Last night my older daughter messaged me a link via Facebook, recommending I check it out. This is coming from the daughter who is so similar to me that we sometimes finish each other’s sentences or say the same thing at the same time. So I figured there would be something there that I was interested in reading. It turned out to be on a topic near and dear to my heart — journaling. (You can take a quick side trip from my blog and read the whole thing here.)
Basically, I was high-fiving the world, myself, and all fellow journal-keepers as I read it. I am currently filling my 42nd journal, having written fairly consistently since I was about 9 or 10 years old. I don’t tell you my journal count to brag but merely to point out a running track record, sort of like a past employment history section on a job application. I am an avid, dyed-in-the-wool journaller. I have learned to take it seriously, in that I realize I need to do it; I have also learned to hold it very lightly, in that it isn’t the grand epic of the world that will one day be published and everyone should read kind of nonsense. It’s private and personal and worth nothing to anyone apart from myself. It’s what keeps me sane, keeps me functioning in my family role, and keeps me from having to actively remember everything about my life that I don’t want to forget. It also helps me forget the things I don’t want to remember.
For example, I may be having a crappy day, one of those where everything is harder than it should be, where I feel lonely and misunderstood and maybe even outright targeted, one where the annoyances stack up to the point of tears and not even liking myself or my life right now. I can sit down and spew it out in my journal, every nagging encounter, every word that was unfairly spoken (either to me or by me), every difficulty, and every minuscule second I had to wait for something when it took far longer than it should have. I can be as biased or as snarky or as caustic as I like. I can vent and rage and use harsh language and be unkind. Then when it’s out on the page, written in .05 very fine blue ink, I can assess how not true that perspective of my day really is. I can see, written there in plain, but very messy English, where I have taken offense where none was intended or where I share part of the blame or where my reaction was hardly balanced in regards to the original action that prompted it. It makes my day seem more manageable, contained in a handful of pages. It makes me see it was one day out of my life, a small part of the overall volume, and now that it is recorded and done, now that I’ve got all out there, I can move on. I can forget about it. Tomorrow’s a new day that I can focus on with all my heart and intensity because today is over and written down. It’s literally, on the books. If I want, I can even write a retake, giving myself the second chance to live that day over again in my mind, and this time, drafting how I wish it could have played out instead of how it actually did, making a defeat turn into a victory.
And the good days… oh, those are the entries where my pen flies with joy and exhilaration, where I smile while I write and know that I want to include every last detail, because someday, I will come back and read this entry and relive this day all over again in high fidelity color. I don’t want to forget any of it. I want to include nuance and the exact words and the color of the sky and who and what and where. When I finish with an entry like that, I exhale in satisfaction, knowing that this day, this great day, has been recorded, never to be lost.
Then there are the days that are neither good nor bad. Sort of the blah days or maybe the restless days, when I know I need to create or do something or get out of the house for a while. Or sit down and write about it. I open my journal and just start writing. Maybe I start with how I don’t know what to write or maybe I begin describing the unsettled boredom of the moment, but one thing leads to another and I’ve usually worked it and arrived at a place of peace by the time I’m finished.
Stephen King says, “Writing is a wonderful and terrible thing. It opens deep wells of memory that were previously capped.” I have found this to be true; in writing to forget and writing to remember, sometimes the words take me to a place I never intended when I sat down and started. Sometimes there is something inside that needs to come out that I was not even aware of when I took up my pen.
Julia Cameron recommends the “three pages a day” process and wrote a whole book about writing, aptly titled The Right to Write, where she claims that every single one of us has something to say and should feel that we are entitled to say it in writing. Since writing is my passion, I agree, but with some reservation.
That reservation comes from knowing people who don’t write. Period. It is not their thing. They gripe about having to even scrawl a signature or fill out paperwork. For them, I understand not wanting to journal; after all, I don’t want to invent some new way of computer coding or discover the way to inhabit Mars.
But, if you’re not a writer, I hope and pray you come to know an outlet of some kind to express your voice, whether it be music or painting or dance or woodshop or designing. Or discovering how to inhabit Mars, perhaps through complex computer coding.
For those writers out there, let’s do this! Like the linked article says, let’s do it for our health, for our sanity and peace of mind, and let’s do it for those around us. Lord knows after I’ve journaled, I am much more stable and clear-headed and can offer myself to my family in a better capacity than if I’m trying to hold all those thoughts together in my head.
And who knows, if I die before I can properly dispose of my stash of journals, my kids may read them and come to know a side of me they never saw before. Whoa, hold on a minute! What did that article say in point number 8 about privacy…
Okay, all joking aside, this is the bottom line for me. I hope my writing makes me more true to who I am. I hope it clarifies my own thoughts for myself so that after I’ve written, I know myself better than I did before and can live a more honest and genuine, authentic version of the mom, wife, daughter, friend I’m supposed to be. For me, that is the best reason of all to journal.