For almost as long as I could read or write I have been keeping a journal. When I was a young child I called it writing to “Dear Diary.” Now I use the computer or a beautifully decorative small book with plain paper pages. In all cases I pay attention to giving it good quality for when I reread it. My words matter and I should honor myself by making the writing the best I can.
What constitutes “quality” in a hand written journal? In my opinion, one could look at the journal, the object itself. It should have a pleasing decorative cover and good quality paper. It should be dated at the very front with what period is covered. Each individual entry should be dated, and often I note the time of the day, also. I use a pen rather than a pencil, as not erasing discourages too much self-editing.
My computer journal is also beautiful. I carefully designed a private blog hosted by Blogger. In honor of my quilter-mom, the background is a beautifully pieced quilt. I use tags and, often, images as illustrations. And I have a little piece of html “boilerplate” for each post that has helped my journal writing a great deal:
- My feeling is —
- Biggest thing of the day —
- Contacts —
- Gratitudes —
Beginning with writing honestly about feelings is one reason that regular writing in my journal is so very therapeutic. Noting the biggest thing of the day is a way of looking at my priorities. Contacts– helps me keep track of the most meaningful communications I had with other people. Noting that for which I am grateful helps me keep my feet on the ground and my spirit uplifted.
If you never reread your journal entries you will miss out on several unexpected psychological benefits. You will not be able to gain the perspective that, “My, I have come a long ways since then.” You would not be able to give yourself credit for honesty, or perseverance or courage. Nor would you be able to say to yourself with a grin, “Now, that was dumb,” and forgive yourself. This is what I mean about the therapeutic benefit of keeping journals.
I began keeping a journal when I was ten. My first diary was given to me for Christmas, according to its front inscription, by my younger brother, N. I was 10 years old and in the fourth grade, he was almost 7, our sister D. was 5½, and our baby sister G. was just under two months. The first two entries follow [brackets enclose my adult explanations to you the reader]:
1 – On Jan. 1, 1947:
[The first entry talks about what “us kids” played that New Year’s day]. N. and I “played house,” I cleaned out N’s closet, and “found 3 old dresses, and I gave one of them to D., “and G. was our girl” [child].
2 – [My next diary entry reports that] “we went for a walk up in the rocks. Mama and G. went too. Mama and I went over to [her dear friend] J’s to see how she was.
My first messages to “Dear Diary,” clearly qualify as actual journal entries in that small black book from the Dime Store. As I reread what I wrote in pencil in careful longhand, I now know that “playing house” was the biggest thing of the first day about which I wrote. Going all together for a walk to a special place, and going visiting were the biggest events noted in the second entry. I also recorded my contacts on both days — my siblings, and my mom and her dearest friend. Back then I had not yet learned to regularly record my feelings or voice gratitudes. But I still remember the warm feelings that going together for a walk in the country engendered in me.
Connecting times long ago with those of the present is one of the benefits of long term journal writing. We begin to understand patterns and intuit continuity as the years are recorded. I remember well, for example, the pleasure in a visit my sister and I made in recent years to another of my mother’s oldest and dearest friends. I learned how to be a friend from watching my mother do it so well, and for that I now have gratitude. And I am grateful for my free weekend cell phone minutes that allowed my to have a lovely long distance visit with my dear brother, N.
In conclusion, you must know by now that I have high regard for the practice of journaling. Whether you intend for anyone ever to read yours or not, it is never to late to start by saying on paper,
logs: My news and political blog is at South by Southwest. My general purpose/southwest focus blog is at Southwest Progressive. And Carol Gee – Online Universe is the all-in-one home page for my websites.
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