07 August 2012

Journals & Cobwebs

Do you write in a journal?

I was given a journal during my first marriage.  I never once wrote in it.  Not a single word.

It's like there were too many cobwebs in the closet.  Writing them down would get messy.  Yet writing without mentioning them would feel artificial.  So the book remained empty.  I guess that was an accurate record of how I felt at the time. 

As soon as my first marriage ended, even that first weekend after he left, I pulled out that empty journal and began writing as I sobbed:

"I am sadly starting this journal on a very sad note.  He's gone.  How did this happen to me?  Dear God, please help me to feel comfort, safety, peace.  Help me to have faith in my life.  Help me to feel whole.  Help me to not need a spouse to feel peace and happiness...help me to feel fulfilled just being a child of God."

It felt so good to do it.  I was in the process of reclaiming my voice, evident by that fact that I was willing to write anything at all. 

My voice got stronger and stronger.  And there hasn't been a day since that I would have shyed away from recording anything in my life. 

What a difference, right?

It makes me think a lot more about journaling.  I think there's something extra going on there that we may not realize.  You see, it demands that we are true to ourselves.  It demands vulnerability.  It's very hard to fake anything in a journal.  It's a record of your soul.  And I think the act of writing in a journal  (or the inability to write in it) can reveal a lot about us, if we will allow ourselves to admit it....

Do you have any thoughts on this?  Have you ever refrained from writing in a journal for a similar reason, or have you had the opposite experience?  I'd love to hear!  


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  1. Mara,
    This is my first time posting on your lovely blog. I have been reading for about 3 weeks and I love your positive, uplifting messages and the way you share you experiences. This post struck a nerve because you have articulated my experience exactly. I am a journal lover and writer, and have had many different journals in my life. In fact, I really believe if I haven't written an experience down, it really hasn't happened. If I am avoiding writing, I know there is a problem I don't want to look at. It is as much a measure of how I feel about myself as my disposition. I know that when I am honest with myself, and have written an experience out, I can live with forgiveness for myself and others. It is a reflection of my life good and bad. There are times when I have literally burned pages, but at least I have written it out, and that is cathartic as well.

    Keep spreading the love!

    1. Au - loved this so much. It's kind of cool how that avoidance of writing can be a little marker that we need to address something. And I love how you wrote that once you write things out, you have more forgiveness. So beautiful how that works.

  2. I used to only write the good stuff in my journal- I didn't want my posterity to think poorly of me- just that saintly old woman who was once so vivacious and gave them life, etc. So when I fell into (what I now realize were) bouts of clinical depression, there would just be nothing. For weeks, months. Then on my mission I decided that I needed to start keeping track of it, and I did, and it made such an impact. Those journal entries were how I kept track of things. They were the proof I could show to the doctors that I really did need to figure this out, that it wasn't just my imagination, or "not that bad." There are good entries in there, yes, but I think I needed to acknowledge both the good and the bad to finally be where I am now-- to be WHAT I am now-- and I'm pretty happy with both.

    1. Allison - amazing. Seriously. How cool that writing played a part here in getting you on a better path. xo

  3. Mara-- I completely agree with you. Journaling has literally been my livelihood throughout my process of becoming spiritual, and just accepting myself and my life. I used to journal before I tried hard to center my life on love (before the help of your blog, some great books, and my older sister), and my old journal was so full of anger and hurt. Now it is not only so much more loving and full of compassion, but it is even more genuine. Something about putting all your honest thoughts and feelings down is so liberating and allows you to understand yourself better. It honestly is a record of your soul, just as you said.

    You both are awesome and inspire me daily!

  4. I haven't written in a while, but this post really stood out to me. I'm a huge fan of writing in journals, and have since I was a little girl. I just taught a class at girl's camp about it, too! I love this talk (http://www.lds.org/general-conference/2007/10/o-remember-remember?lang=eng) about it. I love that by writing, we are able to remember God's hand in our lives, because we are focusing on noticing miracles all around us. I don't write every single day, but I do write regularly and it is so therapeutic and testimony-building for me. I think everyone should keep a journal! Writing is one of the few times I feel completely myself and vulnerable.

  5. i love writing in journals and blogging has become an extension of that i suppose. there is nothing better than getting those words down on a page and reading them back. sometimes they are the best memories and sometimes it is an awful situation, but the words make you realise the truth and i think that is so important.

  6. I could never keep a journal for long because every couple of weeks I would reread what I had written, be disgusted with myself, and tear out the pages. Near the start of my freshman year of college a friend gave me a simple, news print, spiral notebook and somehow I felt that writing my thoughts in a cheap notebook was more appropriate. I eventually "graduated" from cheap notebooks and got to the point where I could write in pretty notebooks because I had come to realize my words were important and legitimate. I'm still not perfect at writing every day, but the memories I have written down and saved of two of my closest friends converting to the church during college are priceless to me.

  7. I was just thinking about this the other day. Journals keep us accountable. It is a very valuable indicator of where we are. On one hand, having to write what we have chosen to do and then reread it later is challening when we aren't necessarily pleased or proud of our choices. On the other hand, it's a blast and completely entertaining to have fun times written or strengthening to have spiritual moments recorded. I think a journal is an invaluable tool as a measurement of where we are emotionally\spiritually\mentally\etc. I think it helps us to make better choices and realize that what we choose to do is very important.

  8. I've had so many journals! I always get inspired by looking at all of those fresh, clean pages, but can never seem to be consistent about it. I agree that there's so much benefit - and I'd really like to give it another shot! I particularly like your point about vulnerability...many things are hard to share, even with those closest to us, and it's powerful to have that outlet.

  9. I believe that (if we let Him) God will lead us down the path of healing our broken hearts in His own divine way. I just ended my relationship and for various reasons not related to my fear of being single forever it has been an incredibly traumatic experience.

    "It's like there were too many cobwebs in the closet. Writing them down would get messy. Yet writing without mentioning them would feel artificial. So the book remained empty. I guess that was an accurate record of how I felt at the time".

    For such a long time, my journal sat untouched, too. As reality started pouring in and I started to accept the idea of stepping out of our relationship, I slowly started to write a few entries. Mostly pro and con lists, notes on serious conversations we needed to have, etc. I was writing a script in my journal that I was giving everything I could in good conscience to save our relationship. My brain made it into my journal, but my heart was missing from the ink I placed on its pages.

    My journal was there at 3am when I'd finally written the long goodbye letter to him. (Yes, letter. Long story.) The first couple of weeks I sat in my basement eating dark chocolate and escaping with episode after episode of Dawson's Creek on Netflix. Each day I processed just a small fraction of my heartache. Each day, I wrote a few lines in my journal.

    My big blue journal sits beside me. It's two months or so past breakup day, and roughly six months from when I seriously started considering ending our relationship. Finally, after two years of hiding and stifling my spirit under the weight of trying to make that relationship work I'm seeing my soul come out. I'm realizing my passions, how to choose joy (and PRAISE GOD for your blog for being the catalyst to beginning to learn the lesson of truly rejoicing every day), my own goals/dreams/hopes, etc.

    You're right. You can't hide your soul when you sit to write it all out. Even the mere act of avoiding writing a thought/truth/idea/concept down forces you to acknowledge said material. There is no closing your ideas, no silencing a screaming inner spirit, no denying and placating your heart & spirit when you sit down to journal. I hope to never leave behind the power my own words have again.

  10. I've been journaling off and on throughout my entire life. There was a time when living with a boyfriend that I admitted that I mostly journaled about negative stuff that I was trying to work out. He then would get deeply concerned whenever I pulled out my book. He would also sneak around and read it when I wasn't around. Whew. Glad he's out of my life. He admitted to me recently on FB that he's hacked into his 16yo daughter's FB account to keeps tabs on her. I see he hasn't changed much.

    Ever since, I've been wary what I put down on paper. With that said, I still tend to write about negative stuff when putting pen to paper. But when I blog, I tend to look to the silver lining conscious of the fact that others will see me. The latter makes me feel oh, so much better about myself and the world. Not as though I've got blinders on, but the positive outlook is a absolutely a result of the direction that I choose to look in. I haven't been writing so much on paper anymore. I'm sure when something happens that requires discretion, I will work it out via old fashioned journaling.

    Also, seeing ink on a page holds a great deal of nostalgia for me.

  11. This is a very interesting question. I find myself in the exact opposite situation to you. During my unhappy first marriage I wrote in my journal every single day. I guess I was trying to figure out the root of my unhappiness. Now that my life has completely changed and I find myself very happy, I no longer keep a journal. I had one when we got married because it was my habit, but over the first few months my entries just petered off. But I keep the stack of old books as a reminder. Though, right now, this very moment, inspired by this discussion, I have decided to rid myself of them!

  12. I used to journal out of obligation or guilt, but in the last five years I have learned how to write just to write... and it has changed everything for me. It's how I process what's going on in my life, how I make decisions, how I vent, and most importantly, how I ponder. I can't just think, I have to write to be able to make any progress in my life.

  13. For most of my life I was a great journal writer. Even if it was just a few sentences about how my day went, I always wrote. But when I got depressed, I stopped. Flipping through that journal, it's easy to see where it all started. I slowly stopped writing, and then for about a year there was nothing. When I started feeling like myself again, I bought a new journal, and now I'm back to writing, and love it :)

  14. Mara,

    I have been reading your blog for a little over a month, and I'm both inspired and in awe of your honesty and positivity :) I've been keeping journals since I was seven; up until I was a sophomore or a junior in high school, they were normally the "Dear Diary" type of writings that only swooned over the good things and endlessly complained about the bad things. Now they have evolved into something deeper of sorts; a sort of prayer journal, if that makes sense. As though I'm writing a letter to God.

    Lately, it seems as if I'm writing almost everything in mine, particularly to the point where I have to take multiple breaks because I'm getting a hand cramp. But I definitely know what it's like to NOT write certain things down; sometimes I don't want to admit that I feel the way I feel, or maybe if I didn't admit it, then it would go away or at least be easier to deal with.

    God Bless,

  15. I love journalying. It helps me organize my thoughts and understand my emotions better. I write the good and the bad. It's my experience and I hope it will help my posterity when they are going through trials and hardships.

  16. It took me a long time to journal because like you say, there were too many cobwebs. Plus, I was a perfectionist, so I judged my own handwriting and would rip pages out! And I was always worried that someone would read my journal and discover the cobwebs I was trying so hard to hide.

    A couple of years ago, I began journaling in earnest. The good, the bad, the cobwebs, and sunshine :) Since I've started a blog, I've found I'm journaling less, and I miss it.

  17. I always kept a journal growing up, and I would write about the good the bad the ugly and everything in between. I recently came across them and it was so difficult for me to read. It dawned on me that when I was writing about everything and how I was feeling I was trapping those awful negative emotions onto the paper. I couldn't even get through an entry without crying. It was difficult for me but I know that writing for me probably saved me in a lot of ways that I never realized until now. I think a journal is supposed to be a record of everything you go through, the one place in your life where you can be so honest and vulnerable without being judged.

  18. I've been keeping journals on and off for as long as I could write. My mum bought me my first one (you know one of the little girly ones with the heart shaped lock) so I could help process my thoughts around being bullied and find strength in my own voice and who I am, and I was hooked from the very first sentence. Journals help me work things out, they keep me accountable to myself, has deepened my relationship with God (I used journals long before I prayed)...

    It's also worth saying that while some people keep their journals forever, I tend to purge every (few) years. Partly because I don't have the space to keep them, but also because I don't see the point in keeping things after the lesson has been learned well, or I've completely adapted the idea/ thing into my life. If there is something I want to hold onto I scan it and keep it on the computer in a special file. So much of my life is online now, and I'm continuing to build on that through my blog as I'm getting braver and braver about getting my voice out there, that I just don't need it.

  19. Well written post showing your control and use of words.Your experience won't continue to remain in your heart because it would give you a heart failure.God forbid.Take heart Maria.

  20. I love the idea of journaling. I love lots of words to share, and I've noticed that writing consistently helps take the burden off of obligated listeners. :)
    For a long time I would never, ever, read what I had written. I still have junior high journals that should probably be destroyed. They are silly, frivolous, full of crushes. But it got me into good habits of writing consistently. Now, after college, I like to refer back occasionally, and I'm always disappointed when I didn't write enough. It's sweet to read about those things that got me where I am today, like all my notes on dating, engagement, and now marriage.
    My mom once said there was a time she didn't write because of some tragedy in life. I've felt that, too. I just felt so discouraged, I didn't want to write anything down. It's like I don't want to remember those parts of life. But journaling is healing, and it is important to have records of even the hard times, the trials that end up being blessings in disguise.
    Occasionally I hear about those who read others' journals, and that's really despicable to me. I am completely honest and vulnerable on those pages. They can read it long after I die. I may share excerpts with my husband, but I would never let him just browse it. It's nice to have one place to let it all out. Quietly. :)

  21. Writting a journal is like therapy for me specially in times of bad and loneliness. When you don't necessarily have anyone there to listen it becomes my minds outlet. Sometimes there are so many emotions and thoughts I'm experiencing that writting helps me break them down and afterwards when I read them it gives me a sense of clarity. Of course there are times when I cringe and I'd rather have forgotten certain things that I've experienced and written in the past but I can never get rid of them, you have to learn to accept your past so you can move on because that was part of me and what made me to who I am now. Half of what I have written years ago I have completely forgotten about and re-reading the bad makes me realise that the life I have now I am grateful for in comparison to then and when I read anything possitive I smile at those exact memories! You are right in saying 'it demands that we are true to ourselves'. A journal is about just being that, it keeps you in tune with your emotions.

    I think it is really really great to keep a journal. There are times when I don't write for months and those are times when I know I am not emotionally or mentally distressed so perhaps I consider them my enlightened moments! So by reading most peoples comments on here I guess writting personal journals are also a source of outlet for themselves.

  22. I try to write in my journal almost daily. I also have a gratitude journal that I write in daily to record what I am grateful for each day.
    I find that this helps SO much and especially when I am going through something I can go back to my journal and see what I wrote to help me.

  23. Mara - if you're ever tempted to re-visit this topic, I highly recommend the book: Opening Up: The Healing Power of Expressing Emotions by James Pennebaker. There's all kinds of emotional, physiological, and psychological side effects that surface when people are trying to "stuff" their stress or grief. It's a great read and an important issue.


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