I’ve never been much interested in a blow by blow account of everyday life, at least writing like that would bore me to tears. However, that style surely has its merit when you can read back and see what kept you busy and where your family was in it’s evolution of ages and stages of growing-up.
I also like my writing better when it feels more like an exploration of my thoughts and learning versus a chore that I need to do, something that needs to be crossed off my to-do list. That said, when it has been awhile between journal entries, I have written on many Sunday afternoons, even when I don’t feel like doing it, just to keep a written record of what’s happening in our family’s life.
I find it difficult to express how journaling has blessed me, because the blessings have been life-changing big! It has to be one of the top five habits that has contributed to my personal growth, and to my ability to keep moving forward.
I’d suggest there are a few reasons for this:
1 Reading your own perspective from days gone by is very instructive. You can hear the way you were thinking, the challenges you were facing and the ways you were feeling. And the contrast between the you who wrote in the past and the you who are reading those words in the present is mind-boggling! You can actually SEE the changes you have made, whereas in our day to day experience, our changes are usually so subtle, we often wonder if we are learning or growing at all!
2 We forget so much! I wouldn’t know a fraction of the details of my life or my children’s lives without this record. I am amazed when I read back, even a few months, at how much I have forgotten. Case in point; the other day a turned back a few months in my journal to read the account of a dream I had that I felt was significant. I had forgotten the dream altogether! But reading it brought back the memory and instructed me again on how I think the information could be used in my life and in my coaching. Even though it was an amazing experience (my granny coming to see me and teach me some things), it still hadn’t stayed with me in the busy time since then. I’m so grateful to have the record of such an inspiring learning moment. (No, I don’t think I could hide my own Easter eggs yet…)
3 Witnessing our own evolution, reinforces the truth that the only way we will fail is if we stop trying. Was it a big challenge to be up nursing babies and potty-training toddlers? Yes! But you kept going and made it. (Way to go self, you did it!) Was it tough sometimes to set correct boundaries for our children or even extended families, and did we blow it sometimes? Yes! But we kept trying and those relationships are still intact. Whew. When you read about your child in the past as a toddler, full of laughter and fun, and then they walk in the door from high school, you see them differently! You remember who they really are, and who they’ll be again when the hormones settle down again. Ha! And you see that you’ve just kept trying, and praying and having a good cry when you needed it, and with each experience you learned so much. And we see that our successes build and grow and the mistakes are hopefully forgiven and recede into the past.
4 We start to glimpse the legacy we are creating. Just like the credits I earned in college over the span of 20 years finally equaling graduation, the years of family building and self-improvement add up to a wonderful legacy of companionship and love. And the sooner you can see your legacy building the better! Slowly you will see the patterns emerging in your record-keeping. Your kids go from being annoyed with seemingly everything their siblings do, to becoming their best advocates. You may see your own impatience or an attitude of competition melt away into feelings of compassion and empathy for your spouse and extended family. Time passes and your record will show that all of your efforts, large and especially small, are amassing into something long-lasting and very sweet. And that adds fuel to your stick-with-it fire!
5 We leave a piece of ourselves with our children and grand children. When my daughter was a teenager, she had a difficult decision to make and came to me for help. As I thought about her challenge, I remembered a time in my young life when I faced something similar and amazingly was able to find what I had written about it in a journal from my high school years. It was as if my young self came forward to speak to my daughter, who were now standing together as contemporaries. It was a bit of a time-warping feeling. I was so happy to have that one page from my life, an experience spoken in my own voice from a different time, to give solace and encouragement to my wonderful girl. It made me realize that I would write for 30 years for a moment like that. It was well worth any effort on my part. And who knows what this box of dusty books will mean to my children as they age and to my grandchildren in the years to come?
So, if you haven’t already started, may I suggest that you get a notebook or better yet, a bound journal, and challenge yourself to record some of the events, thoughts and experiences you are having in your life right now. It’s cheaper than therapy and will be a priceless treasure that only gains in value over time.
Sending warm wishes for your health and happiness on this beautiful winter day.