Thursday, May 14, 2009

Journaling (for Button)

This post is an answer to a request I had from my buddy Button. We were in grad school together and one of these days we'll actually complete one of the many visits we plan! :PI think journaling is one of those practices that a lot of people think they should be doing, and a slightly smaller number of people actually want to do it. A fraction of those folks buy journals and actually start a practice, with most of us falling off here and there, until updating the darned thing is such a hassle (because of the amount of time that's gone by and that we feel a responsibility to address), that we just quit.

note: there are always those of us who blog, but blogging is not the same as journaling. For some, it is about the same and all of their thoughts are put in the blog. But for me, and for a lot of bloggers I suspect, the thoughts that we blog are still a bit edited. I know that in my case, I wouldn't always be comfortable putting my deepest emotions, fears, and loves and all of the sappiness and crudeness that accompanies that into the cyber-universe for anyone to be privy to...

So anyway, back to journaling. It's just a healthy and interesting thing to do. How cool would it be to have your mother's or grandmother's old journal that she wrote when she was your age and going through the same things that you are now, and being able to see into her in a way that you couldn't only through her memories, especially considering the unintentional edits that I'm sure that most women make when they're talking to their family members, even the most loved and trusted ones?

Add to that the awesomeness of being able to go back and read your own journals - I've journaled pretty steadily since the beginning of high school, and once every couple of years (usually when I'm either moving or spring cleaning, and therefore procrastinating) I come across my old journal stash and am thrilled to read them and remember details that I never would have any other way. For instance, who knew that I was such a ridiculous and self-centered teenager? Not, I, at the time! But I sure do now! And it makes me laugh (and slightly embarrassed, and very much humbled), and more compassionate towards others...

So there you go - those are the virtues of journaling, but the big question is,
how do you actually do it?
Well that depends on the kind of journal that you want to keep. Do you want it to be an account of everything you did, to remember later? Do you want it to be relationship-oriented, or mostly full of your deepest and most private emotions, or just opinions you have that you don't share with anybody?
As for me, I currently have four journals going:
  1. A dream journal (which I'm the worst about keeping up with),
  2. A meditation journal (which I update just about every day, because "med, write" is right there in my daily planner with a whole half hour devoted to it alone),
  3. A goal/wish journal (with the thought that, down the road, I can see how many of them I accomplished/made come true), and
  4. A regular, "stuff that happened and how I feel about it" journal, which I update a few times a week, if I'm lucky.
I also type up two journalish pages a day based on a specific topic (right now it's "Co-Creating Healing Relationships") and send off to my mentor, to keep my typing fingers nimble.

For me, there are two main things to remember when journaling.
The first, and the one that applies to my journal #4, is that, no one, including me, wants to only read a list of what I did each day. It's boring. And honestly, who cares. Just recording stuff doesn't interest me at all. So I made a resolution to never just gloss over things, but to only write how I felt about things that had happened, or how I felt in general. This changes it up a bit. It's as if, at the end of the day, and especially if I'm tense or stressed, or even really happy, I drain out all of the overflowing emotion onto the pages of my journal, and my internal thoughts and feelings end up neatly straightened and easy for me to navigate after I'm finished. I start off a jumbled and tangled mess sometimes. (which is of course when it's most beneficial to be writing!)
The second issue, and the one that applies to all of my journals and whether or not I'm writing in them, is time. I am a busy person, like most of you are who are reading this, I'm sure. For instance, my dream journal is still mostly empty because each morning, when it's really the best time to record dreams, I hit the ground running and don't have the time to write if I want to get to work when I should. I could, of course, set my alarm clock for a half-hour earlier, but I usually get to bed later than I intended because of the sheer amount of stuff that I have to do each day and want to have every morning minute of sleep that I can get. Besides, what if I didn't have a dream that I remembered that night? I just woke myself up earlier for nothin.
So in my case, the solution here is to schedule it in. I sometimes have a rough go at falling asleep, and one of my classmates once told me to imagine that I'm just drawing a curtain across all of the things that need to be thought about during the bustling day, and see them as "put away" for the night. When I remember to do that, it works like a charm. And it's usually done as I'm changing for bed, taking off my makeup, laying out clothes for tomorrow, that sort of thing. So, if you force yourself to start your bedtime routine about a half hour earlier than usual (I've found a half hour to be the sweet spot for journaling), and imagine pulling the curtain as you go through that routine, while also imagining yourself letting all of your important and intense feelings, impressions, and thoughts float to the top of your mind, like cream separating, then when you sit down to write, you'll be ready to go.

Last but not least, and this is important, don't edit yourself. Don't think about whether what you're writing is good enough, or interesting enough, or whatever. Just let the thoughts flow down onto your paper. And for that matter, the deeper you go into how you're feeling, the better the journal will be, I promise you.

So, those are my 2 cents. Happy journaling! And feel free to ask any questions/make any comments that you want on this, I'm always up for some new knowledge drops! :)

1 comment:

Stephay said...

I think I'm one one of those "I really need to do that" folks who never really starts. Your point though, about writing stuff down so your kids and grandkids can read it later really touched me, because I know I would love to have my mom's writings from when she was my age, but I don't think she journaled either. So one again, I'm going to start one so you guys have it in later years.
Nice photo, by the way.