The Journal Project
I’ve been a daily (mostly) journal writer my whole life. It’s a habit I learned from my mother when I would pretend “office” which was my favorite, childhood game. My dad used to get a big, red, daily diary every year and Mom would fill it with important things (and trivial things as well.)
My journal writing started many years before my marriage, but I only have (in my possession) the journals since Leroy and I have been married. I don’t know what happened to the others. We moved around a few times and I’m sure they were tossed somewhere along the way.
My organizer/planner obsession began in 1988 when a good friend went to work for (then) Franklin Quest (now Franklin Covey.) Those journals (and taking an actual class on how to use them) was a game changer for me. I was hooked. Feeling organized (whether actually being organized or not) is a priority for me and enables me to function with everything else I have going on in my life.
Since we moved off the dairy (December 2010) my journals have sat in a big box with the words: KELLI’S JOURNALS – OPEN ONLY AFTER HER DEATH! I wanted to keep the memories, but I didn’t necessarily want to share them with others. I was honest in those books. I told the truth (at least my version of the truth at the time.) Many of my most precious relationships may suffer if my thoughts were now revealed. It wouldn’t serve anyone to go back and re-hash some of the crap.
I had to decide if the treasure (the things I wanted to remember) was worth wading through the trash (the crap I didn’t want to hold on to anymore.)
It was; and so, I did. Besides… there were a couple of things I wondered about… For instance, just how many times I had been to Disneyland (30+) or what was the date of the first Faulkner Family Fun Fest (1997.)
HOW I DID IT:
1. Leroy brought the box home from storage and placed it in my office (at my request.)
2. When I had an extra, quiet hour or two, I would pull a journal out (at random) and go through it. (Random because I didn’t want to get caught up in the “story” of my life. Going in chronological order would have been like reading a story and I didn’t want to do it that way. I needed to stay detached and methodical if I was going to get through it.)
3. I created an Excel spreadsheet with the columns: DATE, CATEGORY, NOTES.
4. I sat in front of my laptop and went through each entry, page by page; reading and deciding (quickly… no time for emotion) if the entry was something that should be saved. If it was something I wanted to document… I created an entry. It would look something like this.
9/30/96 KELLI Broke big toe (dropped bench on foot.)
(And yes… that’s an actual entry.) Simple… right?! I decided to go with the spreadsheet method to enable sorting and search. I’ve already pulled it up (mostly by request) to look for exact dates of events that we’ve discussed.
WHAT I LEARNED:
Now the difficult part. I wasn’t prepared for what this project would do to me emotionally. I guess I just imagined it as a “task” and in one way, that’s all it was. At certain times, I almost felt like I was doing the work for someone else because I certainly did not recognize the girl that wrote many of those entries. Again, the detachment was purposeful. I was protecting (avoiding) myself. At least I didn’t (and still don’t) want to admit that was me.
I guess the best way to describe the difference between me then and me now that I don’t sweat the small stuff anymore. I’ve matured enough to recognize that life is bigger than what is happening to me at any given moment. I’ve learned the difference between the small stuff and the good stuff and the latter is where I prefer to spend my time and energy.
I don’t let people irritate me anymore. (Including those I love the most.) I don’t take offense as easily as I once did and forgive much more quickly (and thoroughly.)
(See why I didn’t want anyone reading what I wrote?!)
There were a lot of good memories too. I can't count how many times I called out to Leroy with... "Hey! Do you remember when...?" So many great moments that had faded from our memories. It was fun to remember, but I won't get caught up in the nostalgia. There's too much good around me in this moment.
I also now understand why I don’t journal like that anymore. Since about 2009, I’ve just kept track of important events in an app called Day One (on my iPhone.) Gone are daily “dump” sessions where I piss and moan about what went wrong.
If I can’t write something nice (or useful) I don’t write at all.