Sunday, July 27, 2014

The Joy of Keeping a Journal


As I was browsing Facebook this morning, one of my friends shared a post about journaling, which sparked several comments, and was particularly interesting to me -- an obsessive writer.  My evening is not complete until I have spent a few quiet moments with my journal in hand, mulling over my day and writing down what seems to me to have been of some importance. 

When my children were young, and quiet time was rare, I did not have the luxury to keep a formal journal.  Money was tight, so my writings and musings were sporadically entered into loose leaf notebooks.  As I look through the many notebooks and pieces of paper, I realize that I did indeed find the time to write, but it was not a part of my daily routine.  How I wish I had chronicled the dailiness of raising children, and recorded the sweet moments of their lives in an orderly fashion.  There is so much I don't remember about those years.

In the late 1980's, when the demands of my children began to lessen, I started gardening and kept looseleaf notebooks filled with diagrams and information on what I had planted and how well things grew.  Sprinkled throughout these pages were paragraphs about the things that were happening in our lives at the time -- the illness and death of my father, the family parties, etc.  I continue with this garden journal today, but now the journal is a hardbound book, and my entries are not as technical they once were.   I write more about the joy of gardening and the seasonal changes each year.

In 2001, the death of my mother and the heart wrenching tragedy of 9/11, sent me to my journals with a new determination.  I finally bought hard-bound journals and began to spend some quiet time each day writing whatever seemed important or touched my heart.  Soon, I was pouring out my soul to these journals.  Not only is it cathartic to be able to look back on each day and sort out my feelings and worries, it also provides a history of sorts that I refer back to often.  Time passes so quickly; it is difficult to remember when some major event happened in our lives.  All I have to do is check my journal.  I keep them in an antique trunk, bound together by year; occasionally, I will take out a journal from several years ago and read it in its entirety. 

Both of my sons were married in the same year, and I started a special journal when they became engaged.  Now all of the lovely memories of those days are there waiting for me whenever I want to relive those happy times.  I also have a journal for each of my grandchildren.  I usually make an entry every few months, to record the special memories of my close relationship with them.

My daily time with my journal is very important to me.  So many lovely memories are held safely between the covers of these books, as well as times of heartbreak and sorrow.  This time alone, with pen in hand, offers me the chance to write down my feelings and put things into perspective. 

My mother kept a journal; I remember her writing in it now and then, and placing it back in her dresser drawer.  At some point in the last months of her life, though, she destroyed her journals.  She told me she was afraid that there might be things she had written that could hurt other people.  How I wish she had talked to my sister and me before she destroyed them.  I would cherish them now, with both her and my sister gone.  It would be like hearing her voice again.

As I have worked through the years on a family genealogy, I have realized that journals are a treasure.  There is only so much we can learn about our ancestors from birth and death records, photos, and other documents.  Reading their own thoughts in their own handwriting would be a tremendous gift. 

And so, I keep my own journals safely in their trunk.  Who knows what routes they may travel; years from now, a great-great grandchild may read one of them and gain insight into what life was like in my times, from my perspective.  My life has been an "ordinary" one, with no great accomplishments, but sometimes what we yearn to know about our ancestors is what their ordinary days were like.  Who knows, they may end up being thrown in the trash someday after I am gone and never passed on, but keeping these journals has been both a joy and a balm to my soul -- a lovely way to end each day.


No comments: