Discovering your own symbol system and identifying your ruling anxieties makes you less apt to describe yourself when you think you’re describing others, less prone to confuse your own idiosyncrasies with a worldview. It also frees up your mental energies for more interesting tasks. Once you get rid of the first layer of chatter in your head, you concentrate better and on deeper issues. [...] It was as a student of my own craziness rather than texts or songs or paintings that I saw how to create pattern amid fragmentation.
I’ve been rereading old journals. If you have old journals (or old blog entries!) yourself, you probably know that rereading them can be an excellent way to identify recurring behavior patterns. I often react by getting frustrated: Oh come on, Self. How many times do you have to LEARN before it sinks in? Seriously, AGAIN you’re shocked to discover that exercise and healthy eating makes you feel better? AGAIN you’re flailing at the beginning stages of a book? AGAIN you’re worrying about [lengthy laundry list of the things I've beat myself up about for approximately ever]?
This time, I’ve decided to be inspired, instead. Hey, Self, you’ve written three books (okay, technically, two novels + a graphic novel script) and a good number of short stories; this strongly suggests that you’ll be able to make it through the flailing and write the fourth! Hey, Self, in the past you’ve managed for several sustained periods of time to exercise frequently and eat healthily; I bet you can do it again!
Admittedly, the Lengthy Laundry List of Worries (is there an L-word that means worry?) is harder to fight. But the experience of seeing the list recapitulated in journal after journal reminds me of a passage from Ann Marlowe’s brilliant How to Stop Time: Heroin From A to Z. (Thanks be to Google; though the passage was firmly lodged in my head I’d forgotten the title and the author, but the search “cerebral memoir about heroin by a woman” brought it right up as the top result.) Marlowe writes:
I think we’re always trying to defrag the jumbled hard drives of our lives. So it’s useful to experience pattern recognition.