Friday, October 11, 2013

The Book of Me, Part 6 -- Journals & Diaries

This is my entry prompted by The Book of Me, Written By You project created by Julie Goucher of the Anglers Rest blog. The concept: a series of blogging and writing prompts that help family historians capture their own memories and write about themselvesGo to for more information.

This week's assignment:

The continuation of the 15 month, weekly writing project about my life and memories, created by Julie Goucher.
The prompt for week 6 is Journals and Diaries

  • Do you keep a journal or diary?
  • How far back do they go? What do you record?
  • Where do you keep them?
  • Do you always buy the same one or vary them?
  • Have you inherited any?
  • Do you intend to pass along your journals or destroy them?
  • Pictures
  • Do you have a favorite?
  • What do you use to write with – biro, pencil, ink or fountain pen?

A tortured soul no more...but there was a time when I was mired in misery and my only outlet was a journal.

I never kept a diary when I was a child.  I was always worried that someone would find it, and the thought of someone reading about my dreams and fears was just too horrifying to bear.

If you've read of any of my previous posts, you know that my childhood was less than idyllic.  I moved out as soon as I was old enough to do so, but yet continued to make every effort I could to please my parents and win their love and approval.  I even married my first husband partly because they liked him so much.  I knew, when walking down the aisle, that I should have turned and fled, but I lacked the courage and self-esteem to do so.  I can't say I'm sorry I married him, because it's through that union that I had my daughter.  But the unhappiness of the marriage led me to begin counseling, and that's when I started journaling.

At first, I kept a book of things I remembered, being careful not to share any personal feelings or sense of vulnerabilities.  When my daughter was born, I started a baby book for her, and it sparked so many feelings for me that I began to write a journal on my computer.  After all, I could protect it with a password, so no one could see the real me--a deeply insecure and wounded soul who was an over-achiever in life who exuded confidence so no one would see the scared little girl inside.

When I got divorced, I went through even more counseling, not only to deal with the failure of my marriage, but also to deal with many of the childhood hurts I was still carrying around.  When I started dating my current husband, we both had emotional baggage from our previous relationships and childhoods, so we went to counseling before we got married, to improve our chances of making the relationship work.  We wrote letters to each other that we read in the therapist's office, and I wish I still had them...because writing things down somehow demonstrates a truth and commitment to those words. And I am happy to report that we are approaching our 25th anniversary.

I've continued counseling and a big tool used to work through old issues is journaling.  I have many large journal entries that I've kept over the years.  I found that as I started writing, old memories that I hadn't given a thought in many years began to surface.  Some were good, some not so much.  But, I have found that the process of writing has been therapeutic.  I can now recall the bad experiences without pain.  I am able to share the details of family experiences without sinking into a deep funk.  These things helped make me who I am.  I turned out fairly well.  Yes, I'm still insecure but much better than I used to be.  I realize these important things:

1) I'm not like my parents (at least not the bad stuff.)
2) I'm a survivor.
3) I'm compassionate and caring.
4) I'm an encourager.
5) I'm intelligent and honest, and sometimes funny.
But also,
6) I care too much about what other people think.
7) I dislike being dependent on others because of my illness.
8) I hate that I'm a Chicago Cub fan.
9) I often wish I could go back and do things differently.

Ah, but we all know hindsight has 20/20 vision, and as of this writing, there are no time machines.  Writing journals/diaries, for me, has been a way to formally recognize the abuses and tragedies I've survived, the triumphs I've achieved, the ways I've been blessed, and put them into the context they deserve.  As Popeye says, "I yam who I yam," and that's the way it is.  Love me, hate me, or in between, with me, what you see is what you get.  I didn't know who I really was for a long time, and keeping a journal has helped me immensely.

I don't have any specific plans on what to do with my journal entries.  If I thought I could turn them into a book that would be remotely entertaining, I would do so, but who wants to hear about a dysfunctional family's trials and tribulations?  I would need to interject some humor and inspiration, and that could be a huge amount of work!  

My advice to anyone with negative feelings, or even overwhelming joy--write it down.  It's always interesting to go back later and read how you were feeling and the situation you were experiencing.  Nothing is permanent, and in almost all cases, things improve.  Embrace who you are, what you're living, and chronicle the book of you.  It may help you, and it may inspire someone else too.

Good luck with your writing, and thanks for reading my entry.


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