To Journal or Not–A Big Question

I’ve decided to “journal.”

My plan is to make daily entries over the next 365 days. I admire everyone who “journals.” It takes tenacity and commitment to self. Different, I believe, from the commitment I have when writing a novel. Reality vs. fiction. Hmmm. Working on my stories becomes my job, a job I love, when I sit down at my computer. (That’s why my journal entries will be by hand.) I don’t know what I’m trying, or if I’m trying, to discover anything. It’s another opportunity to write, and perhaps, a chance for safe release.

Over various times in my life, I’ve kept diaries. Maybe if I’d thought of them as journals, I wouldn’t have had so many pages filled with such curt entries: “I didn’t do anything today.” “Went to school, came home, watched TV” (which kind of sounds like my life today). “Bored.” “Another Saturday night with Mary Tyler Moore.”

My parents gave me diaries; Christmas and birthday gifts for their teenager. (Their subtle encouragement to write?) They were five-year diaries. Small books with lined pages divided by bold blue lines into sections for each of the years they covered. The diaries had a lock and key. I think my sister read my entries at least once or twice (isn’t that what all little sisters do?). She teased me. I’m sure I wrote out the names of boys that I liked, boys that rejected me because I was skinny and naïve. I’m sure I tried to beat her up.

I still have one of those diaries. It might be the original. I’m not sure. It’s from high school and has a few entries from my college days. I had a habit of skipping years and returning to the same diary, filling in and re-dating empty pages. Sometimes, the spaces weren’t enough to hold all of my thoughts, so I wrote on separate pieces of paper and taped them to the dates that I was writing about—more feelings than the details of events. The extra pages still stick out, letting me recall those emotional turning points in my life.

In the most recent issue of O Magazine, Oprah included pages from her journals. I read the first entry about the boy who asked her to be his girlfriend and released a huge sigh of relief. I, too, had written about the first boy who asked me to “go” with him when we were leaving the eighth grade and off to our separate high schools. D. M.—I can see him now. As skinny as I was; cute, curly hair, nice smile. I wanted to “go” with him, but I was afraid. I didn’t understand what “going” with someone meant. That obedient Catholic girl, the good girl who lived inside of me and kaboshed any efforts I ever made to extend beyond her control, made me say no. No! All through high school, I recalled how I must have looked at the first dance of his all-boys school: alone, standing in the corner, watching him holding hands with another girl and wishing I could take back that “no.”

For me, Oprah’s revelation of her private thoughts (the pining so close to the same sadness I had in my teens, twenties, heck! my thirties) was a bit like eavesdropping at the door of my parent’s bedroom; the reality of what might have been going on a bit too much to handle. Thankfully, Oprah’s sidebar comments summarized her entries so that I didn’t have to read her words, face her emotions, work through her handwriting or consider how close to her heart these words were. Maybe her willingness to open her life and let go of the past is another secret to her success. I admire her for sharing.

Now, let me go on record and say that I’m not journaling because Oprah does. Puh-leeze! Frankly, I’ve been toying with the idea of starting again for a while. The bigger lesson, for me, is to journal not as much to track of what I do everyday (though sometimes I need that reminder), but more as a trusted and sacred place to record how I feel, what I’m grateful for, what keeps me going, and how I can conquer the negatives that assault each and every one of us on a daily basis. Once the year is up, I don’t know if I’ll continue or even read what I’ve written—unless, perhaps, I find an idea for another novel. I know for sure I won’t share more than one or two lines that might make good tweets. ☺

Whatever, it’s going to be interesting. Join me?