The Venomous Notebook

A couple of weeks ago, an anniversary passed without my noticing it. I just happened to think about it today, since I was rummaging around for a hair elastic that would hold my very thin hair. You’ve heard of “junk” drawers, right? Every drawer in my nightstand happens to be a junk drawer. It’s handy, because I don’t like to appear cluttered, so everything is swept into a drawer. Having a junk drawer leaves the illusion of tidiness glowing for the rest of the room.

I pushed past old, expired credit cards, barrettes, scissors and receipts. I weeded through the single buttons, the small envelopes of beads and thread that come attached to new sweaters and dresses, things I save but never seem to need. I noticed the scraps of old candles along with brand new ones still wrapped in protective plastic. There are books that I start to read and never finish because my dear Mr. Demonic doesn’t like it when I read while he’s trying to sleep. There are old eyeglasses, jewelry and samples that came in the mail. There’s my ever-present dental floss and dead pens and broken pencils. There are origami-folded dollar bills that obviously survived my washing machine and the tiny bottles of shampoo and lotion that I lift from hotel rooms. And, as luck would have it, there is my Venomous Notebook.

The Junk Drawer

Ten years ago, April 22, I was hurt very badly. I’d been betrayed in the past, but had never reacted in the way I did a decade ago. People often refer to me as being a “strong” woman, and usually I rise to the occasion. I couldn’t for this. It only took a few minutes of time, but in those few hundred seconds, I was totally destroyed. In the ensuing years, I’ve tried to figure out what it was about the moment that managed to collapse my entire being so thoroughly. I have determined that it was a combination of living a life that bordered on fanciful and false, and then finding out in a heartbeat that there was a dark side I knew in the back of my mind was present but couldn’t acknowledge its existence out loud before then. The truth was a hard pill to swallow.

After a month of constant tears, lack of sleep and food, of feeling desperation, low self-worth and general crappiness, my depression morphed into a rage so deep and boundless that it scared me. I’ve alluded to my current friends that during this time, my behavior was less than stellar. In fact, some of it was probably prosecutable in a court of law. I’m not happy about the way I acted, but feel that most of it was a reaction to my situation. If you poke a bear with a stick, she’s going to try to bite you back.

It was a while before I found a therapist to help me, and she was very helpful, indeed. She told me when I felt like doing something that could land me in jail, I should instead write down what I felt. This I should do without concern as to how it sounded. This was a journal into my deepest, darkest hour.

I hadn’t written anything in years, not letters, prose or poetry. My life was too busy to put pen to paper, but maybe that was where the entire crux of the problem lay.

So, with that, I went to a local stationery store and purchased the most beautiful notebook I could find. It was covered in a paisley flowered design. It was small, bound with spiral rings, and was lined for easy writing. I carried the notebook in my purse; it was my constant companion and my best friend. Every time I felt that I was going to hurt someone or say something or do something not in my best interest, I would take out the notebook and scribble down all of my most evil thoughts and wishes. I told my notebook things I could not tell my friends or family, even things I could not tell my therapist.

It took a long, long time before I could forget that April 22 anniversary. Every year as it approached, I would become listless and nervous. I’d get grouchy and mean as a result of remembering. But, what they say is true. Things improve with time. About three years ago, I would remember the day about a week later. The unpleasant memories were fading. Life was marching on. I had other things to worry about. And today, it’s May 6, and I just remembered the anniversary, but only because I ran across the Venomous Notebook while looking for a hair tie.

Writing in the Venomous Notebook only lasted for a few months. I never finished filling the book from front to back with the poison I was emitting. It appears that I didn’t have enough spite for all the pages I was provided.

Just now, I opened up the notebook and read. It was shocking to me, to see my words of hate and loathing. It’s not how I like to think of myself. It is definitely not a time and era that I wish to remember, but it’s a part of me nonetheless.

I could throw it away; I know it has outlasted its usefulness. But then I think, maybe I need those caustic words to remind me of where I am now.

18 Responses

  1. Not only am I startled to hear someone as tough as you admit to being badly hurt, I’m impressed by how lovely your handwriting is. My grocery and book lists are neat; my journals look like they were written under the influence of painkillers, right before bed, and they usually were.

    I’m always a little mortified to page through old journals and read sections that prove how badly I can lose it sometimes. I’ll be all matter-of-fact and introspective, and then all of a sudden it’s like Eve Dark comes roaring out of the Batcave with an axe.

  2. I think the Venomous Notebook is a fantastic idea! I’ll have to remember it, next time. I know there will be one.

    I wouldn’t throw it out. Just think, you can use it in a novel or a story or something. You can look through it and find a fitting piece of venom and insert it in your writing!

  3. Tigereye, my handwriting, which used to be quite calligraphic in my youth, has suffered since then. Thank God for the computer! And spellcheck!

    Corina, I am using the notebook to recall my despair for the novel I am writing now. My character goes through a dark time such as the one I experienced.

  4. I wish someone had had the sense to suggest A Venomous Notebook to me when I needed one. I think you’re wise to keep it … it’s harder to appreciate where we are, when time blurs the memory of where we’ve been.

  5. Journaling is very therapudic, isn’t it? Did I spell that right?

    We all go through times when we do things we’re not proud of. Self-awareness is a good thing though.

  6. Writing about it sure beats strangling someone who deserves it.

    Dr. B

  7. I don’t know about that, Dr. B. I think I would have gotten momentary satisfaction for strangling the person(s) I had in mind.

  8. Oh I am sure they deserved to be strangled, but then you woulda gotten in trouble, and all of us would have lost a good pen pal. (I am not sure, but they might not let folks blog from prison.)

    Dr. B

  9. I have used the same technique at times when my anxiety level was out of control…write it all down, and somehow putting it on paper took it out of my head a little at a time. I still have some old notebooks as well, and find them from time to time…and actually still add to them on occasion. I wonder if some day my great- grandchildren will find them after I’m long gone and wonder just what a strange woman I was!

  10. I have one of those! It’s saved the lives of his exes a time or two.

  11. I wish I could commit these thoughts to paper instead of letting them escape my mouth.

    Ah, fuck it. I’m really bad with losing notebooks, anyway.

  12. I’m with David – I wish someone had recommended a Venomous Notebook to me around about the time of 12th May 2002 and for about a year afterwards. No, make that 2 years. 2 and a half really.

    I think venting it all on the page could have saved me a great deal of time, tears and self-loathing.

    Don’t throw it away, if nothing else it reminds you who you’re not, which is a precious thing.

  13. I’m with everyone else, don’t throw it away. The other beautiful thing about writing through a hard patch is you can put it in some sort of order, afterward, and make what happens be what you want to happen–which is what you are doing in your novel, I guess. 🙂

  14. Yes, but still… I wonder what my kids would say if after I die they find it and start reading…

  15. They would know that you were strong enough to come through it, and how you did it.
    Information like that can come in handy, in todays world.

  16. Yes, exactly, just think how valuable it was to you to learn about the uses of a Venomous Notebook – maybe your kids will need one too someday, let’s hope not of course, but you never know and it must be better for them to have a coping strategy 🙂

  17. Somewhere there is a buried trunk filled with venemous notebooks. Someone will dig it up, open the lid, thinking they have discovered a valuable buried treasure, and then expire, as if pierced by the fangs of poisonous serpents.

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