Journaling about the big stuff

by Sara Marchessault

Journals are places where we do some pretty deep thinking. Literally anything can trigger a chain of thought that takes you down the rabbit hole of pondering serious shit.

Seeing Buddha in your cereal bowl. Marveling at how times change so that wearing yoga pants, a baseball hat, and dare I say it, no bra, is something you can get away with wearing out of the house. Leather Journal

One of my favorite triggers for intense journaling is a healthy dose of a controversial issue or a past event that is critical to remember. Particularly when presented in the form of a story that is too important to forget.

Recently I read, no, consumed, Jodi Picoult’s novel The Storyteller. I love Picoult’s ability to tell a gripping tale. I love that her work is based on either real events or at least issues that do exist and are lived through her fictional characters.

When I read her books I often experience this general sequence of thought patterns: gripping story > shocking twist at the end > emotional reaction comes after the shock has worn off.

The Storyteller was no different. It got me thinking and journaling.

This book had me reflecting that my life is so freaking easy.

I have not experienced persecution, punishment, and torture based on my religion. I have not watched loved ones and neighbors carted off to dig their own mass graves and have their lives ended as they are shot into them, one group at a time.

I have not lived in a culture where if I choose not to be an aggressor, I am putting the safety of my own family at risk.

My husband has not been taken away just because he is a man who might, or might not, one day rise up against an oppressor.

I have food on my table. I have work that I love to do. I have two beautiful children who are well-fed, go to good schools, and who know nothing (yet) about the sordid past of human history.

Right now they only know that treating others with love and kindness is expected. You get time out for pulling hair and a popsicle at the end of a good day.

Don’t get me wrong – being a mom has its challenges. I would never downplay the effort that goes into being a good parent.

One of the challenges that we will all one day face is the telling of the stories of human behavior that are less than savory. We will need to tell our children about the atrocities suffered by the Jews, disabled, homosexuals, and other groups persecuted by Nazi Germany. We will need to articulate what has happened in Rwanda, Chechnya, and going back even further in time, the United States. To both Native Americans and African Americans.

The ideas of genocide, slavery, and other crimes against humanity are not new. The fact that they continue today is the hard part for parents.

We teach our kids to use their words, make kind choices, and to accept others for the individual gifts and backgrounds they have. We teach that diversity is good.

And yet we live in a world where not everyone teaches those kinds of lessons to their children.

When we are grappling with these issues that are bigger than any one person our journals can become our safety net. When we let loose in the pages that we know are safe, to say what we need to say in anger and frustration, we are better prepared to talk about controversial and highly charged issues with other people.

Journaling can keep us mindful of the terrible things that have and do happen in the world. And when it’s time to tell our kids these stories, we’ll be prepared because we took the time to process in advance.

Like this article? Please feel free to use it on your own blog or newsletter. I simply ask that you please include this blurb: Sara Marchessault is a coach, writer, teacher, and mom who helps busy women use journaling to create more space in their life for being productive without feeling overwhelmed. To learn more about Sara and her work in the world, please visit or

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