This is my birthday week, and to celebrate I’m writing about one of my favorite things- journaling.
“ I want to write, but more than that, I want to bring out all kinds of things that lie buried deep in my heart.” ~ Anne Frank
Journaling has been a part of my life since I was eight years old. My first entry was written about my young father’s death.
That year gave birth to my abandonment issues and fears. At an early age I dealt with very adult issues, and journaling helped me make sense of the tangled mess my thoughts and emotions became.
“Journaling helped me process my overwhelming feelings and my all-too-many regrets.” ~ Sheryl Sandberg
I wrote about a wide variety of issues from the loss of my father, the war in Kuwait, worrying about my mother, sleepovers and boys I had crushes on. Whatever the subject matter, my journal became a silent psychiatrist letting me divulge my deepest and darkest fears.
My mother was so distraught over the loss of her young husband; I didn’t want to upset her more by talking about my sadness so I turned to my pencil and paper for comfort.
“I felt like I couldn’t breathe until I wrote everything down-from the smallest detail of my morning to the unanswerable questions of existence. If I went even a few days without journaling, the emotions would build up inside me until I felt like a dam about to burst.” ~Sheryl Sandberg
Words were my escape.
The pathway to make sense of all the foreign emotions I was feeling. And for the two decades following my father’s death, I kept journals off and on. They became a place not just to dump my thoughts but also to chronicle many memories great and small.
I can now look back and see the times I was struggling and how I persevered or how God answered a prayer.
“By putting feelings into words, we give ourselves more power over them.” ~ Sheryl Sandberg
When my mother’s cancer rocked our world, I had to be a pillar of strength for her. But in my journal I could fall apart.
Over the years, I began adding pictures of girl’s nights out, tickets from plays, cards people sent me or drew little illustrations (really more like doodles-I’m no artist) to accompany my words.
I have journals specific to my travels to help me look back and recall the details from my many adventures.
“ A personal journal is an ideal environment in which to “become”. It is a perfect place for you to think, feel, discover, expand, remember and dream.” ~ Brad Wilcox
Just like treasured books I’ve read, my journals are old friends and my most cherished possessions.
As I was finishing my first memoir and dreaming of it one day it helping someone else, I thought about how much my journals were a tool for finding solid ground. From there I started my mini journal project.
“ It is like whispering to one’s self and listening at the same time.” ~Minna Murray
Since I have a need to reach out to those I’ve learned have suffered a loss, and some of those were almost strangers, I decided I would gift them a journal. Most of these people at some point opened up to me about their struggle.
So a few days later, I would wrap up a journal with a card saying how much getting my thoughts out of my head and onto paper helped me find mental peace.
There was no right or wrong way to do it. People seemed tentative at first. Just like a journey starts with the first step, journaling starts with the first word. That word leads to a sentence and then maybe a paragraph. Most people find after they write the first statement, their minds start to unclog and words and emotions come tumbling out onto the paper.
“ Cheap paper is less perishable than gray matter, and lead pencil markings endure longer than memory.” Jack London
It warms my heart when those people come back to me at to say they wrote their first entry or how much the small gift was helping them.
I encourage anyone going through a rough patch or dealing with strong emotions to grab a piece of paper or notebook and write down what you are feeling. Give your emotions validation, a place to air out your grievances and allow your mind more headspace and room for positivity and healing to grow.
“Keep a daily diary of your dreams, goals and accomplishments. If your life is worth living, it’s worth recording.” ~ Marilyn Grey
All photography by cperciaccanto