By Kay Butzin
I accepted Mari’s 14 Days Journaling Challenge not to build, but rather to remodel, my journaling practice. It had been three years since I participated in her 7 Days Self-Discovery Challenge, and I had fallen back into an old habit of scribbling the same whines in the same words every morning.
When I decided to sign on for the two-week program, I’d written only three days out of the past thirty; and the accumulating laundry plus late charges on two bills alerted me to my need for therapy. Instead of turning to my journal to process issues around my 91-year-old mother’s care giving, I had buried the red-covered spiral notebook under a pile of reading material, telling myself I felt too overwhelmed by the problems to write about them. However, on Day 1, considering the question of why I journal, I realized I had it backwards—I wasn’t writing, and thus I felt overwhelmed.
My mind runs like a gerbil on a wheel, but letting the circuitous thoughts
stretch out in straight lines across the page helps me to consider the issues
I saved the Challenge workbook to my desktop; and by Day 3, I was clicking the icon to read the prompt even before signing onto the internet to check my horoscope. The reward for sticking to my commitment is overcoming the reluctance to begin, I’d written the previous day. So the ten-minute free-writing assignment that morning proved an ideal motivator. Combined with the Q&A format, it freed me to spout not only current worries but also past resentments against my mother, which I was surprised to discover I hadn’t yet shed over sixteen years of morning pages practice.
The Day 6 prompt, to write about something that was weighing on me, spurred a continuation of the rant against my mother. Instead of heeding the suggestion to ask my Inner Coach to respond to what I’d written, I challenged her to tell me something I didn’t already know.
Forgive her you say? For the benefit of my own mental and physical health? My sister tells me the same thing.
Yet I clung to the idea of not letting her off the hook. Though I’ve rarely spoken up to my mother, even as an adult, I fantasized giving her a piece of my mind.
My journal entries abound with such clichés, which is another reason I sometimes avoid doing them. The writer in me forgets their purpose is brain drain and not creation of art. But this time I didn’t cross out first thoughts and search my mind for more original expressions.
Remember, I admonished myself, the only wrong way to do the exercise is not to write at all.
On Day 14, the collage project reminded me my number one goal in life is peace of mind and that it will elude me as long as I refuse to come from a place of love. As so often happens when I allow negative thoughts to flow with the gel pen ink, I ended with a prayer: Holy Spirit, help me to translate knowledge into action.
No matter the benefits I’ve enjoyed from reestablishing my journaling habit, I know its maintenance may still fall victim to inertia. Therefore, going forward, I will refer to other CreateWriteNow publications I’ve downloaded over the years. I will continue to work through 53 Weekly Writing Retreats, having so far completed thirty of them. To inspire me when I find myself stuck for a daily topic, I will scan Mari’s 107 Fav Quotes or her 143 Juicy Journaling Prompts.
And with the holidays coming up, I know I’ll be revisiting 7 Days of Journaling to Ho! Ho! Ho!
A Michigan transplant to the Texas Gulf coast, retiree Kay Butzin appreciates getting to live where other people come to play. When not journaling, she spends her time solving crossword puzzles, playing bridge, and critiquing work for fellow members of the Rockport Writers Group. She enters writing contests because the deadlines force her to stop revising and call her stories finished. Recently her entry, Passage, finished in the top ten of the WOW! Winter 2014 Flash Fiction Contest.