Though I was an early talker (are you surprised?!) and still love to talk, writing has always been the most therapeutic form of self-help for me.
I began journaling in fifth grade, chronicling nearly every day of my life — and I haven’t stopped since.
Traveling with me from my childhood bedroom in Vernon, NJ … to my dorm room at American University in our nation’s capital … to my first apartment (and subsequent apartments!) … to my first home have been the two dozen or so spiral-bound notebooks filled to the brim with words and experiences, etched forever in varying handwriting styles and a wide array of ink colors.
I’ve been both lovingly teased for my “chronicles” and admired for my commitment to journaling … but I don’t do it for laughs or praises; I do it because it’s what works for me — and because I love the idea of a living, breathing biography …
No matter what “it” was … jotting “it” down always made me feel better. It was essentially a free couch session. In the early years, I talked about “big stuff” like crushes and heart-aches; friends and foes; family and dreams … and minutia, like what I was wearing, who I talked to that day, who was in a fight with whom, who liked whom, if so-and-so made eye contact with me, if I sat with XYZ at lunch or not, etc.
As I got older, the themes naturally evolved and, through my writing, I was able to find my way through an awful break-up in college, the death of my beloved grandmother, a life-changing semester abroad in Buenos Aires, the death of my best (male) friend from college, an international long-distance love affair with my then-boyfriend (now husband), my experiences living in El Salvador, my weight/body image issues, my pregnancy … to name a few.
My journals were my secret confidante … a place I could escape to and share my deepest hopes and greatest fears without worrying about rejection.
A place I could be 100 percent honest with myself.
A place I could problem-solve and in which I could strategically plan a course of action.
I treasured them like no other material object and — were my house to burn down a second time — I’d rescue those first (provided all my family was safe, of course!).
In that respect, not much has changed, even since I began blogging in 2008 (i.e., “blogotherapy”)
What has changed is the frequency with which I write.
A devout journaler all my life, though I always carry my journal with me, I find I document so much of my life here on the blog now, that I have less time to devote to my paper journal. It’s not that I don’t want to write … I do. It’s just that I haven’t been making time for it — and I want to. I need to. I need to because writing gives me clarity, makes me feel good.
When I fill a blank page with an uncensored, unbiased stream of thoughts, I’m empowered to take action … or not. (Sometimes just filling the page is enough — and no action is necessary; sometimes the beauty of writing means, “OK, I can finally move on now”).
Tonight I pulled out my journal to write and was floored when I saw my last entry was May 18. MAY 18. It’s June 3!! I’ve never, ever, ever gone that long without writing. In those few weeks, a ton has happened … and I didn’t get a chance to document any of it.
Much like religion — which many of us turn to in times of need — I tend to turn to writing when things aren’t going well more than when they are. And maybe that’s why I haven’t been blogging as much, either … when things are good, what is there to say? The truth is, there’s always a nugget worthy of sharing … be it as small a thing as Maya has hair finally or as big a thing as wondering what the future will hold for us once my hubby finishes his MBA in December.
So tonight, I’m making a commitment to give both my journal and my blog some TLC. I won’t force myself to write every day, but I will make a concerted effort to give both more thought. Now that I feel like I am living a “new normal” (as a working-outside-the-home new mom) I feel more confident in my ability to carve out some “me” time to dedicate to my craft.
Because for as much as writing is my passion and therapy, it is, too, indeed, a craft. And crafts require nurturing.
I say, bring on the TLC!
How about you? What’s your therapy? Music, art, writing, conversation, theater, etc.?