By Karen Samford
How Mari’s 27 day journaling course helped me see the future:
I like journaling. I like clearing my head of all the chatter, the lists, the woe-is-me’s and whining. I like getting rid of all the garbage in my head before it throws my day off-track.
Imagine finding out that it wasn’t all garbage!
A year ago my husband was in a motorcycle accident that should have killed him. Fortunately it did not. But as he went through surgery, rehabilitation and recovery, our lives were both turned upside down.
As he spent months at home waiting to walk again, he dealt with more than his share of fears and uncertainties. And so did I. I coped by taking care of him, keeping our household afloat and trying to keep our spirits up.
I journaled to vent my frustrations and fears. I believed this to be better than hurling them onto my family and friends. Every morning, I wrote like crazy. I left all my worries and fears on the page, and then tried to get on with my life.
It didn’t work.
I had no idea where my life was going. Would my husband walk again? Would he be able to work? Every day I wrote the same questions on the page. And every afternoon I lived the same day full of anxiety and stress. Then I saw an ad for Mari’s course.
She caIled herself a coach. And a coach was what I needed for this unscripted chapter of my life. Through the use of prompts, Mari led me away from rants and directed me toward my feelings. Beginning my journal dialogue with thoughts of music, nature and joy helped to open my heart, not just the contents of my head.
My breakthrough came in a grief exercise.
Our prompt was to write a letter that might heal a hurt in our life. I wrote to myself, in sympathy for all I had lost in the last year. After the accident, I took on new roles without hesitation. But I had never taken a moment to say goodbye to the old ones. Initially it felt selfish, but the comfort I found in my letter was not pity, but support.
By grieving the life that was ours before the accident, I was able to see what we still had. And what we had accomplished since then. Our roles and circumstances were different, but our commitment to each other was still propelling us forward.
It was not fear that had been driving me mad. It was a lack of confidence.
As long as I continued to compare every day to what our life was before the accident, I had nothing left to give. I was doing more than complaining. I was asking myself a lot of questions, all of them beginning with “What if?” and “Why?” But every day the dialogue stopped there. When I closed the journal, I went right back to my role playing. In my daily life of task after task, there was no place for new ideas. Only the same frets and worries.
By asking the same questions (on the journal page) every morning, I was creating the same day for myself-- over and over again. Like Bill Murray in Groundhog Day, I was stuck in a routine that was not doing me any favors. It was only when I truly mourned the parts of our lives we had lost to the accident, that I started to see a future. Hopes and plans I could have for now.
I needed somebody to convince me there was more.
That somebody had to be me. But before the journal exercise I would never have believed it. Now I know that the day I said good bye to last year, I started seeing hope on my blank pages again.
Now when I look at the words I write on the journal page every day, I see them not just for what they say about where I’ve been. I can also see where I am going. Pulling truths and goals out of the garbage comes easily for Mari. And it’s starting to make sense to me, too.
Karen is a reporter turned essayist who has never met a person she didn’t want to write about. After her husband’s motorcycle accident, she started a blog. Its purpose was tiny bits of humor at a time when Karen thought her sky was falling. The blog has lived on to showcase essays on how much she has learned from the smallest of things. Read them at [email protected] You can read her winning memoir, Last Kiss, here.