The Joy of Journaling

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For decades, I’ve written a journal. Sometimes I was unfaithful. But when I returned, which I always did, the question scratched at me, “Why were you gone so long?” It was so sweet to be back.  After a number of such wandering absences, I came to realize that my journal was also my best friend.

I forget exactly when I first identified what I called “Journal Reality,” the pleasurable and disturbing sensation that nothing significant was real, and certainly not complete, until I had written about it in my journal. A conversation would churn around in my head and keep me awake at night — until I wrote about it in my journal.  Same when there was something I had said or done that in retrospect, I saw as dumb. Or an opportunity missed. Or something that I later realized I had misunderstood. Or – these are the best – the recognition of a moment when it all came together, and I showed up exactly as I wished to be.  I couldn’t let go of any of these — until I wrote in my journal.

I didn’t tell anyone about my attachment to journal writing, and I never showed my journal to anyone. She was my secret lover. I thought about her during the day, and counted the hours until we could be alone together. I didn’t understand why I needed to pursue this odd attraction, but I knew I needed it, and pursue it I did. Years later, a little wiser and a lot older, I realize why this early mistress was so important.

I was trying to answer the oldest question on earth, “Who am I?” I was embarrassed that I didn’t know the answer. I’m over the embarrassment now.  I recognize that what I did know is that I didn’t know, and  I knew enough to pursue the question. I was writing my story to discover who I was. Or as Joan Didion put it, I write … to find out what I’m thinking, what I’m looking at, what I see and what it means. What I want and what I fear.”

My journal and I these days? Well, we’re such old friends we finish each other’s jokes. We meet for tea and crumpets, more like a meditation than the desperate probing of the early years.   No longer the urgency, or the desperation. When we sit  together, we know we can trust one another. Still sweet.

It’s good to have a friend.

How about you? If you’ve tried journaling, perhaps you know. Or perhaps there’s a friend out there there waiting to meet you. The journal is one of the major forms of what I call “Mindful Writing.” There’s a world out there to explore. So many possible friends.

2 Responses to The Joy of Journaling

  • I have over 10 years of monthly journals and I saved most of them. For reasons that worry me, I have not had been writing or using a journal for many months. It does make me wonder if I have abandoned my writing altogether.

    • Hi Phyllis – The fact that you’re reading this blog and responding shows that you have an interest in the writing. Journaling, like so much in life, like the waves, comes and goes. So, you’re human like the rest of us. Congratulations. I urge you just to listen to your heart. See what it wants. Be gentle with yourself. If you’re interested in a little exercise, get a notebook (or computer or whatever), pick a ten minute block of time that would work most easily for you, and write stream of consciousness, your feelings about journaling. No right or wrong. Write how much you hate it, how much you long for it, why you’re confused about it, what you miss, why you’re glad not to be bothered about it … whatever. Just write. Let it out. Enjoy.

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