|Pen To Paper: The Truth About Journaling During A Pandemic |

journal

If you scroll through my latest blog entries, you might notice that I am reading a lot: I challenged myself with an aggressive reading goal for 2020 and with all things quarantine, I have been able to make substantial progress on my list. But my posts are lackluster when it comes to the highs and lows of my day to day, and that is because I am using another tool for my mundane drafts and inspired musings.

I was visiting a new small town one weekend and stumbled upon an indie-bookstore, came across a gorgeous journal that whispered from the shelves, promised me that I’d fill its pages, more so than other blank binders owned. Sure enough, I returned home and started writing, pressing a pen to paper for the first time in years:

“The date is March 9th: International Women’s Day. All over the world, females are proclaiming their power, waving the flags of their truth in testimony to their greatness on social media banners, feeds, and stories. But today, I choose to go inward instead.

I found this journal at an old bookstore in Middleburg, Virginia. The worn hardcover caught my eye and when I opened the pages, I was struck by such beauty. It was “used,” although the pages were pristine, so I walked up to the register and paid $5- what a steal! Sure, I had other journals at home, at least a dozen, and I rarely wrote in any. In truth, all writing is done on my phone, on my computer, or in a Dollar Store Composition Book. (A place where all of my ROUGH, rough drafts live.)

But I don’t have a designated place to be “me.” My truth is shared after rounds and rounds of heavy edits, poking and prodding at my words until they are barely mine at all. While this past year has allowed me to get comfortable with blogging on a consistent basis, my content, for the most part, is surface level.

What is my truth?

I’d love to explore the very idea- here. I’d love to fill these pages with my own life lyrics, learn to love my own lingo. The poetry that makes me pause, the songs that make me sigh, recollections and re-enactments of the ordinary and profound- I want this journal to be the keeper of all of my sentiments, my greatest loves, my most painful longings. Before I boast to the world or whisper a secret to my closest friend, I pray that this journal pulls me in.

And with that, I plant my first seed. Day by day, I’ll sow and tend to my garden- My wildflower landscape of magical and mundane musings. Of bright and bleak blooms.

My truth.”

I did not know then, that COVID-19 would sweep across the world and alter my “normal” for weeks, months, to come. But my second entry became more of a formal announcement, documenting not only the facts relating to a growing pandemic but my own thoughts and feelings surrounding life, turned upside-down. My journal became a history book, and I cannot describe how incredible it is to see my filled pages, exactly one month later.

Sometimes I write about what is going on around me, note details about social distancing regulations, case numbers on the rise, etc. and although it is occasionally morbid to recount, I remind myself that we are in unprecedented times. Whether I read this in years to come or if someone else stumbles upon it, a child, grandchild, stranger… I want to be thorough in the particulars of my environment. I myself have a few journals of family members that have passed on: Reading their pages feels like a lifeline to their souls, but also paints a powerful picture of the times that they lived in.

I also scribble down the silver linings of the day- Being at home has allowed me to do things I haven’t had the opportunity to do in years, or ever: Bake bread, paint, walk the neighborhood or move my body daily. Watch the birds in the kitchen window, savor my morning cup of coffee. Journaling has allowed me to really reflect on moments of gratitude, passion, simple bliss.

You may have just postponed a wedding (I sympathize with you). You may be pregnant and may be receiving care in an unexpected way (Congratulations, still a blessing, nonetheless!) You may be working from home, with children, taking time between calls to steal kisses and break up fights (You’re a Superhero!) You may be without a job or working ungodly hours to keep things afloat (I commend you regardless.) Whatever fate lines your path right now is temporary: Long hours may turn into long days, but life is fleeting- This phase will soon evolve into the next. I therefore highly encourage you to write down everything that you are experiencing now, positive and negative, as a way to understand and appreciate these unique times.

There are a lot of articles found lately, that highlight this notion. A college historian urges all to “write stuff down.” My friend and fellow blogger Chelsea Swift, provides tips on how to journal your way to a better day.  I grabbed the Spring copy of Centennial Health’s magazine “The Mindfulness Journal,” and found an article on the scientific benefits of “expressive writing.” Beth Jacobs, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist and author, focused on therapeutic writing, notes that there are many critical advantages that can be seen right away, by taking up journaling.

“The first one is clarity. By journaling, you’re forced to articulate your internal process to a greater degree. Secondly, writing in a journal gives you perspective. You’re viewing your own self from a little distance and with a little detachment. It helps you realize that something is just a thought. It will come, it will go, and there will be another one. The third benefit is emotional release. You’re doing a motor activity that is connected with your inner working, and it’s a release.”

If you are looking to get started on a more introspective journey, “The Write Stuff” article by Rima Suqi offers some great tips and reminders:

-Understand The Difference Between Journaling And Writing | You don’t need to be a good writer to journal, you just write.

-Let Yourself Go | There is no audience to journaling: Scribble, cross out, disregard spelling and grammatical errors.

-Take Advantage Of Prompts | Look to Pinterest, search articles, or reference books of poetry or prompt “jump off points”

-Make A List | Lists are allowed when journaling! Gratitude lists, scans of the 5 senses, to do lists… it’s all relevant to tapping into your thoughts.

-Write About Nothing | If there’s nothing to write about, fill the page with just that.

Once again, the benefits that I have seen lately are amazing and I’d be happy to share more if you wish. Tell me: Do you currently journal? And if so, what helps you endure and succeed in sticking to a routine, during these times? Tell me about your process in the comments below!

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