Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Journaling: A Life Story

In yesterday's post, I touched on the first diary I ever had: a five-year one with a lock and little keys. My secrets were safely inside. Sort of. The strap and lock were easy to finagle without the key. Plus, there were only five small lines to fill for each day. I soon realized that I needed the whole page to write about my that one day. I wish I had that diary now, but it was ruined in a flooded basement a long time ago.

What is the difference between a diary and a journal? A diary is a kind of fluffy story of the day: food eaten, weather outside, being nervous over an upcoming assignment, etc. A journal is a portal into the self. It is a place to dig deep and examine life. Journals are very personal. 

Here is an example: 

Diary entry: "I am really nervous about the chemistry exam on Tuesday." 

Journal entry: "I am really nervous about the chemistry exam on Tuesday. Sometimes, the element table gets all messed up in my head. I cannot remember half of their names, much less their atomic numbers! And Mrs. Smith hovers over me like she thinks I am cheating. Maybe she hovers over everyone, but it feels like it is only me." 

See the difference?

This is a picture of my current journal. When my marriage ended, it was very traumatic for me. Several friends sent me "Thinking of You" cards, and every single one of them had at least one butterfly on it. Then my daughter-in-law bought me a blue journal, and the same proverb  as below was written in white ink on the cover. I think Somebody was sending me a message: I would get through this and become a butterfly, too. 

Photograph by Amelia Vincent

I have been using this one since March 23, 2012. That is a long time to have a journal, so it shows me how lax I have been about using it. I look at the outside of it often and think, "I should write in my journal," but that is about as far as I get. Maybe it is because it reminds me of some other journaling I did.
During the first few months of my marriage ending, I rapidly filled three journals with every page holding the pain I was feeling. One day, as I finished the third one, I realized I never wanted to revisit that AGONY again. I knew I needed to burn those books in the fire circle in my (then) backyard. 

I can hear the outcry: "How could you?!" The answer is: "How could I not? By burning them, I made sure there was no chance anyone would ever stumble upon them and read my about my broken heart. There was something very cathartic about ripping the pages out of the covers and watching them feed the flames and disappear into smoke. The journal above still holds some pain, but 98% of it is not about what happened more than eight years ago now. 

Every year, I go to Yahoo and get my horoscope for the year and a few weeks later, I go again to get my Chinese horoscope predictions. I copy and paste them into a Word document, which I then print out so I can paste them into my book. I highlight things that speak to me at the time. At the end of the year, I go back to them and add notes to my highlights about whether some prediction came true, or not. It is interesting, too, to see what I thought about the predictions 365 days earlier.

This journal contains inspirational quotes, poems, jokes, and also the People magazine article following Robin Williams suicide. I was a teenager when "Mork from Ork" walked through the Cunningham's door and into my life. As someone who lives with depression, I could empathize with how tortured he must have felt, even though do not understand his committing suicide when there is so much help available and so much to live for.

Which leads to the remaining pages on which I write as I continue my journey through life. This one is almost full, and I look forward to the next one that I get to...


- Amelia