As the Blogging from A-Z Challenge continues and today, which should have been a simple Saturday, has now become J is for Journal, my tune is starting to switch from Edith Piaf’s “Je ne Regrette Rien” to: “Why Why Why Delilah?”
When I first took on the challenge, I almost thought it would be too simple. However, even though I already post most days, I’m usually writing about the day’s events or something which has fired me up, rather than conforming to any kind of set format. So far, I been needing to do quite a lot of research to complete the daily post and by the time I’ve uploaded the photos, the day and even the night are gone. At the same time, however, I can feel myself being stretched and challenged and participating has really helped me take things up a notch. Growth usually comes at a price, after all. I’ve also discovered some fabulous new blogs… a fabulous kaleidoscope of people and tales.
Another complication for me, of course, has been that the kids are currently on school holidays and we’ve gone away to an absolute slice of paradise at Sydney’s Palm Beach and I have no intention of spending the whole time with my head stuck in my laptop. I’ve been out kayaking the my daughter while my husband and son were out sailing today and I also had an impromtu paddle to rescue our dog Lady yet again after my daughter noted she’d left our backyard and was heading for her favourate rabbit hunting ground. Later in the day, we went for a drive to Whale Beach. It was a bit late for good photography. However, we all enjoyed clambouring over huge slabs of sandstone which have fallen from the cliffs throughout time and feasting on the dusky pinks of the fast-fading light.It was so timeless and serene, that we almost drifted in suspended animation. That is, until Mister who had been showing off his rock climbing skills one minute, was now well and truly stuck!! As they say, pride goes before a fall and he was along way up and the ground was naturally, a long way down.
I’ve divided this post into two parts:
1) Why journal?
2) Journaling: Dear Anne.
When I was 11 years old, I started writing my first journal or “diary” as it was known back then. My teacher was a committed and passionate diarist and he just encouraged us to use a student diary, which allowed about a paragraph’s worth every day. The aim seemed to be establishing that routine, the consistency rather than writing pages and pages and not being able to keep it up. While hardly the Diary of Anne Frank, this diary does talk about the arrival of our first dog, Lassie and so I really treasure it. Having something like that from your childhood is so very, very special. At least, it is to me.
As much as I rave on about the virtues of keeping a journal and a regular one at that, I must confess that my commitment has waxed and waned and over the years, Consequently, my diaries read more like a series of stepping stones than a smoothly flowing stream. Indeed, quite often, it’s been quite such long leap in between entries, that I’d make it into the long jump finals. This is hardly surprising because I struggle to even comprehend consistency, let alone maintain some kind of routine day after day after day. That said, my blog shows that I’m somehow capable. It’s just that I’m inconsistently consistent. Or, perhaps Aldous Huxley got it right:
“Consistency is contrary to nature, contrary to life. The only completely consistent people are dead”.
If you are interested in the benefits of keeping a journal, or the “why”, I recommend you read here: http://www.easyjournaling.com/2011/07/101-reasons-to-write-a-journal/
Probably the main reason I keep a journal is to document not only what has happened but also how I feel about it as a form of historic record. Having started writing diaries from such a young age, I have long appreciated being able to read about the past and pick out the bits which resonate in the here and now and have been able to identify certain threads or themes, which weave throughout my life journey. Following these threads over time and reading about my personal ups and downs and revisiting the details, has really helped me gain a better grip on who I am, where I’ve been and my place in the bigger picture. I have also been intrigued that even though so much has changed both around me and within, that there is still this sense of self…me…something solid and concrete which I could stick a flag in a claim as my own. This is quite a breakthrough for someone who has been through brain surgery and even had that self revamped and even further challenges came which I became a parent and also developed the muscle disease. A sense of self isn’t something I take for granted and it has been a long battle where journalling has really helped both in terms of providing feedback on my progress but also consoling me along the way.
Another famous diary.
So, writing my journal has also been cathartic. Being quite emotionally intense, I need to get those emotions out. If for whatever reason, I can’t express that angst, then it travels inward, a bit like poison and threatens serious consequences. After all, we all know stress does nasty things to our health. Journalling is very good. It helps to vent and let out a hell of a lot of steam!!
Journalling was particularly helpful as an angst-ridden teen when shattered romance and rejection inevitably resulted in very intense emotions and my diary and my dog bore the brunt of these. As I’m sure most of us have been there, these are the sort of emotions you can’t really put into words in a verbal way and given that friends can blab or run off with your latest love interest or “prospect”, there’s good cause for keeping a journal and sticking to your own counsel.
Since having children, my journaling has taken on another function, particularly given my precarious medical situation. A parent is something of a human super-computer watching, analyzing and storing millions and millions of snippets about their kids. Kids just love it when people reflect back on their journey, their story and all their little battles from the cut finger and surgery out at Westmead Children’s Hospital to the stitch at Little Athletics when Mister came last by a country mile and when he sang Imagine with his class in the school musical. I store all their medical histories and bits and pieces about their milestones in my head as well as in their precious “Blue Books” where everything is recorded for posterity.
When a child loses a parent, they also lose this ready-reckoner and such a swag of memories that they literally lose a huge chunk of themselves. To combat this, I have written my own journals expecting my husband and kids to read them and need them. I have also tried to record what the kids have done and their funny little comments etc in journals that are their own. I did this much more when they were younger and and also at times when my health has reached a crisis point. It has slackened off of late as I’ve been well, busy blogging and I’ve also been wanting to hand the batton over and get the kids to write in their own journals. Miss has a had a few stop starts but when it comes to Mister, I’d have an easier time pulling teeth. Writing isn’t his thing. At least, not at the moment!!
While discussing journalling as a family, we have found out that my husband’s Great Great Grandfather, Irishman Daniel Burke was mentioned in Jail Journal by John Mitchell. John Mitchell was an Irish radical who was exiled to Tasmania but managed to escape to America. It turns out that Daniel Burke who lived in Westbury, loaned him a horse which was instrumental to his escape. Finding a historic, personal reference like this is priceless to a history lover.
While I have extolled the virtues of writing not only a journal but also the virtues of making journalling an ongoing, life-long habit; I should also point out some challenges.
If you are wanting to really do your journals justice, you also need to re-read them and that also means thinking about how and where you are going to store them where they can be somewhat accessible but also protected against the elements. This can be quite problematic for a prolific journal-writer because storage can become a serious problem, especially if you’re on the move.
That’s where writing your journal on your computer has real advantages over using those gorgeous handwritten journals, which really do look inspirational and pretty but probably aren’t the most practical solution.
The other problem with putting all your journals in one spot is that if there is some freak of nature, one goes up, they all go up. Also, if they are private and someone else finds them, they’ll have your entire life’s story in their grasp. Is that what you want?
Naturally, anybody who has written a private journal has included those personal secrets that are your secrets and there remains that lingering question about whether they should be burned. That is an incredibly personal matter. I haven’t destroyed any of mine but I have considered it.
So do you keep a journal and do you find it helpful and if you are doing the A-Z Challenge, what did you blog about today?