Saturday, September 25, 2010

the diary of anaïs nin

It was with high hopes that I ordered The Diary of Anaïs Nin Volume 1 (1931-1934) online, and it arrived at my house via airmail just a couple of days ago. I know this may sound soppy and/or presumptuous but, after reading just one chapter, I already know that we are kindred spirits. (Although she is clearly much more eloquent and insightful; she is a literary genius, after all.)

When I look at the large green iron gate from my window it takes on the air of a prison gate. An unjust feeling, since I know I can leave the place whenever I want to, and since I know that human beings place upon an object, or a person, this responsibility of being the obstacle when the obstacle lies always within one's self.

In spite of this knowledge I always stand at the window staring at the large closed iron gate, as if hoping to obtain from the contemplation a reflection of my inner obstacles to a full, open life.

* * *

You live like this, sheltered, in a delicate world, and you believe that you are living. Then you read a book (Lady Chatterly, for instance), or you take a trip... and you discover that you are not living, that you are hibernating. The symptoms of hibernating are easily detectable: first, restlessness. The second symptom (when hibernating becomes dangerous and might degenerate into death): absence of pleasure. That is all. It appears like an innocuous illness. Monotony, boredom, death. Millions live like this (or die like this) without knowing it. They work in offices. They drive a car. They picnic with their families. They raise children. And then some shock treatment takes place, a person, a book, a song, and it awakens them and saves them from death.

Some never awaken. They are like the people who go to sleep in the snow and never awaken. But I am not in danger because my home, my garden, my beautiful life do not lull me. I am aware of being in a beautiful prison, from which I can only escape by writing.

I think every one of us has experienced the "shock treatment" Anaïs writes of. It is that spark of inspiration we feel when we come across someone or something that simply speaks to our heart. You know, that "ah ha" moment that gives us the impression that we are sharing our lives with others; that we are not the "only one". Sometimes that glimmering revelation reflects our deepest, darkest fears. Other times we are presented with what our lives are missing. Perhaps we may be reminded of the past; a forgotten moment, feeling or hope. These epiphanies shake us to our core, waking us up from the routine of our everyday lives and prompting us to reassess. It may be that we have meandered from our course; it could be that an unrealised dream lies laden within us; we may have lost our spirit; or, alternatively, we are on the right path, but harbour unfounded self-doubts. Whatever it is that we discover, we have been granted the opportunity to resume our lives with a newfound consciousness, afresh.

I am constantly trying to inspire myself; I admit that I have become quite addicted to these "shock treatments". I use this blog to share them with others, though I think it is inevitable that not everybody will relate to everything I post. You know when you read or see or meet somebody or something so profound that you feel compelled to show others, and they just don't respond the same way? I feel as though writing a blog is like that. I really hope that you can see where I am coming from; but if you can't, that is okay. It's not my fault, nor yours. We are just not in the same place, at least not at this moment in time.

You may have already noticed, but just so you know, things that have moved me include Eat Pray Love by Elizabeth Gilbert, Sarah Wilson's blog, Haruki Murakami quotes, (500) Days of Summer, every Missy Higgins song, Benjamin Law's pieces in frankie magazine, Elizabethtown (the fifth time I watched it), Alain de Botton's twitter feed, Barack Obama's speech at the 2008 Democratic National Convention, Begin by Ben Lee, Josh Thomas' comedy shows, Maya Angelou, the Harry Potter series, My So-Called Life, Joshua Radin's music (especially Today, Closer and Winter), Lost in Translation and the Japanese word setsunai, which is "a feeling of sadness and loneliness so powerful that it feels as if your chest is constricted, as if you can't breathe; a sadness that is physical and tangible" (via Leigh Sales' The Beauty of Foreign Words).

"We’re so caught up in our everyday lives that events of the past, like ancient stars that have burned out, are no longer in orbit around our minds. There are just too many things we have to think about every day, too many new things we have to learn. New styles, new information, new technology, new terminology … But still, no matter how much time passes, no matter what takes place in the interim, there are some things we can never assign to oblivion, memories we can never rub away. They remain with us forever, like a touchstone."
— Haruki Murakami (Kafka on the Shore)

(Picture via The Vault of Beauty)


Sophie Clark said...

Anais Nin changed my perception on writing when I read her 'diary of a young wife' and her short story collections.She's so wildly underrated, I think.

Jadegrrrl said...

I adore Anais Nin, read several of her books and felt the same way - kindred. A Spy in the House of Love is one of my favourites :)

Laura Valerie said...

Thank you both so much for the suggestions, I will definitely pick those up next! She is brilliant.

natalieW said...

Hi Laura hv you seen the movie 'Last stop for Paul'? That movie is my lifechanging movie. The movie is funny tho, its a feel good movie, its light but its so deep. You will like it !

Hv you ever seen Randy Pausch in Oprah? That moment changed my life too x

livefashionately said...

i feel like my entire life is just a continual search for that 'awake' feeling. not surprisingly though, it is often your blog that invokes them! sometimes it feels like i'm on a train that is rushing ahead, and on either side is just intense green forrest, just a heady rush of trees in all directions, then suddenly you look out the window and it is wide open green pastures all the way to the horizon, but it only lasts a short moment of sudden clarity where you can practically see where you are going, or feel as you are in the right direction. then it seems to fade away slowly until you're surrounded by the dark forrest again.

ha ha ha, i love your list; i am inspired by a lot of the same things, which is why i love when you post somethinbg new, because i hunt it down and it is often that i love it. elizabethtown is so underrated as an incredible story of discovery and realization! i never would have found the soft life-joy of sarah wilson, the incredibly resonant prose of haruki murakami, or the perfection of joshua radin's Winter without you! i'm so completely indebted to you now, it's hilarious.

i hope you have a long and happy relationship with your blog, because i absolutely love it! your style is so easy to read and the content invokes such rapture. =P i hope i don't sound sycophantic, i just think it's about time i told you! =)

Anonymous said...

Great post! I think it's so important to keep waking yourself up and never being satisfied with simply existing or 'hibernating'. There are so many people that live without realising all the beauty and inspiration around us. Your blog always speaks to me - thank you.
PS: I adore Elizabethtown and cry every time I watch it (4 so far). :)

Laura Valerie said...

Hi Natalie, I have not seen that movie nor Randy Pausch, thank you so much for the suggestions, I will definitely look them up!

THANK YOU LF, I think that is the loveliest thing anybody has ever said about my blog! I love your analogy about the train and the forest and the trees, it is beautiful and I can so relate.

DDI, thank you for your comment, I loved your latest blog post! Yes Elizabethtown is beautiful, I just love it. I do think that it would have been infinitely better with Joseph Gordon Levitt in Orlando's role, but I am biased.

Anonymous said...

I love Anais!

Loveve said...

I am obsessed with Anais. Her words resonate with what's deep down my soul.. and heart..
My whole art portfolio is inspired by her. I guess she has a lot of soulmates