The Pages of My Life
By Christine Clark
In my children’s first-morning, every-morning view of me, I am seated in my bentwood rocking chair or propped up by mounds of pillows in my bed. My Georgia O’Keefe coffee table art book will be on my lap as a writing surface for my spiral-bound notebook. My notebook will be open, and I will be writing cursive in real, black ink with my Waterman fountain pen.
I have journaled almost daily as long as I can remember. At age ten, I wrote in diaries with miniature padlocks and keys. A snap on a strap closed the book and the tiniest key locked the pages away from snooping siblings. Of course, any enterprising sibling could have used a bobby pin as I often did when said key got lost. Sometimes I climbed a tree, diary and pen in hand, and imagined I was Jo March from Little Women, as I filled the pages with my hopes and dreams. I felt glamorous and romantic perched in a tree pondering life. Somewhere in an attic box labeled “Memorabilia,” those diaries await snooping children and grandchildren. I imagine the keys have long disappeared and the locks rusted into oblivion. The pages might not be readable after decades of must and moisture, but they began my life of journaling.
In my late teens, I switched to notebook paper. I wanted to write more than diary pages could contain. In my twenties and thirties, I began writing in spiral-bound notebooks. As Natalie Goldberg advised in Writing Down the Bones (http://www.amazon.com/Writing-Down-Bones-Freeing-Writer), at the beginning of each school year, I stocked up on cheap, colorful notebooks with Tweety Bird, flowers, and fairies on the covers. Amy Brown’s fairy notebooks were a favorite for several years, but Hot Topic was the only store that sold them and often the too-loud, too-harsh music stopped me before I could walk through the door. In my forties, following Julia Cameron’s advice in The Artist’s Way (http://www.amazon.com/Artists-Way-Julia-Cameron), I got down to the bare bones of writing morning pages in plain, college-ruled, five-subject notebooks. Most have an abundance of pages, so I can fit several months’ worth of longing, complaining, fears, and folly into each book.
Monday, I filled the final page in a Five-Star Mead notebook. I began journaling in that notebook Monday, May 24, 2010, at 5:55 a.m., so it took almost a year to fill it. Tuesday, May 10, 2011, I opened the pages of a new notebook. A blank journal page inspires me, wakes me up, says it’s time to do and be. A blank journal inspires me even more. Years of experience tell me that I will write hopes, dreams, fears, accomplishments, failures, disillusions, and enlightenment in those pages. Until I’ve written in my journal, I don’t feel like my day has started, so as soon as I have my first cup of coffee, I will sit, pen in hand and write.
I first write the day of the week, the date, and the time. I then write a few inspirational sayings that either are original or quotes from favorite authors. These days, I write three:
Be future self. (Original, but inspired by Leo Babauta’s Zen Habits: http://zenhabits.net.)
“Real artists ship.” ~ Steve Jobs via Seth Godin (http://www.sethgodin.com/sg)
Exceed Expectations! (Original, this one pushes me to exceed my own expectations.)
Gratitude is next. Without fail, I write five things for which I am grateful. Some days, it’s difficult to come up with something of great importance, so I look within again for importance: I’m grateful for rain, sunshine, my family, or a long talk with someone I love. Sometimes I am even grateful for my friends on Facebook. Often, I am grateful that I kept quiet about something, that I held my temper, that I paid a bill, that I exercised, or ate well.
After gratitude, I begin writing. Some days, I simply note the things that irritate me… too much dog hair on the carpet, a mouthy kid, a messy kitchen, or an overflowing laundry hamper. Some days, I gossip because I must believe my journal is a safe place to vent or there is no point in keeping one. Other days, I begin writing about something or someone that moves me or inspires me. At that point, I usually move to another notebook, because I have begun a story that I want to share.
Journaling is one of the few things I have done continuously for the last 40 years. It is who I am. It is a part of who my children know as Mom. I know that tomorrow when I wake up, I will write the day, the date, the time, what inspires me, and what I am grateful for. This process carries me through each day and into the rest of my life. I am grateful for my journal, and that will be number one on tomorrow’s gratitude list.
Do you journal? Has the practice of journaling added value to your life? Do you want to start a journal? It’s easy. Paper and pen or pencil and a willingness to write are all you need.