Here are three beliefs I have:
- Whenever I talk about one of my problems, I give a piece of it away.
- I have an inner voice to guide me in life.
- If I want to remember something, I better write it down.
Taking these three beliefs together, it is only natural that I am keen on using a journal to navigate life. Let me tell you how journaling has helped me…as I suggest it to you.
Journaling as a means of talking out a problem: When I tell a friend my problem, I give a piece of it away. The same thing happens when I tell myself the problem by writing it down in a journal. I once had a “friend” state that the problem with me is that I have to talk about every problem twice. This is not true! I actually have to do it three, four, or five times! While I would never dare to burden friends with the same problem repeatedly (I hope), I can go on and on about it in a journal ad nauseum. Wow! Like the plop, plop, fizz, fizz of Alka-Seltzer, what a relief that is!
For me there are two ways to write in a journal. One is to pretend I am talking to a friend. Thus I write down the words as if I were speaking them. There are times, however, that I don’t really know what’s wrong, I just feel so darn agitated! In these situations, I do a writing sprint. I give myself a writing prompt such as “I feel miserable because____________” then I set a timer for five or ten minutes and start to write. My rule is this: I must keep my pencil moving on the page continuously until the timer rings to end the session. While most of what I write comes close to being gibberish, there will always be at least one little bit of wisdom that I will highlight in yellow. During my next journaling session, I can pop open that little kernel of truth.
Journaling as a way to make major life decisions: If you have ever made a list of the pros and cons of taking an action, you will understand this use of a journal. The beauty of writing the list here is that it will not only be preserved for future reference, but you will know where to find it! The importance of saving the list is this: if the decision proved to be a bad one, you have the whole list of determinants at hand to examine – and steer clear of – in the future. If on the other hand it was a good decision, your blueprint for success has been immortalized.
In my younger days, I used to meditate to get in touch with my true thoughts before making such a list. As I have gotten older, that still small voice inside of me has gotten louder and guidance is readily available, I just have to access it. How to do that? Easy! You just Get Quiet and Listen. Both systems will work. I encourage you to give them a try.
A final thought about major life decisions: In making your lists, it is fair to include the opinions of your friends and family members. But remember this, when we are talking about YOUR life we need to compare it to a ride in a car, and you need to be the driver, not the passenger. Clearly, your vote carries more weight than anyone else’s. Got it?
Journaling as a way to remember the highlights of my life: Recently I was talking to my eight-year-old grandson about his other grandmother who helped him create an enormous stuffed toy. I said to him. “You’re really lucky. You’ve got a very special grandma.” He responded, “Two very special grandmas, actually.” As much as I would like to think that I would remember these words ALWAYS, the truth of the matter is I have ten grandchildren all of whom say adorable things and it’s hard to remember it all. That’s why I write it down in a journal. This type of journaling is an emotional-picker-upper for me. It’s the place I come to when it’s a rainy day inside my head and I need to find sunshine.
I also keep a journal of the highlights of my professional life. My current goal is to become rich and famous due to the success of my new book, Love, Loss, and Moving On (!!). But like the high school athlete aspiring to play pro football, that’s probably not going to happen. It’s important therefore to remember all the little successes I’ve had, to view them as the tiny miracles they are, and to be grateful. It is said that most overnight successes took ten years to achieve. The journal helps me stay in the game, just in case a major league recruiter is around the next corner.
So there you have it, the three different ways I use a journal. It is interesting to note that sometimes all these elements converge into one journal like they did when my dad was dying. Though my friends tried to help, their words got nowhere near my pain. I was so all alone in my misery I didn’t know where to turn. So, I started a journal called, “What my friend would tell me…if I had a friend” and then I said all the words I needed to hear. Yes, I talked through many problems in that journal. I also weighed the pros and cons of many huge decisions including hospice care. But there is other stuff parked there that I can only appreciate now, years after the horrible experience: My friends and other loved ones really were there for me and they said beautiful things in emails and text messages that I printed out and saved in that journal, that receptacle, that permanent record of my life’s journey.
You, too, can have such a treasure. It’s just a journal away.
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