I notice that I have been very negligent with my journaling of late. That negligence could be symptomatic of either one of two things: 1) that my life is so boring it’s scarcely worth mentioning in actual words or, 2) I’m extremely lazy.
I suspect the latter. I’m just no Samuel Pepys who used to note everything including intimate details of his encounters with the chambermaid he was boffing at the time, and also pissing into the fireplace late at night when he was in his cups..
Well, we don’t have a chambermaid, more’s the pity, and we have a gas fireplace that probably wouldn’t lend itself to a unrinary dousing.
But, at various periods in my life I have kept a journal, and I still do. It’s just that it’s currently lacking in daily entries. They say journaliing is healthy and it’s good for a body to keep an account of his thoughts, wants, needs, desires, and (tough for a guy) ‘feelings.’
For the past sixteen years I have been fairly (sorta-kinda) consistent with my journaling, and rarely go as long as a week without giving at least a summary of what is going on. I was advised to start the venture by a counselor I was seeing, and who was helping me to get rid of some of the angst and self-loathing that the breakup of my marriage had evoked many years ago. It was good advice.
“Be absolutely candid,” she said. “Write whatever you’re wrestling with and be totally honest. Don’t censor yourself at all.”
Great, that meant I could write dirty stuff, too. Incentive indeed.
What I found, however, was that dirty stuff was easy (isn’t it always?), but feelings were really difficult. I almost felt like I was intruding on myself be putting down assorted items of ‘honesty.’ But, the advice was well founded. I found myself exploring areas of ‘me’ that I’d never truly looked into. Why did I do that? Why did I think that? Eventually it became like a jigsaw puzzle in which you start out with a mass of meaningless bits but then, as you persevere, a picture begins to form and take genuine shape. That was what began to happen with me via my journal. It was like home-brewed psychotherapy and ultimately produced a number of ‘aha’ and ‘of course’ moments.
Now, I periodically look back at earlier entries from however many years ago and can either feel good because I have moved on, or feel like shit because I seem to be stuck in a particular area.
I keep my journal on disks, but I also print it out. In theory anybody could go into the home office and pull it out, read it, and come to the conclusion that I am maybe beyond hope. So be it. That is what a journal is all about.
But, then there remains the question about complete candor. You know, personal items, sexual musings, sexual musings about people I might not actually be married to?
Would I want somebody (like, oh, my wife, for example) to read such intems? So, I might hesitate to put them down. But if I do so hesitate then am I being completely honest and is the journaliing fulfilling its funciton? Obviously not. But, to me having somebody else look at such musings would be like being intruded upon in the bathroom; just not a situation open to public purview. We all have our private selves.
Is a journal the same thing as a diary? Probably. It’s just that diary (Pepys notwithstanding) sounds kind of 11-year-old girl, sort of Little Lulu – you know, one of those little pink tomes with a lock and key and in which each entry starts: “Dear Diary …”
When I was about 17 I actually started to keep a ‘diary’. I still have it. Once in a while I’ll look at it, and it’s a bit like exploring an alien universe, on the one hand. But, on the other, there are entries that are chillingly reminiscent of much more recent journal entries.
“Today, when I went to my locker, Susie Schwartz smiled at me and said “hi.” I didn’t think she knew I existed. I think I’m in love with her.”
An entry from today might be: “Went to the supermarket and that adorable Melanie was working one of the tills. Made a point of going through hers even though others had fewer people in line. Such a nice young woman. I think I may be in love with her. Must dispel such thoughts.”
See, other than the grown-up word ‘dispel’ it’s not all that different. By the way, that wasn’t a ‘real’ entry, but it wasn’t all that far removed from reflections of the odd weak moment.
On a final note, I have found my journal can be helpful in some of my other writing, especially in my odd foray into fiction where I want to set mood and explore emotions. I think it’s a good thing to do and will likely keep doing it. “The unexamined life is not worth living,” said Socrates. I think maybe he was right.
On the other hand, the ‘explored’ life may be a bit of a bore, especially if complete honesty is held in check.