So we come to the end of another year! Congratulations. We all seem to have made it thus far.
There's lots to look back upon and analyze. There's also lots to look back upon and wish they never happened. Regardless of how 2009 treated you, I'd like to look forward and propose something different for you next year-- why not consider starting a journal?
I've been writing a journal for many years now, more than a decade actually. It first started as a hobby, writing about the little things, mundane and pedestrian stuff. Little by little, though, the journal turned into something different because the more I got used to writing about the little things, the more I realized they weren't so little after all for at an unconscious level I had started to record the events of my life and make resolutions for the future. I call this mind-mapping, or the ability to simply start writing and going into areas unexplored by the conscious self which are totally new and different. And this is not something I personally discovered, it is as old as mankind itself.
Mind-mapping forces one to make connections between events. Single, meaningless-seeming words often turn into fully structured ideas. It's a bit like exploring the mind without having had any intention of doing it. It's a bit like having a soul or spirit speak to you. (I'd rather think it's your own self speaking in ways you'd normally not look into.)
After writing in my journal for so long, I'm glad it's become a part of my daily hygienic ritual. It hasn't been easy. Writing is not easy. Imagine how difficult it is, then, to write personal information onto a piece of paper. But that's the amazing thing about the entire undertaking-- not the writing itself although that can be pleasurable as well, but flipping through those many empty pages that end up encapsuling years of living. I've written stuff that I'm embarrassed to admit these days. I've written stuff that proved to be prescient and predictive.
Opening the pages of a journal filled with your daily observations is the richest psychological insight you can achieve. Who needs an Oprah or a Dr. Phil when you have something far richer, and personal? A journal says so much about yourself and others, that I'm surprised that the art of journal writing isn't more popular or is not encouraged as much.
As I said, writing isn't easy. Imagine turning journal-writing into a way of life? At a time when kids, work, and television takes up so much of our time, we tend to think of writing for psychological insight as something not for us. But that's the trick, making the time to do something which may seem exotic. Start by simply doodling something on those many empty and cold pages. Once you're done for the day, date and time what you wrote. If you want to write but are going through a writer's block, associate the first words that come to mind, and see how they evolve into ideas, how they connect to each other. If you need a vacation from your new-found friend, by all means do it and leave your journal writing alone for a few days, but go back to it when you can. When you do go back, fill the gaps of the missing days, hours, and seconds and treat those moments as if they were part of your holy time. Writing becomes ever more precious and symbolic when you realize how much time you've invested in something that seeks to unravel the nature of yourself, the people around you, life even. (So much for having started on the fine art of journal writing as a pedestrian effort to encapsule time.)
Remember this, though: the journal is yours, for your eyes only. Protect it like the ego protects itself. It is a place only you can go to, as if it were a geographical place of sorts. It is your own place to reaccess and start again if you fail at something; just don't berate yourself. Why bother?
At first, the life around your journal may seem like a place filled with mere scribblings and impressions, nuances of a hectic or a simple day. But it is more than that because by writing you begin to see how time evolves, transmutes, and becomes more real. No one has a right to invade that space, except yourself. No one has a right to criticize it, except yourself. No one has a right to destroy it, except yourself. Make it your best friend, your own Oprah or Dr. Phil. Make it your very eyes, soul and spirit.
Personally what I'm amazed to see in years gone by is how I've changed along the way. The things I wanted back in years past are not necessarily the things I want these days. My hopes and dreams are something else today than they were yesterday (often in unexpected ways). I often wonder what happened to some of the people I wrote about once, like Lorraine Kelly, a very special person I once knew and whom I look back upon with a great deal of love to this day/ She moved to London a few years ago and I never saw her again. I always think of her with the best of memories. On the other hand, there are some people I wrote about and whom now I'd rather not even wish I'd ever met!
(Blogging can be a little like writing a journal, isn't it?)
One of the reasons journals are so important in our mental growth is that it is a projection, an outgrowth, of our own selves. Often we tend to think that we're victims of circumstances and that there's very little we can do to change those circumstances; worse, that life has entrapped us and there's we can do about it. I sure as hell have experienced those moments, which reminds me of one of Buddhism's main themes: that all life is suffering. But this is what writing a journal has taught me differently from those self-defeating circumstances: in the short term problems may seem overwhelming. In the long term, they become illusive. Though we may carry the past within us, the past doesn't have to have a stronghold on us. But without a blueprint of where I've been, where I am, and where I'm going, I probably couldn't have made the connection between the past, present, and future; I probably couldn't have made the connection between transcending external circumstances and strenghtening the personal self.
So as we embark upon another year-- welcome to 2010-- what better gift to yourself than your own personal counselor-- your very own journal. It is the best money you'll spend. Just don't stop after 2010. Keep a journal from year to year, go back to it often, turn it into your most cherished collection. Hopefully sometime in the future when you do look back, you will be as amazed as I am to see how we all can become masters of our own destiny, and not the other way around.