Journaling can be very therapeutic, but it turns out it’s even more useful when you have a shocking memory.
I found an old paper and pen journal which my daughter bought me a couple of years ago. I’d almost entirely forgotten about it, but reading back through the entries has been eye opening.
Up until yesterday, I would have sworn that my interest in many of the things I write about started around the time of the pandemic.
It turns out the things I’m valuing now, which I thought were pretty new to me, were there all the way back in 2019, when the world was a different place.
I write about being in the present moment, connection with my family, meditation, my desire for more minimalism, a desire to curb my binge drinking, a wish to spend more time outside, and an idea about setting up a blog.
“I don’t normally write about global events, but things have been a bit weird lately. There’s a virus – coronavirus – that’s led to the whole of Italy being quarantined. They’re saying it’s a pandemic and some people have been panic buying loo roll, hoping it will turn out to be nothing…”My Journal, March 10th 2020
I talk to myself in the same way throughout my journals, it’s just that my wider reading, frequent journaling and podcast listening have given me the language and tools to be more reflective and more self-aware.
Looking back over my early entries, I think it’s true to say that the pandemic helped me consolidate many of the habits I’d already been trying to develop, whilst shining a light on the things that matter to me most.
It sped up the growth I was already on the path to discovering.
Manifestation or goal setting?
Almost everything I wrote about wanting to achieve in 2019 has happened.
I’m writing much more.
I have a regular meditation practice.
I’ve reduced my alcohol consumption.
I’m spending more time outside (got our lovely dog to thank for this one).
I’ve set up a blog (though my idea for a blog in 2019 was to write humorous accounts of my experiences cold calling, a slight topic change there!)
I feel closer to my family and we have more open communication than in the past (though as always in relationships, this is a work that will forever be in progress).
Whilst minimalism hasn’t yet entered my building site of a home (some days it feels like we’re drowning in tools, dust and misplaced belongings), it has come into our lives in other ways, like our recent camper van trip and more conscious decision making.
I even wrote about wanting a new laptop to replace my decade old, clunky monstrosity and this wish came true last Christmas (unless my husband read my diary…I’m 99% sure this didn’t happen, he hates reading.)
The spiritual side of me wonders if this has anything to do with manifestation.
The analytical side of me wonders if writing down what I wanted internalised my values and goals, even if I couldn’t remember writing them.
Or maybe my values were my values all along, and I just needed a little help pinning them down.
If I write about curbing my sugar habit now, I wonder if I’ll have that sorted by 2022? You are my witnesses people!
The funny thing is, even though I can see the progress I’ve made on the page, it still doesn’t feel like I’ve come that far.
Funny how it’s never enough, isn’t it? I think that’s the nature of being human, reaching a goal brings momentary satisfaction before we’re chasing the next thing, like a dog after a car.
Time and Consistency
I’ve written before about the benefits of looking at progress over years, not weeks, for a more accurate picture of growth, and that couldn’t be more true reading back through my old journals.
I went on my first creative writing course in 2018 and it was like a lightbulb went off, but it took me until 2020 to set up my blog and start publishing my writing online.
I’ve gone from not seeing how I could fit writing into my week, to writing most days (though there still never seems to be enough time!)
Through my journals I can look back and see how much of an impact the small changes, which might look sporadic when considered in a week or a month, actually have with the long view of years.
Slow and steady is my mantra
What small changes have you made that have paid off over the years? Leave a comment below and we can compare notes.
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Addendum (that sounds a bit posh doesn’t it? But I can’t think what else to call it…)
I don’t normally add addendum’s, but I wrote this article a few weeks ago and then, rather ironically, I didn’t journal for three weeks.
It was the longest time in over a year that I haven’t journaled.
I didn’t listen to any podcasts or do any research, instead reading only one fiction book during this period.
What happened? Life happened.
My Uncle passed away, we had our camper van trip and then the funeral.
I knew I wasn’t going to write during our weeks holiday and in the week we were away for the funeral, so I spent the preceding week writing and scheduling my blog articles and perfecting and practicing a poem to read at the funeral.
My routine went out the window.
There have been times when I’ve wondered if all of this journaling, writing, reading and podcast listening is good for me.
Times when I’ve wondered if perhaps I’d be better off forgetting about all the changes I’m trying to make, if perhaps they’re causing me unnecessary angst and I’d be better off accepting where and who I am, without all the self reflection.
After three weeks of no writing and no self reflection, I can honestly say I don’t feel recharged: I feel depleted.
Getting up early to write, exercise and meditate can feel like a hamster wheel, but it seems that not doing it drains me even more.
Without all the reading, writing and podcast listening, my curiosity seems to have evaporated. I haven’t come across any new ideas to get excited about, and I wasn’t on the lookout for those small wonders in life that can spark a blog post idea, or a poem.
I’ve felt more out of touch with myself the past few weeks than I have in a long time.
So this week it’s back to early starts, regular exercise, journaling and meditation, and diving into things that challenge and inspire me.
And now I’ve written this down, my future self will be able to come back to it and be reminded what it felt like when I didn’t write (did I mention she has a shocking memory?)