Many times participants in my classes & workshops ask me if they should keep what they journal or if they can just throw it away, especially if it’s highly sensitive or private. No matter how sensitive, I always, always, encourage people to do two things: keep what you write, and date each entry. The quote here by Pema Chodron exemplifies why.
There is so much learning in reviewing our journal. Whether the entries are happy, sad, depressing, joyful, or mundane – they reveal important patterns and synchronicity in our life.
A few years back I was at our cottage where I store the volumes of my old journal (Yes, volumes. Most of them are only half filled. I get bored easily, so I buy & start fresh journals often and sometimes I buy a new journal to signal a new chapter in my life). One night on a whim I took them all down off the shelf, plopped them on the bed, crawled under the covers, and started reading. Yikes. Talk about patterns.
First I recognized that I’d mostly journaled when I was depressed, upset, or confused. Granted, because of the amazing healing power of journaling, these are great times/feelings to journal indeed. But what was in those pages certainly didn’t represent my life. I felt sad that I hadn’t journaled more of the happy, joyful, fun, and even mundane times. It would have been fantastic to review a complete picture of my life – like the joys & lessons of motherhood, the awe inspired by our many travels – and much less of a bummer to read the extreme weight of the words on all those pages! But I soon discovered there was a big lesson in the weight of those words.
I recognized a pattern: the life situation that most repeatedly caused me to be depressed & upset. My career. I can’t begin to tell you how huge an AHA Moment that was. Looking back, it was a true paradigm shift moment. I’d always struggled, certain that ‘something must be wrong with me’, because I would be ‘successful’, yet always end up with the same frustrations & want to quit one job after another. Reading the journals I clearly saw that what was wrong was that I kept putting me in the wrong jobs for the wrong reasons – and that just because you can do something well, doesn’t mean that’s what you should be doing. I’d been working at jobs and in places that did not speak to things I care about or am passionate about. It took some time to align my career with my passions, but I have, and I’ve never been happier.
What also changed from that evening with my journals is the way I journal. My journal has become more of a constant companion to me. I carry it with me always – not only does it contain my thoughts and experiences – happy & sad alike – it contains doodles, grocery lists, doctor’s appointments, ticket stubs, restaurant reviews – you name it. Now, my journal represents my life. I can still learn from reviewing it, but it’s a lot more fun to review! LOL
Keeping everything that I wrote changed my life – for the better.