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Ten Years

I finished up one of my two-year Journals yesterday. I set it on top of the other four finished journals. So for Ten Years now, from the summer in which I was 42 until this summer when I am 52, I have written a daily journal entry. I wish that I had journals from the age of 12, but before I was 42, keeping a journal was a spotty, sporadic, unintentional thing. There is something about middle age, that brings an urgency to realizing the brevity of your own life, and the compelling need to understanding how you are living your own life, into vivid focus.

I use the Building the Best You journals. They are currently out of print, but you can still get them from used book sellers. (just make sure that the ones you purchase are in “like new” condition – i.e. not written in) I just ordered two more of them yesterday, even though I already have a small pile of empty ones in one of my cupboards. I like doing that, as an act of confidence in myself. It shows commitment to continuing to do a journal entry every day, and the best part, of course, is that each book magically adds two more years to my life. Ha!

These journals aren’t particularly special. They ask the same six questions every day, so that you can compare your answers, year over year. The best part about them is that there is hardly any room to write. You have to answer the questions more in “phrases”. The answers which you write are more of a “gist” or a “theme” of your day. Every six weeks or so, is a page of longer questions and there is a little more space to answer those questions, but again, it doesn’t require a lot of time or energy to fill the small spaces. The format of this journal, makes it easy to commit to doing it for the long term.

What do I get from journaling? It’s a small time commitment that gives me so much in the way of self-knowledge. It’s a place to spill my messy feelings and sort them out. I have a daily record, which turns into a weekly record, then a monthly record, and finally, a yearly record of what I did, and what I am currently doing with the precious days of my life. I read this quote this morning:

“Don’t be fooled by the calendar. There are only as many days in the year as you make use of.”   – Charles Richards

I think this is sort of a dark quote. I don’t necessarily agree with it. What I have found out from daily journaling is sometimes those moping days, those restless days, those sick days, those recalibration days in which you don’t do a whole lot, are often the days that you end up using to pivot, and to fuel yourself into a new direction. And honestly, daily journals are mostly truly life affirming – when you read over a few months, or a year, or even ten years, it’s amazing to see how many experiences which are packed into one human life. With daily journaling, I also get to notice my patterns, and my habits, and areas where I may be just going through the motions. I get “wake-up calls” about what aspects of my life I might want to consciously change and do better, and about other areas in my life that I can feel really proud about myself and want to continue. I have gained so much overall perspective from my journals. I can see that most things that I was so upset about at one time, mean almost nothing to me now. In fact, sometimes the things that I jotted down that were deeply upsetting me, I can now barely remember what happened. I also see that the truly awful stuff in life is really much more rare than all of the goodness, beauty, wonder, gentleness and evenness that our everyday lives are filled with on a reliable basis. When I remind myself and others that the storm clouds always, always pass, it’s not just fluffy talk. I have written proof. This is so comforting.

It’s never too late to start journaling. I wish that I had started the daily practice of journaling sooner than I did, but I certainly don’t regret starting it (and now I already have ten years in). So if you don’t keep a daily journal, start now. At the very least, on each calendar page, jot a couple of happenings and draw an emoji for how you feel. A journal helps you to create intimacy with yourself. It helps you to feel understood by yourself. There is no relationship in this world, more important than the one which you have with yourself. Give yourself this gift of journaling. You won’t regret it. You will get to know an interesting, brave, genuine, vulnerable, honest, hopeful, resilient human being living an ordinary life (that will sometimes show some real extraordinary glimpses of life), like you never have before.

Are you passing on love or are you passing on pain? Heal your pain and pass on love.

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Ten Years

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