Journaling to Heal

Every so often I stumble upon an old journal. I’ve been keeping them since I was child, in one form or another, so it’s no surprise to me when it happens, but it often is a surprise to me what’s inside.

I have to admit, sometimes it’s painful. Because sometimes I’ve forgotten all about whatever was going on in my head, heart or life at the time I was writing certain things down.

Now, as I always say, everything gets better when I write it down. So you see, once the waters are calm again, I might not have much reason to look back into a storm. Or, once butterfly wings have emerged, we might not be prone to remembering the details of the darker cocoon days. I feel that’s fair enough.

I’ll be honest, no, I don’t keep every notebook forever, and I don’t love finding all the notebooks I have kept. And I certainly don’t love reading all the notes I’ve made in the notebooks I’ve found. Like the one I found just yesterday.

I have a lot of cool baskets around my house, the Bombay sort with nice hardware latches. I have used them as decorative storage over the years, and sometimes I forget what’s in where. I was looking for something like a pipe cleaner or wired ribbon when I checked a basket, found some old crafty magazines and furniture painting pages ripped out of magazines from the 1990s, and beading stuff, and a notebook.

Reasons for Journaling

I have had all sorts of reasons for beginning notebooks, keeping diaries or otherwise chronicling events on paper. Including creative household project ideas, and that’s what I figured this one was for. But it wasn’t. It was the start of some mind-mapping that I was going to use to make doodly swirly spirit art out of.

It was a new age phase for me, a spiritual seeking era. I was struggling on the inside with some very old personal haunts, and, oh…I remembered then.

This journal had a random bit of poetry. A couple of lists. I always have lists. These were sad lists. Wrong with me lists and more. And this art project I was envisioning was sketched on larger papers, folded and shoved in the middle of the notebook. It still kind of appealed to me, though–but I don’t remember doing any of it.

I guess I thought I’d connect words that describe me and my heart, and my family and their talents/beauty, on trails and tails and flowers and leaves. Like paisley.

I adore paisley. And henna dots and that whole look. I was tattooing on paper with pencil doodles and of course, words. And pain.

And love. As I mentioned.

I was journaling to heal. That is evident. At a time when I was hoping to do folksy furniture painting and probably beading with my young girls (kinda fuzzy on that, too), I read rather like a hot mess.

These days my young girls are in their 20s. As I sat by the basket flipping through my journal I realized they would recognize this as my notebook, it’s my style. But they would not recognize what’s in it as my inner life. At times, I was distraught back then. Lost even.

But they didn’t know. What they knew is that I was a somewhat crazed working mom rushing to sports fixing up a house making dinner looking pretty stringing beads writing in her journal.

So, I got choked up and folded the larger papers with those artful experiments on them, put them back in the notebook, and set that back behind all the furniture painting pages and bags of beads and wired ribbons.

Journaling for Reasons

That sort of journal is the kind I often decide to toss out. It only has writing on about 20 pages. And the art project that never was to be… never will be. Why am I saving it?

I don’t know. It’s been hiding away for so long, I guess it’s not hurting anybody. Well, it did hurt just a little at first to see it and not even remember it, and then realize it came from a notebook of mostly sad thoughts and low self-esteem. But, it was also interesting. I learned something about myself. Or, relearned it.

I have excellent coping skills. And writing is a big part of that. Isn’t it good to know how you might be journaling to create something–like a poem, or a menu, or a business mission, or a plan for your family room–and at the same time you’re journaling for other reasons you might not even know? Like clarity, or memories, or consensus-building should you need it.

Or healing.

I’m fine with keeping that journal where it is, because although I don’t want to explore it in detail right now, I feel like I might want to come back to it. I’ll be organizing all these baskets and odd notebooks, someday. Maybe in retirement. And there is nothing so negative about that art or those words that I need to eradicate them from my life. Which I do reserve as my prerogative with any journal I’ve created.

I didn’t like that job, don’t care how I came up with those lousy ideas? Boom, I toss the two years of workbooks, I’m good with that.  Embarrassed by your attempts at dominatrix sci-fi short film script outlines? You don’t have to keep ’em. We’re not storing Silk Road artifacts here, we don’t owe our grandchildren a maintained attic. So your 8th grade break-up diary can serve as kindling and I won’t be mad at you.

But, for those notes you do keep, promise me one thing. They won’t take away from your opinion of yourself today. Because journaling represents where you’ve been, what you’ve thought, how you’ve felt and your past experiences. Not who you are now.


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