The ocean blue notebook is tattered and marred with scratches and stray ink marks on its cover. It started out as a surplus of school supplies for my son, tucked away and forgotten. Now, it holds the rocky story of my past year. A hard year spent in a bubble of depression. Inside this unassuming notebook’s shabby cover lies a hidden lifeline of language for a soul in need of solace and meaning. Blood, sweat, and tears in cursive.
The handwriting alone documents the highs and lows of that year. Some of the handwriting is beautiful and artistic with a hopeful flourish, while some is barely legible. The desperate scratchings of someone with tears streaming down her face, seeking shelter from the unexpected despair that gripped her. The ink smudged in random spots with tears now long-dried, but not forgotten.
Two of my favorite memories of childhood are sitting on my daddy’s lap while he read me a favorite book and spending lazy summer afternoons in the old two-story wooden house that was converted into our city library. An inviting place that enveloped me with its signature scent of aging paper and dusty ink. Curling up with the latest Nancy Drew book in the sunny spot by the bay window, I was transported to another world while my mom searched for her own books in the next room.
As it does for many young girls, my love of words extended into keeping a diary. A birthday gift, it was white with gold-foiled edged pages and had “My Diary” stamped on the cover in gold. The tiny lock and key it came with delighted me. I felt grown-up and important.
As life got busier, I no longer took the time to write in a diary. Yet, intuitively, I found my way back to writing as an adult during my onset of depression. At first, orderly words marched in obedient lockstep along the rigid, black lines. Somber and searching, the words purged out of desperation, no joy found there. Only a release as my hand moved across the page. The gliding of the pen on the page slowed my heartbeat and steadied my breath. As the weeks flowed by, measured in ink, my mood began to lighten. My words grew bold and playful, daring to stray outside the lines in the occasional arch floating above the margin in a rainbow of plans and dreams.
Today, my beloved notebook is swollen with printed confessions, great and small. It is a silent witness to a soul searching for and finding better days. A path laid down, thought by thought, out of the darkness into the light. Grief and joy balanced in the palm of my hand. That notebook, an old friend that reminds me that things can and do get better even when it feels the darkest.