than others. They are a place to lie, too, and to alternate between bitter kvetching and making fantasy lists and schedules. But sometimes they remind me of some things. I save a few lines and then shove them in an overcrowded box in the basement, or recycle them. I no longer think anyone will want to pore over them in an academic library after I die. They do pile up.