She read that a good writer keeps a journal, one that is honest and raw and says all the horrible things that can’t be said in polite company—scratch that, in any company. For a writer to produce something worth her time and worth her readers’ time, she must have the guts to go for broke at least with herself, to drop to her knees, hemorrhage on the keyboard, and leave her heart sitting there, pulsing and glistening.

Ok, that’s just gross imagery. She can do better than that. But, it’s her journal: She can say anything here.

A journal is where secrets are told, and her secrets are secret-secret, mysteries even to her. To bring them to the surface means writing about the things she wishes she had but won’t do anything to get. Because, she has everything necessary. She wants to feel grateful for that. Well, she does feel grateful, the attitude is real and alive in her. She knows things could be worse, or could get worse. So – she feels compelled toward gratitude.

She’s afraid to not feel thankful and to make sure everyone knows she does. It’s as though her wanting something more or different is like shaking a belligerent fist at the heavens and daring God to deliver something catastrophic, something that will make her look back and think, “I had everything and I should have appreciated it.”

God doesn’t really work like that, she knows. That’s not his jacket. God is benevolent and wants her to be happy (but, she wonders, what about a starving child in some war-torn country, or that kid with his face covered in dirt in Syria, shell-shocked and lost? Doesn’t God want him to be happy?) and she knows that being glad for the things she has isn’t some fool-proof protection against future pain.

So, she works on being grateful.

That established, her gratitude firmly planted, she gets down to writing her journal, exhuming the bones of her life. Pen in hand, she pauses. What to write? Something about passion, surely. Only, modern life does not really include permission for the depth of feeling that the great romantics of past eras (for all their oppression) allowed themselves. There is the notion that those in contemporary America who examine their own sentimentality, at all costs–consequences be damned–are altogether of questionable intelligence, or somehow strange, or terribly naïve. Who are they to trade their comfortable, be-thankful-for-them spots for magic?

“Dear Diary,
The arts and, thus, all humanity suffer because great personal pain of an emotional nature is devalued in the modern age. The focus on superheros, Wonder Women, flying men, and on tales set in fantastical faraway worlds and imaginary post-apocalyptic lands seems to imply that great stories do not belong to Ordinary Time.”

She rolls her eyes. That’s some great philosophical drivel right there, she thinks. But what about the bones of her own malaise? What about her own itching for change, her own discontent? (Unbidden, the chant begins: “Be grateful!” roars in her heart, her head. “No questioning! No complaining!”)

Dear Diary: That mantra is falling apart.