I love this quote so much, and when I first read it in my early twenties, I laughed out loud with recognition.
It perfectly described my inner reality-- full of horrible hateful graffiti, and trailing barbed wire, and despair everywhere.
My mind is a much nicer place these days--it's full of lush flowers and peaceful willows, and friendly neighbor folk--but damn, I can still get LOST in there.
One of the downsides of being a dreamy creative person is that there is no end of fascinating nooks and paths and charming brambly thickets to wander down. I literally don't understand how anyone can ever be bored, because there's always some new path or meadow in my mind that I haven't yet explored. But all those fascinating and lovely paths mean that I can wander happily (or unhappily) in my own thoughts and have no idea what I've been doing for the last few minutes, hours... even weeks.
I love journaling because putting a pen to paper literally grounds me. It makes me BE right there where I am, and it forces my multitudinous sprawling ever-branching thoughts to distill down into a single thread. It's a little like I imagine spinning wool must be-- you have this big fluffy mass and you focus it down and down and down until it's a strong, single strand.
When I can follow the filament of a single thought as it loops and turns across the paper, I often end up at unexpected places.
My journal ALWAYS wants to talk. Sometimes you need to process something really intense, and your friends are all in Vegas, and you don't have a coaching session coming up for another WEEK! (Unless I'm your coach and you're one of my EFBA clients, in which case you just play a crisis card.) But if you are the only grownup in your house, like I am, and your coach isn't on call round the clock, your journal will always offer you a wise, kind, sympathetic ear.
But the real truth? The BIGGEST reason I love journaling because it's a safe place where I can be as pissy, grouchy, unenlightened, and whiny as I want without spraying all that crappy humanity onto another human being. Most of the time these feelings just need to be seen and acknowledged, and spilling them out onto paper is a really non-destructive way to do that.
It's almost like there's some sort of energetic transfer, and all those messy feelings lose their charge once they get touched down to paper.
My journal is my safe space; a place to figure out what I'm thinking, and voice the things I'm not ready to say out loud, and be horrible when I just can't be anything else.
I used to think of it as a container, but I've come to see that it's more like a magical transformation box, like the transmogrifier from Calvin and Hobbes. The very act of writing things down changes the way I think and feel about them, and when I close it up and walk away, I'm a slightly different person.
For some reason the thought of writing in a journal brings up a lot of anxiety in my clients. There's a lot of perfectionistic thinking about how you have to do it.
So let me show you all the rules I DON'T follow.
You should write down all the things that happened. I remember being nine years old and laboriously writing, "Today we went to Jane's house and played with barbies. Then we rode our bikes. We had curry rice for dinner." This was very painful for me AND my invisible readers. It would have been much more useful if I had just scrawled the one thing that was pressing on my mind and heart, something along the lines of "Why can't I be PERFECT like Jane I hate EVERYTHING I'm such a DISASTER WWHHAAAAAHHHHH." This actually would have made me feel much better.
You have to do it every day. I mean c'mon. I'm doing well to brush my TEETH every day.
It has to be 3 full pages of straight stream of consciousness, Morning Pages style. I love Julia Cameron's practice of writing 3 longhand pages every morning, and it was an important jumpstart for me when I was struggling out of a depression in my twenties. But now that I have a kid and a business? It's not going to happen. But I find that a half-assed half-page of dumping can still do WONDERS for my mental health.
You should have separate notebooks for separate themes. My clients sometimes confess that they have STACKS of notebooks-- one for each class they're taking (you know, so about a dozen), one for spiritual things, one for financial things.... I will tell you that if I had to decide which journal to write something in, that would be enough to stop me from writing. I really am that lazy. So I just keep one big messy book at a time.
You should write beautifully, and in code, in case anyone ever reads it. Oh hell no. Write like NO ONE in the world will ever read it. Otherwise, it defeats the whole purpose! Do whatever you need to do to feel safe enough to do this-- burn the pages as you go, or hide it, or threaten your loved ones with fire and brimstone and cut-up credit cards if they ever read it. We all need one place in which we can be fully uncensored. It's the only way we can embrace our shadow, and ultimately integrate it. Sometimes the best way to get to enlightenment is to greet our own most UNenlightened parts. Also, I fully intend to burn all my journals some day, so no one can EVER read them. I've read a lot of writers' journals, and they are boring as dirt. Writing is writing; journaling is just dumping.
If you miss a day/month/year, it's too late. It's RUINED. Just pick up wherever you are and dive in. There are weeks at a time when life just sails along, and I don't touch my journal. But then something wonderful will happen, or something horrible, and I'll be so full up that I need to spill out on paper-- and there is that sweet loyal paper companion just waiting for me.
So there you are, loves. One of the most powerful things you can do to get clear, grounded, brave, and more peaceful is no farther than a new notebook from the dollar store...or, let's be realistic, a creamy velvety vellum leather-bound hand-stamped gold and blue dream that's waiting for you at your local indie bookstore.
P.S. That new website I keep teasing you about? It's coming. It IS! Twirl!!!