I have been keeping a journal since the third grade when my “old” (she was probably 40) teacher, Mrs. Shackman let us choose from a pile of colored composition books. I took to the art of journaling immediately and poured my heart and soul out in perfect penmanship. Although we had to turn those journals in every Friday (to be returned on Monday), Mrs. Shackman assured us that our journals were ours and private. I still believed her and honestly, I didn’t have a lot to write or report on that was particularly exciting. But as the days, months and years passed, my journals took on a rather sophisticated level of introspection. I began to take detailed notes of everything I encountered from nature to human interactions. I wrote about love and how people communicated with one another—and didn’t. I wrote about a lack of love, pain and terror. When I re-read my early journals much later in my life it was incredibly clear that I knew at a very early age that I wanted to help people. But it took me thirty years to clear the way to becoming what I knew at nine.
Journals are my personal books of knowledge. I journal regularly (not necessarily daily). I don’t set up a forced schedule, I just try to make some type of entry weekly. At the end of each month I read what I have written. Some months I am very much an alien to myself while in others I find uncensored clarity—what I yearn for, what is stressing me out, who or what amused me, touched me, put a smile on my face or made me cry. Did I do something I loved? Did some great idea strike me? Did I sleep well? Eat well? Information about me and how I am living my life finds its way onto the pages of my journal.
I find journaling to be an incredible way to keep moving and also be still—I’m at my very best when I am able to do both.
About three months ago I started a new system of journaling. I organized a single journal into three sections using different colored tabs. I did this as a way to take the pressure off myself to write in a specific way. Here are my three sections but yours can be anything you choose.
Words: Some days I write a bunch of random words that somehow express how I’m feeling. Or I choose words that I like the sound of. Is there a word you would use to describe yourself? What word would others use to describe you? Some days I just write a single word and close the journal. Later I might go back to that day’s entry and write some more about one word or another.
Have I done something I loved today? What is it? Is there something you would have liked to do? What was it? Did you say “NO” to something that you might have wanted to do? If you look back a month later and see that you haven’t done a single thing you loved during the month—it’s time to re-evaluate.
Struggling. Work, people, emotions. We have hours, days, months and some of us have had years that are incredibly challenging. Some of my entries are like this—”Today I struggled with getting my day started.” An entry like this might lead me to share why I was struggling or I might just jot down some notes about what I might try to move myself along in the day.
At any time you can add tabs, change tabs or have multiple journals. I look at my journals as an opportunity to learn what’s happening in my life because while I am actively living it, I am often not still enough to really see it. The most essential thing about journaling is to let go of having to write something big or important or to confine yourself to having to write a certain amount. Making it “big” often results in not keeping a journal at all. And one more thing—don’t confine yourself to putting words on a page in complete sentences. Forget grammar and penmanship. Use different colored pens. Make a mess! Remember your journal is for your eyes only.
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