Last night I sat down to write in Jude’s journal and discovered I hadn’t done so since October of 2015 – 19 months ago! My first thought was how can I possibly capture all that’s happened in 19 months – I can’t remember every little detail.
That’s true, I can’t. Instead of closing the journal (which I’ve totally done before, but this writing was a “Dear Jude,” so it was easy to keep going) I started writing anyway, telling the story I initially meant to share with him. (All of my kids journals are in the form of letters for them to read later – it’s a fun way to write and helps me to maintain my own point of view instead of writing in more of a narrative, which makes it easy to leave out my own opinions and emotions.)
The story was a good one, about how he thinks he’s started growing “private hair.” He hasn’t, it’s just his normal body fuzz. He was just so funny about it I had to write it down.
As my pen started moving, one thought opened up another and before I knew it, I was indeed writing about things that happened in the last 19 months. About the move back to Florida and the summer we spent just being home in our community. Him going to preschool and turning five and our first trip to Legoland. Starting gymnastics and quitting gymnastics…I could go on and one.
It was a good entry for him. I discovered more details stored in my memory than I thought I would.
Journaling works to help you remember events and details about the events of your life. It’s a tool for a sort of reverse discovery that has the added benefit of becoming committed to paper.
The benefits of discovery of the past aren’t limited to recalling details for our kids.
Journaling can help recall how we felt at a certain time. This is great for milestones or rites of passage. If you wrote in your journal at the time you graduated from college or had your first baby, or lost someone you love, the entry you wrote then will likely capture the essence and tone of the impact that event had on you at that time. If you choose to explore that circumstance again, with the experience of time behind you, you may discover that you feel or think differently about it. Maybe you can write about that time without tears. Or regret. Maybe a happy moment now feels slightly sad, because it’s gone forever. Or a sad moment is now happy, because you survived it.
Your journal becomes a tool containing evidence that you are growing, changing, and constantly making discoveries about yourself. That as time goes by, you indeed approach life with the wisdom that comes from one experience after another.
Evidence of wisdom is a golden nugget. A treasure unlike any other.
There are pieces of life we can beat ourselves up about. We may not have our dream job, or the perfect marriage, or a bank account that reflects smart planning.
What you can celebrate is that every day you have the opportunity of being a different person. You are not the you that you were at 17. Or 25.
The process of keeping a journal is evidence that you value where you are and where you’re going. That there’s an emotional value to you to anchor yourself in those pages and pay attention to your experiences.
You care enough about your life to discover what focusing on YOU can reveal. All for the cost of a notebook and a pen.
Sara Marchessault is a writer, publisher, teacher, and mom who is on a mission to increase joy on the planet. Through the practice of self-reflection, we become aware of what brings us joy and what does not, and we make choices to move forward or stand still. Journal writing is a powerful reflection tool that can help any of us move forward, even in the darkest of times. For ideas on how you can get the benefits of journal writing without always keeping a traditional journal, check out Sara’s book, Beyond Pen & Paper: 33 Experiments in Journaling.