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  • I write in journals, as I have since age 13. Journal writing has always been a way for me to make sense of the world around me, as well as the world inside of me. When I first started my journey through the wonderful world of journal writing, I was as lonely as lonely could be. I had friends, but they weren’t really friends. I was their favorite scapegoat, and they liked me around as someone they could punish and torture, physically, mentally, and emotionally — they were very good at all three, and I was a good victim.

    I was hopelessly committed to nonviolence already, thanks to an older sister who had planted that seed right when I was supposed to be fighting the school bully, so I would never lash back at these guys. I would just take it, always hoping they would grow out of their immature need to bully me around . They never did. Thanks to my journal, I grew out of my need to be around them, as I developed a deep and abiding friendship with the most important person in my life — me!

    That first journal helped me to journey out of a world dominated by fear, pain, and unanswered hopes, into a world of adventure, new friends, adult responsibilities, and partying. I lost that journal, along with a number of others, to a basement flood when I was living in my friend Billy’s basement, many years later. They were all under the bed, along with ten years worth of writing, all destroyed by a flood after a heavy rainfall. Two journals were salvaged, since they had been on the top of my dresser during the flood, and they remain my oldest journals. Important connections to who I was, then.

    I was just reading the oldest one this morning — it started 35 years ago last month. The first entry, written on July 14th, 1979, read as follows — “The purpose of this book is to be a place where I can express my thoughts and feelings about my daily life... Hopefully it will help me out in dealing with myself and the world in which I live, and maybe even help me to grow a little. I love to write and I believe that keeping a journal can be a good way to improve my writing as well as to see how I change and grow as time goes by.”
  • It has been that, and much more. The timing of this particular journal was important. The third entry in it describes the death of my best friend, the weekend before (35 years ago this coming Monday). He died of complications from Hodgkins Disease, after he’d contracted pneumonia. We were both 24 at the time. I wrote about his death in my journal. What I didn’t write about, as I didn’t know how to write about it then, was my own out-of-body experience several days before he died, and how he had brought me back from being out there. I had ingested too much cocaine, and found myself on the ceiling looking down at my passed out body on the floor. I would have been fine with staying up there indefinitely — being out of my body felt a hell of a lot better than being in it felt, in those days. I felt a real freedom out there, and a calmness like I’d never known.

    This would prove to be the beginning of an epic journey, a journey towards being a whole person. Out there, I felt whole for the first time. My friend brought me back in to my body — it was his personal strength that brought me back. I could feel it, and he and I met out there, and the next thing I knew, I was back in my body. Five days later, he was gone, having succumbed to pneumonia, while fighting his disease.

    It’s been 35 years since that all happened. If my life were a book, it would be divided into two major parts. There’s the first part, where I was mostly confused and struggling to find something to make sense of it all. Then there’s the second part, where I had a strong sense of what I was looking for, and tried a number of avenues for getting there, before I finally did, and have spent the rest of my time learning to live most effectively from that place.

    I trace the beginning of this second part of my life’s journey to that out of body experience, followed by my friend dying five days later. I was given a tremendous gift in that experience, and a sense of duty. The gift was the taste of being whole, that I felt while out there. Once back, I found myself looking for how to get back to that sense of wholeness. I’d not known that feeling before that experience, but once I’d had it, I would seek it until I found it again.

    The sense of duty involved a strong desire to carry on what my friend Reed was about. He was the strongest, most giving, and most genuine person that I knew. His strength was a quiet strength, and he gave without any fanfare. It was just how he lived his life. People took him seriously because of his genuineness. I felt like he brought me back to carry on what he would be leaving behind.

    So from that point on, I sought to be a stronger individual, to be more genuine, and to learn how to be about giving to others, as opposed to taking for myself. It took quite awhile for me to find these things — it’s been quite the journey of discovery, with many deadends and detours, but ever moving forward.

    It was cool coming across that journal, which reminded me of it all. It documented the beginning of this journey that I am still on, 35 years later.

    (The Book of Poems pictured actually began as a journal, the one mentioned above. I later used the book to write all of my poems from 1972 to 1980 in, which saved them from the mentioned flood, as well).
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