Dear Diary: Journaling is self-care, and here’s how
today at 4:41 pm
As I mentioned previously, the two entries under J in my pandemic helper, “The *More or Less* Definitive Guide to Self-Care,” are Joke and Journal.
I started writing in my diary before the term “journal” tried to overtake it. By then, I had a nightly habit to start writing with the powerful words “Dear Diary.”
ZZZZZZzzzzzzzzz. Oh, sorry. It’s enough of a habit that I can relax a lot by simply typing those words. Still, I was surprised to find a habit I have had so long in a new book.
Author Anna Borges focuses on dealing with negative emotions in her entry on journaling, and I can’t deny that she’s correct — but that’s incomplete. I want to recommend not only dumping out the negative emotions and closing the book on them — literally — but also trying to capture in words what a good, even great day is. I would have to go back two years to find most of the great things — for me, 2019 was just as rotten as 2020, only in different ways. But great moments are there every year, even this one: good reviews for my novel-in-progress; final suggestions from a friend that were small enough to realize the book’s finished; the moment I walked into an actual bookstore in an actual mall (and bought Borges’ guide), my first book shopping in many months; the moment I went back to church for the first time in just over five months to help with the scripture readings.
I’m glad I’ve captured all of those good parts of 2020. Yet Borges is right, there’s therapy in letting the bad stuff out onto the page, too.
So yes, if you’re writing a diary or journal, by all means, write down the good or even great things that you experience. OK, write down the things that are so odd, they’re good. Write what’s an easy thought for 2020 that you wouldn’t have had in 2019 (or any other year). For instance, the day I wrote this paragraph, I had to go to my bank — and I could go to the branch office, not all the way downtown, because the branch is open again. Then I stopped at a different grocery on the way home. Last year, I’d have recorded that it was for exercise, since it’s bigger than my usual place. This year, it was for a change of scenery. Again, it’s open, and that’s news.
Seeing the number of boarded-up windows on North Michigan Avenue was sobering. I hadn’t been there since just before Aug. 10’s looting. But one store employee was putting sticky wallpaper over the boards on his store’s windows. It looked as decorative as a display in the windows. I congratulated him on good work, and he smiled up to his eyes (i.e., above his mask).
So when a mix of good and bad things confronts you, go ahead and write. Putting things into words can help things make sense, and who doesn’t need that just now?
If you need help finding some positive things, Borges’ book provides “some ideas to get you started” in your writing. Here are my favorites:
— What’s the nicest thing someone has ever done for you?
— What’s the nicest thing you’ve ever done for somebody else?
(Editor’s note from Margaret: Were they the same person?)
— What is your biggest dream in life?
— What would your perfect day look like?
(Me again: Don’t stop at looks. What would it sound or smell like?)
— How would your best friend describe you?
— What things are you most grateful for?
There you are — good ideas to turn you, Gentle Readers, into Gentle Writers. Have a good time!
Margaret Serious has a page on Facebook.
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