Write of Passage: Why I am still journaling after 28 years.

green-chameleon-21532-unsplash

What started as a mundane log of childhood activity has grown over the years into a rich and valued practice to support adult life. Here I explain the evolution of my journal.

I started writing a diary at the age of 9. Each entry was dedicated to ‘Dear Diary’ and spelled out the highlights of the day’s events. There was little reflection of my emotional world, although a lot was happening at the time – my parents’ separation and divorce was a tense, ugly and prolonged process; my tumultuous transition to secondary school; but I only referred fleetingly to my inner feelings:

“15/6/91. (9 years old)
Dear Diary,
Today was a day of great sadness. Mum loves another man, he’s Steve at her work. She’ll probably move in with him. I told Zoë and Melissa, they came to play. I don’t think I should of told them. We played a bit but Zoë was silly so I shouted at her and was a bit mean.”

Mostly, those early writings give me insight into the kind of activities I enjoyed and the things that were important to me at the time: friendships, school and family life.

From 15 -18 years old, my diary writing took a different turn. At that point, I abandoned the ‘Dear Diary’ construct. Again the journal was more about what I was doing rather than why, or how I felt about it. I mostly seemed to relish recounting my escapades as a young Londoner: parties, alcohol, drugs and early explorations of romance and sexual attraction.

I don’t think those few years of journaling give much insight into my inner life or even my personality. Reading back on those entries, I am almost embarrassed by how shallow I seemed and yet I know that there was more to me than that. My early experiences of romantic relationships certainly stirred up some strong feelings, some of which I was able to release in a safe way to the pages of my journal. My social life and young lust were obviously of highest priority and I only hinted at the undercurrents of a more reflective mind and a desire to go deeper into my creative process.

Here is an extract written before my social life took off:
“1/4/98 (age 16)
…I started to feel really depressed today for no real reason, Well, there is a reason but it’s difficult to place. I guess it’s mainly about friends. I still don’t really have many and I just don’t know what’s wrong with me…I don’t understand why people don’t want to be friends with me. It sounds weird but I think I’m a nice and good person and I can be a really good friend, but no one cares. Maybe they all think they’ve got enough friends but I don’t really think you can ever have enough.”

Throughout all those years, I continually wrote stories and poems, many of which remained unfinished. Perhaps it was through those that I dabbled in the more complex world of emotions in a way that the recounting of daily events didn’t allow time for.

It was in the year that I was to turn 19 and set off on a six-month ‘gap year’ travel that I forged a relationship with my journal that has gone from strength to strength. The tone of the first entry of that new stint of writing has a very different feel about it:

” London Heathrow, 10.40am, 20/2/01
So it begins. A hazy runway. Planes shrouded in London fog. Gazing through the porthole, wondering what the coming months will hold. Sights, smells, the weird, the wonderful. A break from the routine at the very least. And beyond this, who knows? Then again, any day in London can bring a life-changing experience, never mind Mumbai, Bangkok or Sydney.
So it begins.”

For the 18 years since I set off on that solo journey, I have been journaling consistently, documenting my life as a young woman and spiritual seeker, into relationship, marriage and motherhood of three children. My journaling practice has become an indispensable tool for my development in many spheres.

Here, I write during the challenging early stages of my first long-term relationship:
“Baba (referring to my spiritual teacher), 1/11/04
Prem and I had a talk this morning about fear and commitment, honesty to ourselves and each other. I told him I was scared about it all falling apart and me being left alone. Scared that if I don’t take each chance to be with him it might all end and I’ll have missed out on those precious moments. I know that my perspective is irrational. I want so much to be strong in myself, to do my own thing and not be affected but I find it so hard…”

Later, the challenges of motherhood and a shift in my spiritual direction provided a wealth of material for my written explorations:
“Sun 1/9/13
Frustrated. Foggy. Unclear. Want time, clarity, creativity, connection. Balance – in my mind. Don’t want screens – want trees. Sometimes want a screen but want Surya to be outdoors, running. Want Prem to model it. Want not to be angry, want not to be triggered by my strong-minded, controlling child – fire to fire clashing. Want time and space to myself. Enough to feel full up and me.”

My journal has been a companion – a non-judging listener and witness to anything I have wanted or needed to share; a place to work through challenging or complex situations and thoughts to find clarity and direction; my workbook for creative projects, prose, poetry and drawing; a space for ideas to be generated or gestated; a lifeline into my past and a gift to my future self.

Countless times I have flicked back through journal entries from weeks, months or years earlier and read through my writing. It can be enlightening to delve back into my process and see the progress I have made in a certain area. I develop love and compassion for the person I was then and the person I have become. And, as I revisit similar challenges and aspirations, I nurture a growing appreciation of the spiraling, cyclical nature of my life’s path.