My last postthe lighter side’ leads to what I believe transforms the journaling practice. Somewhere in my 30s I began re-reading every journal before I began the next. Most people know that empty feeling when finishing a wonderful novel, not ready to have it end, not ready to jump into the awkward start of a new book. I would experience the same feel when I wrote the final page of my journal. This re-reading practice provides a soothing transition. I typically find trends of thought, trends of concern or worry weaved into many entries. Sometimes it wakes me to the depth of a worry or merely affirms what a significant issue something had become. While I could put it off, shut it away in a safe place during my conscious day, I kept returning to it when I wrote beyond the boundaries of my day. I love when I come across experiences which have brought me joy vs angst. I know I need to build more of that into my conscious day. I began to think of these trends as “threads weaving themselves through the fabric of my paper”. ** The threads travel along through the pages, longing to be noticed. Others would surely notice them much sooner. For me, avoidance works until I am bombarded with it to the point of nauseam, finally having that ‘aha!’ moment.

Curiosity led me to read journals from a tumultuous period in my life; a time before I’d begun reviewing my journals. It was a time when I forged ahead, ignoring signs of what was happening, what was wrong in a relationship. I was astounded by the events I quietly, methodically swept under the rug. It was glaringly obvious! I wondered, had I reviewed the entries then, would I have acted sooner, made different choice. No going back, just changing responses now. I learned slowly, shifted later.

Eventually, even with the review practice, I observed my own pattern of droning on and on about a topic, but doing nothing. After awhile, I couldn’t stand it….couldn’t believe how long I was letting myself slide by without changes, adjustments. These situations aren’t particularly large, definitely not ominous. They are typically about my response, my desire, my hope; they are very present, very key to my happiness.

That’s when a pivotal practice changed what I DO about my threads. I track themes, threads and I write them down. Sometimes I notice 2 or 3 themes, sometimes 6 or 7. I transfer these thought threads to the beginning of my new journal. It soothes the transition. I am not leaving behind my old friends of redundant worries. I am telling them I have noticed them and I am pulling the threads, bringing them along so they are not forgotten.

Very often I carry the same themes forward across several journals. Those threads percolate, shining brighter, until it’s time for me to DO something about them. Some things must percolate for a long time before circumstances allow action, before I find courage, and in some cases, before I can simply say, “Enough, it’s done, dues are paid, let bygones be bygones”

**threads of thought was a term I developed for my published journal in 2002 and used when I taught a journaling class in 2011.

The lighter side

This weekend I was reminded journaling doesn’t always have to be profound, or even serious. Sometimes I doodle, or draw some scenery I am gazing at. This weekend I wrote about dancing. Each holiday season my husband compiles a CD of current artist’s holiday songs. This weekend we were listening to some of the more lively songs from years gone by….you know the rockin’ kind. We started dancing in the living room. We use to dance all the time in our living room, on our deck in the summer. We love dancing! It is equally important to remind oneself of all the good and light and fun things that come our way. And having those moments written down helps perspective and balance.

Clearing the residue of the day

This morning I read a newsletter from a site named Peer Circle. (**see reference at the end) One article was celebrating the changing seasons. In it there’s a beautifully written line: “We are comforted by the winter rhythms of filling the bird feeders and the wood crib.” 

I don’t know about yours, but I find one statement can quick fire to a related link in my my brain. I was reminded of words, by a friend (HM), who as we sat and gazed at my end- of- summer dormant xeriscape garden, talked about appreciating the Fall when the tall plants and beautiful flowers die off and you are given an opportunity to see all the things that had been overshadowed these past months, and maybe forgotten. I have referenced that wisdom numerous times when referring to a loss.

These beautiful words linked me to my belief that journaling facilitates a process, which feels to me as, ‘clearing the residue’. Often I write with a need to review a day, an event, or a feeling. Journaling facilitates a clearing of the residue, the clutter, helping me reconcile the day and move on. As I keep writing, once I feel adequately released or ‘understood’ by my conscious self, my higher self slips in and whispers other insights to explore extending beyond the day’s boundaries. Welcome to your Minderings.

** Reference: website: Determined Goodness, by Christina Baldwin and Ann Linnea

Do you ever regret what you wrote?

I know I said I would next be writing about the residue of the day, but as often happens in journaling, something else has bubbled up. I decided to go with it. A friend recently asked me if I have ever re-read what I’d written and regretted my words. She stopped journaling because she had. Depending on the era of my journaling, I am sure I raged at someone, blamed someone, spit words at them. I hope once I am gone, if someone comes across hurtful words in an old journal, they can recognize it was only my perspective, probably my projection, surely written with bias. I am sure they were words that helped process, or clarify my own thoughts. I have gone back hours or days later and written the ‘next chapter’, the resolution from speaking to that person. On a rare occasion I have ripped out a page. Journaling is a fluid process. Just like sometimes we say things we regret, maybe we write them too; if we let them, then can lead us to a better us.

When and how much to journal

One of the early instrumental pieces I read that involved journaling was Julia Cameron’s, The Artist’s Way (from the 1990s). It was primarily about nurturing your creativity but she recommended a journaling method called, “Morning Pages”. I tried journaling in the mornings but it didn’t always work for me. I believe journaling is best done, when you feel beckoned. Beckoned by inspiration, curiosity, worry, or an overall need. Doesn’t matter the time of day. Another thing she recommended was to journal for 3 pages. Yes, journals vary in size, paper varies. Even this is not a rule. She was right though, writing longer does push me past the comfort point where I may feel I have ‘unloaded’, explained the concern to myself, whatever. It carries me on to a place of discovery. Sometimes the discovery is about what I sat to write about, sometimes I am lead an unexpected place. I love when I find myself saying, “So THAT is what this was about!”

As in any practice, frequency can establish a pattern, a comfort level with the process. Sometimes I write daily for a week or two, sometimes a few days in a row, then off for days, even weeks. You come to recognize the ‘edge’ that is beckoning back to your pages.

Too many people hesitate to journal because of the perceived expectations. The real point is there is no right, no wrong to how and when to journal.

Check back, the next entry is about the residue of the day……

My story

I have journaled all my life. When I was young it was the way I chronicled my day-who I liked, who liked me, what was said, and about what fun I did or didn’t have on the weekend. It was the place and era I began to find my voice.

In my 20s it became my venue for expressing frustrations or privately working out concerns. I slopped emotions onto the paper so I could sort them out. This was the place I found my true voice.

I hope you will follow me through more decades where journaling became transformational for me.