November 15, 2007

Words, always

Words, always

I've kept a journal for as long as I can remember.

When I was a kid, I'd take the notebooks we had leftover at the end of the school year and gleefully rip out pages covered with math problems or definitions. When I was done, I'd have a stack of thin notebooks, with bent spirals but lots of clean pages left. As I got older, I began being fussier. I like a journal to be spiral-bound, lined, and small enough to carry with me wherever I go. But not too small.

I keep my most recent journals on a shelf in my home office, with the idea that I can thumb through them for inspiration, although to be honest, I mostly just look at the most recent one. The pages of my journals are messy, filled with all kinds of rambling scribbling. Ideas for poems or blog posts. Lists of goals. Names of books I want to read. Angry venting. Random descriptions. Memories written down. Lists of things I want to do. I write down thoughts to get them out of my head so I have room to think.

I have a separate monastery journal, and that one is different from the rest. I write in it only twice each year. This journal is about me, my personal goals, my spiritual journey, the ways I am trying to become the person I want to be. Every time I go to the monastery on retreat, I have time to think about those goals, about the issues I am working on. I write down my feelings. I write down all that has happened over the last half-year: the painful moments, the joyous moments, the revelations, the mistakes, the insight.

Each time, I reread the whole journal to see what progress I've made, to make sure I am climbing in the right direction, that I haven't wandered too far off the path. The journal forces me to be honest with myself. Always, as I sit in the crypt or on a bench at the edge of a sheep pasture, I look at the contents of my monastery journal and am thankful for the richness of my life, the many moments of grace.

14 comments:

Sarah Sometimes said...

So exciting to be the first one to comment... Okay, I have nothing to say, except, yes, it's funny how the journals have to be just right, not too big, not too small, the lines the right distance apart. Also, I like reading about your gratitude. It helps me remember to be grateful.

Teri said...

your discipline on this is very impressive! I tried to journal on several occasions but it's never really worked for me...

Hel said...

What a beautiful idea. I have been keeping a string of journals but never thought of one that I could reference only once or twice a year.

niobe said...

I like having my journals and looking at the covers, but until very recently, I never, ever looked back to see what I had written.

Yankee T said...

I re-read my journals all the time.
Beautiful hand, by the way.

Sue said...

I have also been a journal-keeper since highschool. I have boxes of them. As I approach fifty, I'm starting to have questions about what will happen to my journals when I'm gone. I have no idea what to do in this regard.

They were not written for anyone else's eyes but mine, so I'm thinking they should go with me. My partner disagrees - he thinks the family history is preserved there.

Nice photo by the way....

Tall Girl said...

thanks for the moments of grace you tell us about here

sherry said...

My mother is one of the archivists in the Newcomb College women's studies department. Please consider willing some or all of your journals to a similar place. She is always cataloging journals, scrapbooks, and memorabilia from people who have donated their things after they die. They use those things as historical/social references for study. Apparently, they can be invaluable as a reference tool.

kate5kiwis said...

jo(e) if you ever come to NZ, please come and hang out with me,ok?
i'd love to know you IRL, and i'm not stalkerish IRL lol.
i have a couple of journals that i share with girlfriends, we take turns writing and then post them, and read and write back. they're each different cos posting to different peeps, but i was re-reading the longest one (about three years old) and it records such a journey of our souls, you know.
i've never stayed at a monastery, but i wonder if i'd like that?
you always make me think. i like that. X

Lilian said...

I love writing in my journals and re-reading them too. It's pretty amazing to look back and reflect on how we've changed, or, on how things turned out in the end. In the past 15 years our lives changed in so many ways, I'm glad I have the journals to keep track of things. Sometimes I have non-writing spells and since I started blogging I journal less, but I've been "journaling" on the blog quite a bit! :)

thea said...

Thank you so much for writing here - this is exactly what I needed just now. I've kept journals all my life, too, but I've felt for a while that I lack the kind of 'overview' you describe. Will take that up, it's a fantastic idea.

Mouse said...

I've never been able to keep a journal, but I keep random bits of paper fairly well: napkins, post-it notes, corners torn from sheets of paper, newspaper, all with some bit of my thoughts scribbled on them.

I admire those who can keep journals; it makes so much more sense than my scraps of paper.

Silver Creek Mom said...

I've tried to keep a journal many times over the years. I have to admit I'm lousey at it. I do better blogging. ALthough my deepest thoughts, fears and joys are not there. BUT I do write a personal letter to my daughter before or after speical events in her life. Telling her alll the things I want to tell her. Some she can keep from her mom. We do talk about most things in person but this is just for her. She seems to like it.

Mary Stebbins Taitt said...

I've kept a journal almost all my life too, from when I was small and called it a diary to the present, with few lapses. I usually keep one or two of the old ones on my desk to peer into as well as a stack of the more recent ones. The rest are in boxes in the basement.

I open one at random, "9/18/04: I've been enjoying the subtle hues in the fields, enjoying also the contrasting textures--weeds in the oat fields, corn, sunflowers, wheat, roadside grasses." and "9/20/94: I'm in Colorado but am I happy? I spent all this time and money and exhausted myself getting here to sit alone in the car in the rain. For a moment, I was getting depressed. But the scenery has been spectacular." (Later I describe getting caught in a blizzard and locking myself out of the car--long story, LOL!)

A year earlier, I wrote: "9/11/93: I forgot to mention how happy, peaceful and serene I was up on the mountain last night. I felt like I could lick the stars from the sky they were so close, the air sharp and pure. The mountains surrounding Lake Isabelle were massive and utterly awe-inspiring. There was nowhere in the world I'd rather be."

LOL! You gave me a reason to peek into a couple lying here on my desk. The one from 1993 was full of affirmations. In 1993, I was solo hiking the Colorado trail.The notebooks were small spiral ones I could carry in my backpack.