Tonight I want to talk about journaling. Journaling is something I have been trying to get back into for years now, but no matter how firm my resolve, it never seems to last beyond a few days. I was introduced to the concept of a keeping a journal by one of my high school English teachers. I was initially hesitant, but ended up loving it. When I was in college, I journaled like a fiend. This was, most likely, related to the fact that I didn’t feel very good about myself. Nothing is more satisfying when you’re feeling shitty than pouring out all of your life’s injustices and slights onto a blank page. The trouble with journaling is that it’s a bit of a chicken and egg thing. Do you journal because you’re feeling bad or are you feeling bad because you’re journaling? Does all that focus on what’s wrong in your life just serve to be a self fulfilling prophecy, leading you to just feel worse? And honestly, does anyone journal when things are good?
When I was at the height of my journaling, I used Microsoft Word and started a new Word file every semester. True to form, the titles of as these journals were song lyrics – and usually pretty obscure ones at that. The very first one I ever wrote, in the summer of 1990, was called “When I Needed You” based on the lyric from Stevie Nicks’ song “Wild Heart.” By the time the summer was over, it was 18 single spaced typed pages long. If that seems like a lot, it really wasn’t. I was just getting started. Subsequent journals usually ran 30-40 single spaced typed pages.
Because of their electronic nature, I’ve never gotten rid of them. In many ways, still having access to these relics of the past is equal parts revealing and mortifying. It would be really easy to read them and say “oh my God, what a self-centered, emo douchebag!” And yeah, I suppose I was, what with assuming that everything that happened in my sphere had something to do with me, that every negative reaction in the world somehow came back to something I did or said. With the benefit of 20 years of hindsight, it’s good to know that I learned somewhere along the way that it really isn’t all about me. There are more cringeworthy moments than I care to count contained in those pages, so many instances that I was sure that someone else was in the wrong when now I see that I had clearly overreacted or misinterpreted what had happened or the circumstances surrounding what had happened. Most of the entries are either sad or angry – with a very few detailing moments of high delight. As I alluded to before, journaling just doesn’t seem as important when things are going well – you’re too busy enjoying the moment to write it down.
I tend to give myself a little bit of a pass on all of this for two reasons. One, I was much younger then and was behaving accordingly. Secondly, and perhaps more importantly, I was more depressed than I had been ever before, struggling many mornings just to get dressed. I had clear anxiety issues even before I knew it was a thing you could have. And what’s worse, I was years from any kind of help. AI don’t like to beat myself up for it because berating that version of me really accomplishes nothing and is counter to my resolve to not talk to myself like that. Thank heavens I’ve learned a lot of life lessons since then and am significantly more adept at dealing with those kinds of situations. That guy still exists – he just doesn’t get to drive the bus.
But I really wanted to give journaling another go because I think it will give me a place that I can work things out that is not bothering friends or having the same conversation with my wife 10,000 times because the lesson is hard or I was dense and I didn’t get it the first 9,999 times. My natural inclination is to turn inward and while blogging is a form of journaling, I’ve always felt like they are two very different things. I’m comfortable with a certain amount of self disclosure, but I do have limits. There are some things that just shouldn’t go on the Internet, no matter how comfortable you are with yourself. My renewed interest in journaling isn’t really related to anything wrong per se, but I just decided that it was high time that I give it another go. After many failed attempts to recreate the Word document route, I wasn’t sure how I would do it.
Luckily, Heidi found a journaling app for Mac and iPhone called Day One. You can write on your computer or phone and the two devices sync with each other through iCloud. I have to admit that there’s a part of me that’s terrified to have a journal in the cloud – not because it’s particularly seedy or sordid, but because, well, it’s a journal and it’s private. It reminds you to write if you have forgotten and, in what is perhaps my favorite feature, it posts a little affirmation at the beginning of the blank page to the effect of “it doesn’t matter how long it’s been since your last entry.
I’ve been writing in it for several days now and, while I have yet to get a good rhythm going, I can tell that this will likely be more successful than previous attempts. The one thing that I want to do this time is to try to record more successes than I did the last time I kept journals regularly. Since I’m not the same person I was then, I’m hoping that journaling will not just document every single time I’m feeling shitty.
And for those of you still faithfully reading, don’t sweat the small stuff. I couldn’t give up this space if I tried. I’ll probably keep on blogging even when no one reads blogs any longer. The line between blogging and journaling is nebulous indeed, but I always seem to know where it is for me on any given day.
Here’s to success!