Reflections - Do You Keep A Journal?

Eleanor Deckert
Reflections - Do You Keep A Journal?

“Do you keep a Journal?” I have been asked many times. I suppose if you write a memoir or autobiography, people assume you have this leather bound, descriptive and entertaining journal all spelled correctly with pages and pages of neat penmanship.

I'm sorry to disappoint you, but “No”. If you are imagining a consistently kept Journal or diary, the answer is, “No”.

However, I do have a jumbled collection of scribbles, daybooks in a stack, letters and calendars, jottings and a few dreams I wrote out at 2 a.m. I also have “Morning Pages” from the times I have participated in “The Artist's Way” by Julia Cameron. For 12 weeks, she assigns journaling tasks and exercises, insisting that “Morning Pages” are the key to unlock blocked creativity. You don't “try” or clean them up or even re-read them. You just write three pages every morning first thing, anything at all that comes to mind. So, I'm doing that again. All alone, cozy, wrapped in my favourite shawl, sipping steaming tea, listening to the rooster, watching the sky become bright, early morning routine that begins satisfying days. Not too deep, not especially wise or wonderful, barely legible, I write.

Several benefits arise. 1) I am keeping my first agreement of the day. 2) I am putting my own interests first, even for a few minutes. 3) What I think and like and enjoy and even my daydreams matter. 4) Exploring my own inner life, wrapping words around my musings, acknowledging my own feelings, struggles or hopes is worthwhile. 5) I feel oriented. The Past was yesterday. The Present is now. I can step into the Future.

It's such a luxury, really -a pause to ponder. Whispers and vapors and mists have been captured and given a word or phrase, a paragraph or page. I think of Helen Keller. Before she had words, she only had raw emotion and somewhat violent physical expressions. She later called herself at this time “The Phantom.” Once she grasped the meaning of words, she became educated, civilized, could meet minds with other people, could see herself more clearly.

My scraps, starts and glimpses, are small potatoes compared to my uncle. Rev. Robert Shields of Dayton, Washington, was interviewed on Oprah in 1997. He donated the diary he wrote in every 15 minutes for over 20 years (91 boxes of it!) to Washington State University. Like a Pharoah's tomb, he hopes it will be a Time Capsule for a future sociologist or historian to unearth and delve into the minutia of life in our times.

Would you like to find a Time Capsule? Would you want to read personal memos and creative descriptions and emotion-rich private compositions? You can. Such a collection is right at your fingertips: The Psalms.

I find it very comforting-encouraging-satisfying to stroll through this gallery of songs collected over 3,000 years ago. Preserved on ancient scrolls, the emotions expressed are so similar to my own, I realize I am not alone. Let me show you.

Psalm 1: Meditation fills my mind and heart 

and guides me.

Psalm 2: It feels like everybody hates me.

Psalm 3: Fear and trust.

Psalm 4: Distress and safety.

Psalm 5: Groaning and tears.

Psalm 6: Anger and mercy.

Psalm 7: Wickedness and repentance.

Psalm 8: Awe at the majesty of creation.

Psalm 9: Who will help me when I suffer?

Psalm 10: God seems far away.

Psalm 11: What is unchanging in the midst 

of confusion?

Psalm 12: Help me! Protect me!

Psalm 13: How long until something good happens?

Psalm 14: Maybe there is no God?

Psalm 15: How shall I conduct myself?

Psalm 16: I need a safe haven.

Psalm 17: Enemies surround me.

Psalm 18: I need a Hero.

Psalm 19: Pure. Clean. True. This is what I am 

looking for.

Psalm 20: Protected. My call for help has been 

answered.

Psalm 21: I'm so happy. Everything is working out 

great!

Psalm 22: I'm so miserable and alone. Everything 

feels like torture.

Psalm 23: I feel that Someone is looking after me 

all the time.

There are 150 Psalms all together. Each another expression of the experiences we all go through.

My Journal, like the Psalms, reads like a roller-coaster. I guess I shouldn't be ashamed. Highs and lows are both real experiences. Like the Psalmist, my faith swings back and forth. Yes, God is helping me. No, I am abandoned. I guess like travelling over varied terrain, my Inner Journey also has contrasting experiences I cannot avoid: splendid views from the plateau, challenging mountains to climb, dangerous cliffs to avoid, raging rivers I must get across, peaceful meadows where I can rest, and fruitful valleys where all my needs are met.

And my Journal, as messy and incomplete as it is, preserves a record of my Journey.