Did you ever say, “I just decided to do it, did it, and never looked back?” I did too…but I do look back.
I started a journal 37 years ago. I kept putting the thought of doing it off but one day, in 1976, I started. And I still do it. But why do it, you ask?
As you know I like to take pictures, lots of them. And I’ve created many albums of them, prints and digital. But is a picture really worth a thousand words? Does it carry the heart of words?
When you look at an old photo it may evoke a feeling about the person, place or thing, sometimes with quite vivid, happy or poignant recollections. But a journal is much more than that. In a journal a writer plumbs his own heart.
We all have a lot of good moments to write about but sad and bitter ones too. A journal is about life and life has those moments. And it’s those bitter moments that make the good ones so tasty.
Sometimes when I write about something that troubles me, just putting it on paper helps me to better understand the situation. Instead of carrying a kaleidoscope of abstract, nebulous thoughts in my head, writing it, seeing it on paper, in detail, brings a relief to it that pulls it all together, makes it a cogent composition. I can then see it and deal with it much better.
Someday, after I’m no longer on the sunny side of the lawn, someone may read my words. At times it may make them sad, at times it may make the smile, even laugh. They may agree with my point of view at times, or they may not. But it was my point of view.
I have over twenty volumes of journal writings and more recently, CDs of journaling. You guys just starting out have an advantage that I didn’t have, this computer keyboard right there in front of you.
When you write longhand onto a page it is more personal, sure, but more work for you too. And putting photos, letters, articles, into it requires taping and sometimes cutting. Now that I do it digitally, I type the words and insert the photos. I can even edit, change sentence structure, move paragraphs etc. To say nothing of handwriting issues! Then I store them on CDs and it’s done.
Storing my old journals means a fire box for safety, I sure don’t want to lose them in a fire. But I always leave the fire box unlocked. The locked box looks a lot like a safe and if a burglar saw this locked box he’d want to lug it away, not knowing it’s contents are no value to him. When he finds an unlocked box, looks in and sees the “crap” inside, he’d have no interest. And no, I’m not afraid of anyone peeking into my journals. Storing CDs is much easier, and dupes are easy.
I’ve looked back in my journal and have seen how I’ve grown since I wrote decades back or I’ve seen that I still have plenty of room to grow. Sometimes I see a pattern of behavior that isn’t working for me and needs changing.
I might read an old entry and not even remember writing it, it’s as if someone else did. As I read on it becomes familiar, then it clicks, like the shutter of my Nikon. I’ve captured the moment on my pages and now the feelings are becoming exposed again. It comes into focus and I remember it. There is the smile of my daughter, now in her forties, when she passed her road test. After all of our work practicing, success! It touched my heart then to see our little “Peanut” reach this rite of passage and it almost brought a tear to my eye…and it’s starting to do it again.
Sometimes I get to experience the incredible softness of a baby’s skin once more, to smell the milk on her breath. I get to smell the scent of hurricane-blasted mint shredded onto our patio screen from hurricane Gloria. Incredible aroma. I’m sure it’s the scent of “green pastures” some of us might lie down in some day. A photo can’t capture any of this.
If you do decide to give journaling a try, remember to write as soon after the event as possible. Often, if you sit on the beach or boardwalk you can write about the moment as it unfolds before you. If you wait too long after a moment many great details will get lost, sometimes in a very short period of time. Like when a grandchild offers an oral gem for the ages and you say, “I have to write that down.” But if you don’t get to it for a few days, you’ll see you don’t recall it accurately and if you wait too long…not at all. It’s gone forever.
I often put spoken words in my journal entries, they bring out the moment in greater detail, they are aural glimmers of the past on the pages, “It’s a girl.”, “I got the job!”, “I love you. I’ve been waiting my whole life for you.”
When I write quietly, meditatively, I often connect with something deep inside me that, at one time, I didn’t even know was there. It’s a special place. It only became apparent as I wrote again and again, feeling more comfortable with myself and the page before me. It was as if someone else took over after a while, brought these words and thoughts up from that place for me. I felt like saying, “I wish I could write like that.”
Sometimes I think these thoughts and words come from my soul. Do you think they might be coming from our soul? I say “our soul” because sometimes I think I touch a place in which we are really all connected, all one, beneath the surface we call you and me. That’s why some of it resonates so well. We recognize something we’re reading that is also within us. I feel these thoughts come through my heart, down my arm, out my pen or keyboard and spill all over the page.
Sure, photos are great, as you know I’ve taken thousands and they really can put a smile on your heart. But I have to say, “Journals are life preservers, they keep memories alive.”