Looking Back on the Journey

I opened the book with mixed feelings as I pulled it at random off the top shelf, hooking my finger on the frayed edge of its spine. Inside were pages of handwritten entries under dated headings. Neatness varied, the colour alternating between black and blue with the odd foray into red or green. At times the continuous writing broke into a list or poem – Becoming an astronaut isn’t rocket science – began one entry.

My journals go back years. They hang out at the back of my spare room wardrobe like pigeon-toed teenage girls along the wall at a school disco, wondering if they’ll ever be asked out. This was the day their luck changed, as I started to fulfil my intention to re-read them. I’m still going through the process.

I’ve been surprised at how an emotion of over twenty years ago can be re-kindled as I read the passion poured out in words on the page. Yet alongside this feeling-memory I recognise that this is  not my experience now: that time of agonised transition when I wrote – I feel I am at a doorway – is past. Life has moved on.

Reading with the perspective of hindsight, I can see how chapters of my story have resolved: Some hopes were unmet but other fears unrealised; some goals have been achieved and some aims completed; some assumptions were… .well just assumptions. And in some cases, there were new factors to come into play unforeseen at the time of writing. I also recognise similar themes and concerns cropping up – areas important to me that I want to pay attention to and keep in mind, or  aspects of my personal psychological landscape that have a tendency to trip me up.

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I’m reviewing my amassed journals as I want to decide what to do with this confidential writing. I suspect I will shred some of the emotional outpourings. They helped me through back then, but have now served their purpose. I may keep some rediscovered records of events I had forgotten – the detailed timetable of mishaps that turned a 6-hour journey to a holiday destination into a 24-hour traveling nightmare! I may rescue and re-work some poetic material, preser
ve some interesting quotes and reflections, and ponder accounts of significant dreams.

I will not have to re-visit every moment of my life. Like many journallers, I do not write every day. Some entries do run day-to-day during focussed periods from a personal crisis to simply space and time away on a reflective retreat. At other times, the pace is more gentle.

How I journal has evolved over the years. I’ve branched out from A4 red or black hardback tomes to more portable and colourfully-covered books (Paperchase is a favourite haunt!). And I’m more adventurous in what and how I write: fragments, unsent letters, updates and annotations to keep track of things I want to work on or explore. I intentionally travel lighter and with more creativity. My current journal stays close, a companion work in progress in parallel to my life’s journey.

Once a week I go out for a journal-writing coffee-break, to review the last seven days. I write about how things have gone, especially in aspects of life I decided were a particular focus for this year. I write about issues that have come up and what I have noticed that I want to celebrate, remember, take action on or explore. This weekly write-up provides a rhythm and a framework for any journal-writing I may or may not do on other days.

Writing a journal has helped keep me anchored over the years, providing a first port of call for hopes and plans; dreams and fears; joys, affirmations and achievements. This is why I am setting up a group to support others in doing the same: Way with Words.

The aim is to meet monthly, to explore ways of journalling that will foster our wellbeing. Like me, you may have come through significant times of challenge and transition, and want to continue writing along your way to keep yourself on track, nurture insight and encourage personal development.

Way with Words will be starting on the second Thursday in October, so please do get in touch if you would like to join with other like-minded journallers. You can find a few more details on the Writing Workshops page.

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