My mom is a really good journal-keeper. She writes almost weekly, with extra sessions as needed, and is brilliant about writing down the mundane, the humorous, the frustrating, the emotions, the spiritual realizations, and the absurd. Her journals are the sort I most long to find when doing 19th century research, because that’s the type rich in detail. I can really understand the times when I read a great journal.
She didn’t start keeping a journal until her young adulthood, which corresponds with my infancy. When I was a young mom, she loaned her “New Mom” journals to me for some educational reading. Her journals were so much more helpful than the standard help books on the market! None of this twaddle about “yes, it can be tough…” Her real-time notes gave me a scene by scene education in sleepless nights, colicky babies, reading to cope with the brain drain of new motherhood, recipes to try, observations on the weather (reminding me that yes, it’s okay to notice things other than the baby), funny things she noticed, prayers she considered… all the stuff I needed to know, with a very personal connection, because the small human being breaking her into this odd adventure called motherhood was Yours Truly. I was the source of most of her affliction, and at least some of her joy.
When I reached the ripe old age of four, Mom started a journal for me. At first, she narrated the events of my daily life, but over time, I took over. The volumes of my journal the cover childhood and my teens are both funny, and frightening. Was I really that angsty? That navel-gazy? SIGH. I resist the urge to edit my journals, though I have written quite a few snarky comments in the margins, dated, so I can remind myself of my own personal tendency toward sarcasm and snottiness. From the marginal comments, I’m still working on this particular character trait.
In college and early motherhood, I used my journals as free therapy; some days I’d write five, six, or ten pages, just getting all my anxieties and worries out on paper where I could get a bit of distance and start coping. Some entries are nothing but funny stuff. Some are pontificating. Some are just silly. I’m still fond of going back and making notes in the margins, so good luck to future biographers, sorting out the “rest of the story” scribbles that wrap the edges of most pages.
These days, I wonder if blogging hasn’t taken up some of the pressure to journal. I still want the end result: a well-detailed life story, waiting on some future reader to get something useful out of the pages. Getting back to regular journalling is something On My List… not because anyone else says to do it, but because I enjoyed it. I enjoyed coming up with creative ways to express the mundane. I enjoyed writing with an imaginary future reader hovering over my shoulder. I enjoyed looking back over entries and reminding myself that yes, I’m making some progress.
To that end, here’s a cool resource I found on-line. These journaling pages from Grace is Overrated would make a very neat weekly insert in a binder-style journal or scrapbook. If you have a young person in your acquaintance, or within your sphere of mentorship who struggles with the idea of journal-keeping, print-outs could make a great starting point for a week or two of entries. Getting started is often the hardest part.
I may look at tipping these into my bound journals, or printing them at 50% so I could tip them into a new, gorgeous style of journal I want an excuse to buy. (Here’s a blog with some tutorials that will help with both repairing existing books, and adding nifty things to journals, daybooks, and the like.)
And, since it’s Sunday, how about a link to a song from a musical I loved as a kid: