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Emails to my Therapist

My Tactic for Living a Hyper-Vivid Life

Nicholas, Writing these notes to you makes me see my life/self a little differently. The experience is a lot like keeping a journal in the three months I spent in Varanasi doing research for my novel Sister India. Then I was writing what I felt/thought/observed hour by hour, to have the tastes and smells of what it was like to live there. It was continuous note-taking. That’s when I discovered this way to live a more vivid life.


These emails I’m writing only about once a week; however, I’m paying attention more intently all the days in between. This can feel like embarrassing self-absorption and/or owning the lived time more fully and intensely than any other. That long-ago winter in India is mine in such vivid specifics that it seems like a bonus life. Of course, the place, so exotic to me, played a large part in that extra-vivid life.

From Varanasi notes:

*”moon comes up thin crescent   sky a little smoky  dusty pink coral    kids on the next balcony start calling come to my house   they’re nice kids, but they don’t let up   they want me to sing a song   I sing Happy Birthday  they say sing a Madonna song”

*”walking back I come up on trouble at the intersection…much milling about in a threatening ominous way   I ask a man standing up on a stoop next to stall  what’s going on   he says fighting    I keep moving  staying along the wall    police have barricaded the road…”

Typed my India journal notes here every night in my room. Central rack is for mosquito net.


I wish I’d kept a journal all my life. But I haven’t wanted to do still more writing at the end of a writing day.  I’d like to have such a record, though, as a resource and to have had the experience of paying closer attention. I’d like to have had all along the hyper-lived, vivid life feeling that my India journal gave me. And that these emails do.


Now I’m remembering one other time I kept a journal, when I was covering the NC legislature for UNC-TV in my mid-twenties. More than forty years ago. It was about the teeming world inside the legislative building, not about me. Not about the rise and fall of my first marriage during that time. Would include a sample, but surprise: I can’t find it!

North Carolina State Legislative Building

I remember you asking me years ago if I was writing down the events and turnings of my spiritual experiences and experiments. I was sure I didn’t need to. How could I possibly forget?  Should have written it down.


Still feeling the blowback from so many serious family illnesses.  Mostly my personal weather is fine, particularly when I’m fully concentrating on whatever I’m doing. Leisure hours, however are dappled with mild depression. And I have a huge hunger for sleep. Lots of naps and sleeping late. Just the recent shocks of mortality, I suppose.  I’m gradually getting over it.


I let the periods of depression run their course, rather than fighting them off with distractions. I’ve never been sure whether to push away depression as best I can or to go down without a fight and hope it rolls past faster. Hard question. What do you think? What do other people do?

Other people, what do you do about this?


The swift coming and going of these clouds reminds me of when Bob and I went to Paris on a long ago Christmas Day to celebrate my fiftieth birthday and our fifteenth anniversary. It was winter; the weather was gray and cold much of the time. One morning the TV forecast for the day was “intervals of brightness,” a wonderfully positive way to describe the situation.

Interval of brightness

I now report a few intervals of grayness. But no more than that.  Trying not to feel I should have shaken them off already.





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  • Kenju
    July 12, 2017 at 1:28 pm Reply

    “Intervals of brightness…” that is a wonderful phrase – so hopeful. I wish we had that weather peerson here.

    I also wish I had kept a journal; my memory is not, nor has it ever been very good. I’d write a memoir if I had notes to check on.

    • Peggy Payne
      July 12, 2017 at 1:39 pm Reply

      Write it anyway, Kenju. Once you start, memories and details will start coming back to you.

  • Sandy Joyce
    July 12, 2017 at 2:37 pm Reply

    I wrote some way back when in my twenties on how I felt and then many years later and have found it interesting to reflect on those thoughts. Of course now I wish I had chronicled more of my life to see the progression to where I am now. I too have depressive thoughts. For me it has a lot to do with connectivity and I guess mortality too. I feel less connected now and a part of that is having relocated 4 years ago. It is more difficult to form relationships if one is a creative and therefore a bit different. And it is harder as we age for time is precious and there is less left to waste. I have my husband but feel the need for more. I have my creative life in stained glass and that is rewarding though making connections for continued work has been difficult here too. I appreciate your perspective on letting the depressive times run their course though it is uncomfortable. Days in a row are good then out of the blue something is frustrating (usually other people related) and then I am offish again. Oh well, meditation and learning Qigong is helpful. Peace.

    • Peggy Payne
      July 12, 2017 at 2:43 pm Reply

      Maybe we all should be told early, Sandy, that keeping a journal is crucial, like flossing. Meditation is indeed a help. Haven’t tried Qigong, though I’m perennially trying to push myself back into yoga. I do wish you well with more connecting!

  • July 12, 2017 at 4:23 pm Reply

    I agree that keeping a journal is very helpful in leading a more present life. And, of course, invaluable in aiding memory. I’ve written a journal off and on in the past 10 years, first in the form of “morning pages” as suggested in Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way and then as daily notes to my grandchildren, which they haven’t seen but I hope to put into a book for them someday. The problem with writing a journal is that it’s time consuming, and I seem to have so little time these days. With depression, Peggy, be glad you crave sleep. The opposite, insomnia, which haunts me frequently, is worse I think.

    • Peggy Payne
      July 12, 2017 at 5:08 pm Reply

      Those morning pages are a wonderful practice, aren’t they, Sally. I now remember that I did do that for a while. Julia Cameron is a genius. I think you’re right about sleep vs. insomnia. I’ve tried some of both and I know which one I prefer. I hope you’re sleeping well these days!

  • Miller Sigmon
    July 12, 2017 at 9:19 pm Reply

    Good always….

    • Peggy Payne
      July 12, 2017 at 10:21 pm Reply

      Thanks, Miller!

  • george wingate
    July 13, 2017 at 1:02 am Reply

    The Socratic dialogue is powerful. Plato employed it to great effect in his depiction of Socrates. I have nibbled at the edges but not eaten a full Socratic meal Maybe I need to give myself permission. With the dialogue, the questioner and answerer are the same fine resource. Nice.

    Your writing, Peggy, is inspirational.

    • Peggy Payne
      July 13, 2017 at 2:08 am Reply

      Your thoughts are ever intriguing, George. And you’re the first to send me edits to a comment. I love that. The revision is always the most fun part.

  • July 15, 2017 at 12:57 am Reply

    I suppprt letting the feeling happen – lord knows you have plenty of reason to be processing life and death isues.

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