When it comes to journaling, I have one of two speeds.
I either write vigorously, passionately, insanely – scribing pages in messy script every night before bed, in between tasks throughout the day, at breakfast and at lunch. I write down the things that are happening around me, the way I feel about them, how the people in my life are behaving, what projects I’m working on, the mundane and the big, the every day and the out of the ordinary. I write down everything.
Or I don’t write at all.
I’ve been keeping journals in some form or other for more than a decade. Under my dresser, I have more than a dozen little black moleskin notebooks, the elastic stretched, the pages damp from rain or the spines cracked. Each and every one of them will show the same pattern. Days of consistent, promising writing habits or empty months where, apparently, not a single thing happened in my entire life.
The reality is actually quite different.
Over the years, I’ve come to realize that I journal far more when things aren’t happening in my life, when I’m tied down or frustrated or sludging through the mud to make changes that I feel I’ll never make. A great deal of my long-winded, rambling entries are a form of therapy, of talking out the poison until I feel ready to move onto the next step. Some are about a broken heart, others about an infuriating younger brother. But most of those anxious words are about nothing more than the human condition, a chance for me to rant about nothing until the pages bleed and my hand cramps and my heart feels lighter.
Of course, there are exceptions. When I travel, I fill up pages by the dozen, challenging myself to record every new adventure. There are plans for new stories and events and programs filling up those journals. There are, without a doubt, happy, joyful memories too. Graduations. First loves. New moves.
But consistently, I fill those pages most when I need an outlet. When my creative juices are stopped up. When my sad is a kind of grey-blue before the morning sun that no one else needs to see and that I don’t need to share. Writing it down simply means I don’t have to carry it anymore.
We all need an escape from those feelings, a way to manage them before they begin to manage us. To look back through my years of old notebooks, you’d wonder if I spent so many years being sad, being angry, being afraid. That isn’t it at all. Instead, I record the uncertain moments, the scary moments, the broken moments. The happy ones are not written down. They are not recorded in a diary or a journal. The happy moments are simply lived. ♦