Thoughts on Journal Writing

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“The pages afforded glimpses into my soul where I’d hidden it, behind masks of paper and ink.” ― Rachel L. Schade, Silent Kingdom

The greatest cure I have found to my own writer’s block is diligently keeping a personal journal. Some days, if my fingers won’t willingly dance across the keys of my laptop, I take up my pen and put the ink to paper, easily scrawling away the mess filling inside my headall of the anxieties, doubts, fears about the unknowns, random thoughts, memories, coincidences, and dreams. Once my journal writing session is complete, which takes me anywhere from 10-20 minutes (depending upon the weightiness of my heart and the heaviness of my soul at the time), I am finally confident and steady enough to confront a blank screen. After I journal, my mind is straighter and freer, and I am able to write fluidly with a clearer perspective, lighter heart and peaceful demeanor―no matter the subject matter.

It takes only a quick Google search to discover why famous authors, past and present, have kept a journal. Personally, I find the process cathartic; a balm to my emotional, sentimental nature. I would much rather my journal be the vessel bearing the burdens of my inner-person, fielding the complaints, taking the hits, mending the brokenness, offering the therapy, relieving the stress, questioning the injustices, remembering the laughter, piecing together fragments of memory, working through shame, healing past hurts, expressing grief, and recording both the simple and profound moments of my life. Essentially, my journal is where I work out the sorrows and write my way to discovering the joys.  

A cup of tea, a near-perfect pen, a journal waiting to be filled―this is my prescriptive remedy for a happy calm. Journal writing is as essential as breath. 

If you’re intrigued by the journal writing process, but have no idea where to begin, I recommend reading this: https://journaltherapy.com/lets-journal/a-short-course-in-journal-writing/

May I also suggest reading this essay on writing?  Ellen O’Connell Whittet muses in beautiful detail about how everything we write matters. 

 

“I say to people that I am not writing, but I keep writing the diary, subterraneously, secretly, a writing which is not writing but breathing.”  ― Anaïs Nin, from her Diary

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A New Year’s Hope for Radical Acceptance, Greater Kindness and Deeper Truth

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“Don’t you find it odd,” she continued, “that when you’re a kid, everyone, all the world, encourages you to follow your dreams. But when you’re older, somehow they act offended if you even try.” ~ Ethan Hawke, The Hottest State

 

On this New Year’s Eve, I am looking inward and claiming my personally perceived imperfections and failed attempts, owning the disappointments and mistakes of the last twelve months, yet disallowing the negative to shackle me to the past. Ending the year on an introspective note allows me to acknowledge what I should have done better–without allowing grief and shame to weigh me down. For, I trust and hope for a new day and new year to grow kinder, gentler, better than before.

Would you allow that, quite possibly, the most delicate and treasured gift we can bestow upon ourselves during the holiday season is finding a deeper and lasting way to spread love and acceptance, by taking adequate time for intentionally glimpsing within, and setting forth toward a new year filled with anticipation and led by a healed heart bursting of grace, beauty, and acceptance? 

This annual interior reflection I practice has allowed me to extend radical grace and true forgiveness to myself, firstly, and the capacity to extend equal compassion to others in my life. Looking toward the new year set before me, I am feeling hopeful for the freedom of newborn chances, courageous to pursue my truth by way of my dreams, and the energy and faith necessary to walk boldly, yet, treading lightly upon the path that awaits me in the coming year. 

I want to take this moment to wish an incredibly, joyously Happy New Year’s Eve to all of my readers. My wish and prayer for you is for a safe and peaceful night, surrounded by love and friendship, and warmly enlightened by your own hopes for 2018. Thank you for your devout readership!

 

“I am larger, better than I thought; I did not know I held so much goodness.

All seems beautiful to me.

Whoever denies me, it shall not trouble me;

Whoever accepts me, he or she shall be blessed, and shall bless me.”

~ Walt Whitman, Leaves of Grass

 

Thankfulness for Tiny Breaks

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“Rest and be thankful.” ~ William Wordsworth

 

Three days ago, I had the pleasure of celebrating another 40-something birthday for which I am glad. My husband and children showered me with their love and attention, and I was thrilled to be surprised by a few handwritten cards in the mail from dear friends. To myself, I gave the gift of a deliberately slow week, taking my time through the most important tasks, letting the non-essentials go, moving away from the computer screen, cutting myself some slack, and indulging in some overdo self-care. I’m grateful to be more self-aware this year than I have ever been in the past, and that I honored this newfound truth on my birthday. Permission to rest may be the perfect gift one can give to thyself.  

 

Take rest; a field that has rested gives a bountiful crop. ~ Ovid

 

Being Thankful for this Blessed Life of Mine

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“Remember the past with gratitude. Live the present with enthusiasm. Look forward to the future with confidence. ~ St. John Paul II

 

At the end of a full and lively week, I am simply grateful for being given the chance to live out this blessed life of mine. Despite the difficult trials I face and the numerous crosses I’ve been asked to carry, the deep struggles won’t stop me from giving thanks for all that I have, all that I am, and all that I know to be true. It has been quite the journey for me moving from a worrying and despairing heart toward that of one whom can recognize and recall a list of blessings no matter the circumstances of the day.

The process is messy and feels ridiculous at times, truth be told. However, once you reach the peak of graciousness, your life will be forever changed–emotionally, mentally, even physically. It’s not about being a “Pollyanna,” no. Rather, gleaning gratitude is more about recognizing that no matter how awful, cruel, unfair and worthless life seems at times, if you soldier on through the worst and most damaging experiences then you will most likely reach a measure of strength and purification of your entire being that can only be described as enlightening and awe-inspiring. My hope for you, if you are now wrestling with your own tremendously troubling circumstances, is that you may find any reason today to celebrate a glimmer of optimism, search for a light in the dark, and a chance at a better tomorrow.

Readers, there is so much more I want to explore and write about related to emerging grateful from a heart of stone, and I will circle back to it soon, I promise. For now, I hope you are enjoying this “30 Days of Thanks” blog series and that it is inspiring you to set about your own journey toward a more grateful heart. 

 

I don’t have to chase extraordinary moments to find happiness – it’s right in front of me if I’m paying attention and practicing gratitude. ~ Brene Brown

In Thanksgiving for Literature and Literary Spots

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I lived in books more than I lived anywhere else. ~Neil Gaiman

 

Truth: When I was a young girl, I had recurring nightmares about being caught inside a burning house and not escaping until I could figure out how to save my books. This revelation quite possibly tells you enough about me that I should stop writing now! Nevertheless, I persist in written expression of my deepest gratitude to all the authors of the literature I have read over my lifetime and for those I can hardly wait to read. Interwoven into thanksgiving for books, I am eternally grateful for the peace I feel every time I enter a library or bookstore. So much so, that I will forever seek out literary spots wherever life finds me and take a piece of their shelves home with me in eager anticipation of visiting the world of words set between the pages of each and every gift of a book.

Just for fun, here is a sampling of some of my favorite bookstores I have encountered in my travels and places I have lived:

Please, leave a comment and tell me about your favorite bookshops!

 

Some books leave us free and some books make us free. ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

 

Thankful for the Practical Things, for Wood Floors and Simple Living

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Gratitude can transform common days into thanksgivings, turn routine jobs into joy, and change ordinary opportunities into blessings. ~ William Arthur Ward

 

The thanks I give today is for the wood floors found throughout the first floor of the home I share with my husband and children. Yes. Wood floors. These Brazilian-red, wide-set planks have seen better days and will need replacing in the next couple of years. Meanwhile, I can ignore the nicks and flaws and find something special in their worn-in beauty. For instance, that they have provided a steadfast platform for multiple levels of child’s play over the years, from babies on their tummy-time mats, to crawling and scooting toddlers working their way from stacking rings to building sturdy block towers, onto puzzle making, racing trains and cars, and now, presenting the base for elaborate card and board games.

Smooth in surface, these suffering floors offer wide, ample space for practicing ballet twirls, cartwheels and made-up cheers. Children will chase, tag, and hide from each other for fun from one end of the floor to the next. Often enough, the floorboards take quite a beating while we dance in the kitchen to emotion-chosen background music, our feet stomping and bodies moving free-form to the tunes that lighten our moods. So many footsteps of family and friends, neighbors and guests have walked the length of these floors, warming our home with their sheer presence and welcomed visits.

When the day is complete and nighttime falls, clean-up of these wood floors is quite simple and allows extra time in the evening for me to relax and catch-up with my husband after a long day spent apart. These floors in our home are the foundation from which we stand together. So, yes. Today, I am grateful for the luxury of having wood floors–the horizontal platform supporting the hard-won and love-filled living that preserves my beloved family together.

 

The best things in life are nearest: Breath in your nostrils, light in your eyes, flowers at your feet, duties at your hand, the path of right just before you. Then do not grasp at the stars, but do life’s plain, common work as it comes, certain that daily duties and daily bread are the sweetest things in life.  ~ Robert Louis Stevenson

In Gratitude for Learning how to Forgive Thyself

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Do as the heavens have done, forget your evil; With them forgive yourself. ~ William Shakespeare

 

Allowing my mind to wander at will during my brisk walk today along the trustworthy path in the neighborhood where I reside, my thoughts turned to the act of forgiveness and what a delicate art mercy can be, especially when extending that grace to oneself. Revealingly, my inner critic is a harsh woman and I persistently fight for victory against her bitter tongue and unrealistic expectations. Today, I am thankful for the great lessons of life and heart that have contributed to my acquired strength, humble formation and greatness of spirit over these forty-something years. Self-reflection reveals I am witness to the lasting goodness, genuine beauty and absolute joy that emanates when one learns to forgive herself with the utmost sincerity.

 

“When you forgive, you love. And when you love, God’s light shines upon you.”   ~ Jon Krakauer, Into the Wild

 

Thankfulness for the Simple Joys

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“I have learned over a period of time to be almost unconsciously grateful–as a child is–for a sunny day, blue water, flowers in a vase, a tree turning red. I have learned to be glad at dawn and when the sky is dark. Only children and a few spiritually evolved people are born to feel gratitude as naturally as they breathe, without even thinking. Most of us come to it step by painful step, to discover that gratitude is a form of acceptance.” ~ Faith Baldwin

 

Today woke me to a somber mood that mirrored the gray Ohio skies outside my door. The wind is blowing away the temperate climate now by beckoning and ushering in the cold that will last for days on end. We won’t see sun until the end of the week, I’m afraid.

How might I feel an ounce of gratitude on such a dismal day? I light an autumn-scented soy wax candle and allow the glow of the orange flame to warm up the house with its ambiance and fragrant aroma. I answer a phone call from a sibling and feel gladdened by the goodness of spirit in the sound of his voice, and pleased we’ve made plans to be together on Thanksgiving Day. I sit with a steaming cup of tea and conjure up a dinner menu that will include my favorite roasted vegetables. I journal through my anxiety, type away the fear, and continue editing my essays that remain in-progress by diligently writing closer to completion.

My gratitude today is rooted in having a creative craft to focus on, noticing the plain and uncomplicated blessings that cultivate joy, and that my eyes, mind and heart are made open-wide by the gifts of simplicity.

 

“Forget about the money for a moment. Lose yourself in the wilderness, listen to the music of the softly blowing winds, feel the rain on your bare skin, let the mountains take the burden off your shoulders.” ~Kiran Bisht

 

Expressing Gratitude for Unfailing Friendship

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The bird a nest, the spider a web, man friendship. ~William Blake

 

Spending time on the couch this afternoon confiding in a dear friend about the woes and triumphs we face was time well spent. Wise beyond her years, my friend seems to always know what to say in a thoughtful and confident manner. She offers perspectives that are enlightening and encouraging, with empathetic words that affirm, restore, and uplift. Somehow, we get each other and always have been able to see the truth and value in the other. We pray and involve one another in our deepest of sorrows, most appalling revelations, and haunting moments of grief. Our rejoice is pure and exuberant for each other when happy times and blessed events are shared. Never do we take for granted the other, nor hold a grudge or make assumptions when long periods of absence by phone or visit are necessary. Although there is a great distance between us in calendar years, the gap is seamless. Over the years, we have grown in appreciation of and dedication to our friendship with one another and acknowledge that the companionship we’ve cultivated only continues to beautify with age. How utterly grateful I am to know a dear friend who accepts me as I am, and whom unceasingly blesses and nourishes me with her pure existence and genuine presence in my life. 

When we honestly ask ourselves which person in our lives mean the most to us, we often find that it is those who, instead of giving advice, solutions, or cures, have chosen rather to share our pain and touch our wounds with a warm and tender hand. The friend who can be silent with us in a moment of despair or confusion, who can stay with us in an hour of grief and bereavement, who can tolerate not knowing, not curing, not healing and face with us the reality of our powerlessness, that is a friend who cares. ~Henri Nouwen

Thankful for the Promise of Tomorrow

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Let us rise up and be thankful, for if we didn’t learn a lot today, at least we learned a little, and if we didn’t learn a little, at least we didn’t get sick, and if we got sick, at least we didn’t die; so, let us all be thankful. ~Buddha

 

My morning started with a broken dish and burned bacon, unfortunately setting the tone for the rest of the day. Still, I’m thankful that I have a cupboard full of dishes and plates to use, and in the refrigerator plenty of food to prepare for breakfast, lunch and dinner. 

I’m thankful that Baby Boy was eager, for once, to participate in his music therapy class. Today was the first time he showed delight in being there this fall session. He has a new teacher and is part of a larger, more boisterous class than the summer group. Accompanied today by his beloved Snoopy stuffed dog also aided in his comfort level.  Even though there are only two more classes left to attend before the holiday break, I was thrilled to see him relax and enjoy himself more. 

Additionally, I am thankful that I realized, albeit late in the day, that he had left his irreplaceable Snoopy behind and quickly thought to return to the local church where the music class is held. My heartfelt gratitude extends to whomever it was that found Snoopy unattended and placed him in a safe spot where we were able to retrieve him hours later! The tears that my Baby Boy shed in relief when he saw Snoopy broke my heart, and I’m so thankful we were able to find and take Snoopy home this afternoon. 

Losing Snoopy only added to the ill-will of this no-good day and the stress Baby Boy has felt over the past few weeks by enduring a litany of tests, procedures, blood draws, and hospital stays. Today’s scheduled blood draw wasn’t successful at all. After being stuck a few too many times, he was fighting every way he knew how to get that needle away from his tiny body. His wriggling, wrestling, spitting, and struggling to release my hold was too much. Crying profuse tears, my sweet son was overheated and sweaty, wounded and clinging to me in a panic. At this point in the day, I was overwhelmed by the heaviness of our ordeal and needing to keep it together for him. My concern and heartache for my son and his rapidly growing, elevated fear every time we pull into the Children’s Hospital parking lot now has reached a level that crushes this sensitive mama’s spirit. This afternoon, Baby Boy had enough. So, I begged the nurse to stop. Further stating that we would just try again another time. (Preferably with another phlebotomist.)

Yes, it has been “one of those days” at the tail-end of “one of those weeks.” And we all have them, that’s for certain. Thankfully, my monthly restorative yoga class is tonight because I am craving the deep release and stillness. My mother-daughter book club meets tomorrow afternoon, for which I am pleased. There will be ample time this weekend for relaxation and reading, as well. To top it off, the sun is finally shining again! Therefore, I am now going to take advantage of this high-five from nature and get outside with my kids fueled by the attitude of blessedness for having both the time and energy to do so, while looking toward tomorrow with a hopeful heart.

 

At the age of 18, I made up my mind to never have another bad day in my life. I dove into an endless sea of gratitude from which I’ve never emerged.  ~ Patch Adams