Our basement flooded the other day. We awoke to find 2” of standing water in what only the afternoon before had been a totally dry space. It appears the sump pump in our basement malfunctioned and, since we had rain all day and live at the base of a hill, the water just accumulated with nowhere to go. We are using the basement for storage. In it we had some family heirlooms, boxes of books, old photos and albums, and all my old journals.
It was hard to go through the box of journals and see the water damage. Crinkled pages, bleeding text. I was grateful because I had put my old journals in plastic bins, so the water damage was minimal – but still, it was there.
I looked at the collection of journals – going all the way back to when I was 12! – and loved what I saw. It is a modge podge collection, some big, some small. Some fat, some thin, some were just writing, others were full of photos and magazine clippings. Together they tell a story of where I have been and how I have become who I am.
As a history buff, I love journals. They are one of the most intimate ways for us to get to know a person. What were they thinking when it was no one but themselves? Who were they when the pressure was off? How did they handle death, disappointment, loss, victory, life?
For me, journaling is a way of processing. I use my journal to reflect on my quiet times, to record the day, to capture mementos of moments I don’t want to miss. I write as if my journal is for my eyes only. That allows me a level of freedom and intimacy I might not otherwise give.
It has been proven that there is something about putting pen to paper that affects us. Something about the act of writing puts the info into our brains. In school, it is actually better to take hand-written notes than type because of that hand-brain connection.
To journal means to sit with our thoughts, to get below the surface, to feel. These are becoming lost arts in our society, and yet they are precisely what we need if we are going to flourish and live together as human beings. Journaling touches on the core of who we are. It is a safe place to let it all out, to dream, to process, to be 100 things at once and yet still be you.
The blank page in intimidating. It is true. It is amazing the power that a tiny space can have. It is easier to do the dishes, to watch TV, or check Facebook again. But in this quiet and intentional space we find ourselves. We reconnect to what is going on, how we feel, and what we long for. Can there be anything more lovely than that?
How to Get Started:
- Find a notebook you like. It does not have to fancy. I’ve written in steno notebooks or dollar store finds. Find something that speaks to you, something you want to come back to.
- Choose a pen. Again, keep it simple. It can be a ballpoint, a sharpie (just check it doesn’t bleed through), or a paper mate pen. You can designate one pen for your journal or grab whatever is at hand.
- Write. This is the hard one. Some people use prompts. Here are a couple ideas: 1, 2, 3 to get you going.
Other people use what has been called “Morning Pages” or Free-Writing. You free-write three pages every day, usually first thing. Don’t think about it. Don’t edit. Don’t stop and look and judge. Just get three pages out and do no stop until you do. This can also be done with a timer. Set a timer and write until it goes off.
Even if it is listing what you had for breakfast, what you watched on TV last night, what you are wearing – it’s okay. Just get something down. I think we will want the seemingly mundane details later on. Who we were hanging out with. What we loved to watch. Our favorite restaurants and meals.
Then do it again tomorrow.
It has been proven that writing 20 minutes a day for just four days can immeasurably improve your mood.
Write for You
And this isn’t a homework assignment. No one else is going to read it! (If we need to talk about boundaries and respect from those in your household, please message me.) So write with honesty and intensity! Be direct! Encounter all your senses. Name your emotions.
Our emotions are messengers. We control them and determine which ones we give time to, but what are they trying to point you to? If something brings up some emotion: sadness, anger, joy, longing, etc. name it and then dive deep. There is a reason it triggered. See where things go.
For me, the goal is to better know myself. To remember where I am and chart where I want to go.
Other Journaling Ideas:
- At the end of each day, list three things you are grateful for. It can be as simple as my home, my family, my job. OR I am grateful I got to have a hard convo with Sally and now we understand each other more. I am grateful for a husband who continually teaches me about unconditional love. I am grateful for a silly dog who makes me laugh.
- Question a day. You can find these journals on Amazon (Here is one idea, and another). You document one thing a day (usually prompted) every day for five years. The point is you can go back and see where you were before.
- Sketch your day. I read this amazing book about doodling your day. Not a writer? No biggie. Sketch your day. I am trying to incorporate this right now as a way to document the more “mundane” or routine parts of my day.
The point is to just do it! Ready to get started? Sign up for my email list and I’ll send you my journal prompts for March.
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