Fifty-five years ago this month I began the discipline of keeping a journal, writing in it almost daily. The original impetus for this discipline was to record not just the daily events, feelings, dreams and hopes that were paramount to me then, but also to record notes from the books I read and the ideas that were given birth by that reading and my own pondering of the questions of life. As the years went by, this journaling became more of a daily summary of my days and often a “navel-gazing” exercise. Each new year I would resolve to make the journal writing something more. I continue to do so.
An elderly friend told me years ago that he could remember the events in his life forty years earlier, but had great difficulty remembering what he did yesterday. A journal helps. I know what I did yesterday (it is recorded) and I can go back in my journals and find out when I first met someone, or when a certain event took place (unless, of course, I didn’t write it down).
Perusing my mother’s diaries over the past year has been an interesting exercise. Much of what she wrote was about her daily routine, who visited, who called, and what she did that particular day. This would have no meaning to a stranger who might read her diaries, but it means much to me. To be able to walk with her through her diaries and to sense some of her thoughts and feelings is a real gift.
Six or seven years ago, I decided to re-read my journal notes and to do some editorial work. I haven’t made it through all of them yet! The task is huge! There are times when I am tempted to toss all of them out, but I can’t quite bring myself to do that yet. Why? Because the journals have helped me keep in touch with my “self,” my work, my thoughts, and my questions through the years. They have become, in a sense, a record of my growth and my lack of growth. Do you keep a journal?