I started journaling and diary keeping decades ago when I was a young girl.
It worked like a relief valve on a pressure cooker, but with one sad result. Family members read what I wrote and confronted me. People, if you have a loved one, please respect their privacy and don’t read what’s meant to be private. Yes, there are exceptions, such as suspecting a loved one is suicidal or self-harming, but that wasn’t my case.
I just wanted to release the sadness and frustrations of being a child of twice married, twice divorced parents in northern Louisiana in a time when divorce was considered socially unacceptable. It also helped with siblings who had no kind thoughts toward me. Or the devastation of being molested by someone who I should have been able to trust. What a powder keg. My journals and diaries were read and often destroyed, or I destroyed them after finding them read or locks picked.
In college and later I tried journaling again, but often it was more depressing to write what was on my mind than keep it in. And somehow those journals disappeared too when I stored them in college things.
A while back one of the writers’ organizations I belong to, Romance Writers of America, featured an article on journaling and writing fiction. The artist in me caught onto words like colored pencils, stickers, tape, and I was lured in. Crafts, office supplies, dollar stores, and other places offer a treasure trove of journaling and scrapbooking supplies. I already had some things like colored pens and markers for editing, and those were integrated. One can get lost in all the pretty-pretty, so it’s important to remember why I was trying this new thing:
One can get lost in all the pretty-pretty, so it’s important to remember why I was trying this new thing: show accomplishments, goals, appointments, deadlines, encourage myself. Now the cynic in me scoffs at productivity stickers, but the artist oohs and aahs over them. Sometimes I need a sticker to remind me that a down day isn’t a failure, but just part of the effort.
When I achieve a rare “Lowell” and get over 10,000 words in a miraculously accomplished day, I can give myself an attagirl and a sticker. It works better than announcing it to social media and have negative people burst my happy balloon. That’s the nice thing about journaling: you celebrate successes without needing others’ approval.
I can flip pages of my journal and see days or weeks when I accomplished nothing because of lack of accountability. Seeing those blank hours, knowing my writing and editing didn’t get done, is a reaffirmation of sorts. I’m the only person who can make myself sit at a desk and write. Setbacks are temporary if we keep them in perspective. They’re only an end when we can’t see the whole picture, and that’s where journaling really succeeds. To flip through older pages and see where I’ve succeeded helps immensely.
You don’t need a lot to start journaling. A book calendar from the dollar store, discarded child’s notebook, an old artist’s pad, anything with lines in it will do, or you can add lines yourself. No one needs pretty stickers or pens, just paper or even apps already on your computer or phone.
The art journal above is made up of an artist’s notebook from Michael’s, brochures and mail bits, and stickers from one of my favorite sources. This was fun and a way to think about things that make me happy. It feeds the artist in me and a place for all the scraps and memories of adventures. They’re messy, just like my life, but that’s just fine with me.
I live in a safe place now and don’t worry about these things disappearing or being confronted. My journaling isn’t about surviving, but being happy, having plans for the future, enjoying my little family and friends. If someone picks up my efforts now, they’re welcome to see the hopes and dreams written and stuck into my sticker adorned pages.
I wish you happy journaling and a life of goodness and safety, my friends.
I spent about a year moping about after my youngest fledged the nest for Northeastern University.
A study in contrasts of the day he left for kindergarten and I danced in the street after his school bus turned the corner. Later that day Karma smacked me down when his teachers didn’t load him into his bus ride home. Yikes. Odd creaking upstairs was just the house settling or adjusting to humidity and temperature changes. After fourteen years of boys thumping, crashing, slamming, and laughing, my house was empty. Too empty.
Months after Youngest left for Boston I still mentally attributed household sounds to him, then gradually my brain caught on. Odd creaking upstairs was just the house settling or adjusting to humidity and temperature changes. After fourteen years of boys thumping, crashing, slamming, TV blasting, voices laughing, my house was empty. Too empty.
It’s going on three years now, and I’ve finally realized there are plus sides to empty nesting. No need to buy expensive and often wasted vegetarian entrees, no disagreements about curfews and sharing cars. Then there was the realization that our social life rotated around school volunteering, Scouting, orchestra, choir, etc. The piles of kids’ shoes in our foyer, belonging to our sons’ friends, went elsewhere. Familiar faces of those friends’ parents faded as our lives moved on, and a realization that we didn’t have a social life of our own.
Reinventing ourselves from parents of high school kids to college students, then adult men have been an experiment. Who am I but Sam or Colin’s mom? Regressing back to being an introvert was a shock. Will I stay home and feel depressed and lonely, or get off my too fluffy keister and do things? So easy to pick the former when getting out and making myself socialize is kind of frightening.
Last year we bought a teardrop camper and started going to music gatherings or parks. Where I secretly hated sleeping on inflatable mattresses as a Cub Scout volunteer, I can now snuggle in a four-inch memory foam mattress in a tricked-out travel trailer. Turn on the camper AC, take a nap, or listen to a novel through the sound system. We can pack up our dogs and go places where my husband can play music. Or unwind as we hike along lake paths or through the woods. I’ve fallen back in love with trees, with the wind making sounds as it travels through a wood or across a body of water.
I still miss our sons daily but am happy they’ve found their place in the world. That they’ve turned into men we always dreamed they’d be and are doing things they’d dreamed of growing up.
So I can sit outside a bakery in a sleepy Texas town and talk to my husband, sneak bits of croissant to our fur children, and plan on the next trip. This heady new path feels almost intoxicating.