by ERIK ORTON
“So I was reading in my journal...” is how I’ve started a lot of sentences this week. Emily has been very kind to listen to all my reminiscing. It’s often said that reading our journals can give us a sense of perspective, but I hardly ever do it, until now.
When I go back a year or three, I do indeed get the benefit of perspective. Not the “oh, that was hard then, but I made it through” kind of perspective, although there is that. Rather, I connect dots. There are things I keep talking about, over and over again. There is repetition. Patterns emerge that are only possible to see when I listen to myself talk over time, as I work things out bit by bit. We all have a subconscious mind, things we’re working toward without realizing it. With the benefit of hindsight and repetition, I've been able to glean those subconscious threads.
On a practical level, the best part for me has been recalling moments, and then sharing them.
“Yesterday was kind of magical... Alison walked up and said, ‘Do you want to see the sock I’m knitting?’ I put this laptop (and my writing) aside and said, ‘Of course I do.’ And she proceeded to tell me all about her knitting project, she’s signed back up for Code Academy and is learning HTML and CSS, she’s reading Around the World in 80 Days and told why she loves it, a bunches of other stuff. I spent time with Alison. I loved it.”
There’s no way I would recall that moment without reading my journal. I texted this snippet to Alison and we had a good laugh about both of us being nerds.
Sometimes I came across more general thoughts:
What I want more/less of in life: “More nature. Less fear. More peace. More confidence. Less anxiety and worry. Less tired. More sleep.”
I copy/poasted this into a group text we have with our kids. Sometimes we have a text discussion back and forth. Most times not. The kids will “thumbs up” or “heart”, or LOL. But it feels good to remember and reminisce in a 2018 sort of way.
As I read and remember, everything takes on its correct sense of proportion. The big stresses and strains are small in hindsight, and the snatches of conversation and ideas take on their proper place as the small hinges upon which big doors swing. I write down book titles, people’s names, times and places, but also emotions, moments of comfort, prayers and insights. A bread crumb trail emerges leading from inklings to action, notion to reality, confusion to clarity.
I picked up this practice from Julia Cameron many years ago. Julia Cameron writes about “morning pages” in her book The Artists Way. It’s a simple practice: “Three pages of whatever crosses your mind—that’s all there is to it. If you can’t think of anything to write, then write, ‘I can’t think of anything to write.’” I started doing morning pages almost 15 years ago. I’m not religious about it. Plenty of days I don’t write. But I end up generating a pretty thick journal each year.
Julia continues, “When people ask, ‘Why do we write morning pages?’ I joke, ‘To get to the other side.’ They think I am kidding, but I’m not. Morning pages do get us to the other side: the other side of our fear, of our negativity, of our moods. Above all, they get us beyond our Censor. Beyond the reach of the Censor’s babble we find our own quiet center, the place where we hear the still, small voice that is at once our creator’s and our own.”
I think I’m gonna keep doing this. If you have a practice, like morning pages or journaling, I’d love to hear about it: firstname.lastname@example.org