Sunday, November 22, 2009

Journal Writing

I have been writing in journals almost since I could write. For many years part of what I wrote was what I dub the "chronicle of daily life," which I largely do online now.

But I still write by longhand in journals. The writing done by hand is different. We now know that different parts of the brain are engaged when we type than when we write with pen to paper. I always knew this, as I'm sure any devoted diarist did, but science has caught up with us.

Since I've been writing in the blog, I have written more sporadically by hand in journals. Periodically I've thought this was an error, and would rectify the situation by going to my paper journals more often.

But, as we approach the end of this year, which has been a very difficult one for me on multiple levels, I realize just how critical it is that I spend more time with pen and paper. I have started with my gratitude journal.

Science has proven that keeping a gratitude journal is one sure-fire way to increase your happiness level. I need more happiness. I'm not clinically depressed, I am "appropriately sad" given the circumstances I've found myself in this year. There's a big difference in those two things.

It would be very easy to have my doctor medicate me so I don't feel sad. But, I know from experience, grief will have its due. Period. There is no short cut. And there's no point in delaying that. So, I'm grieving the losses of this year - from body parts, to an innocence about one's good health, to the death of a dear friend, to losing the holiday celebrations I had planned. Part of that processing has to be done with pen and paper.

At the same time, I am spending time with my gratitude journal each day. I have so much to be thankful for this year. Amidst the losses, I was blessed to get the news thousands of people are praying for every day - "benign." I was lucky enough to have friends who rallied around me at various steps in the processes. I had great care. I have a new job I really, really love, working for people I respect a great deal. I am also fortunate enough to be able to understand why some have drifted out of my life this year. I'm thankful to be feeling strong enough to release those people.

It has been difficult to be close to me this year - it has been a frightening journey at times and you can't keep from putting yourself in my shoes at such a time. I understand some people just don't want to go there. I understand - it's scary, it's difficult, it's painful. But I cannot carry any of those relationships into the new year. I'm overdue to bid farewell to them.

So I'm going through a process to let go. I spend some time thinking about the positives of each relationship I need to part with. I appreciate the relationships for what they were, and then accept that they are no longer beneficial for the two of us, for whatever reason. Then I say, "thank you for the time we shared. I wish you well on life's journey and I release the bonds we've built. Thank you for being part of my world for a time. May happiness, laughter and goodness be yours all the days of your life. Thank you and goodbye."

I have decided that on this Thanksgiving I am going to spend the day in a constantly thankful frame of mind. I think that will do wonders for my own good mental health. Yes, this year has had many losses, but it has also offered much to be thankful for. I'm going to focus on that and spend some time with journals, making those blessings even more tangible with words formed on paper.

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