I’ve been attempting (very key word there, attempting) to get back into a habit of regular journaling. The opportunity to look back on my day forces me to recall specific moments and be more present, combining my two favorite things, mindfulness and writing. Tonight, as I sat down with my favorite Stonehill College pen in hand, two quotes echoed in my mind, perhaps because they sound so similar:
“Some things you let go in order to live.” ~ Florence + the Machine (side note: I finally ordered Florence’s book of lyrics and poetry and I’m beyond excited to check my mail today)
and Joan Didion’s famous opener:
“We tell ourselves stories in order to live.”
My journal is my record of my life. It’s what I can look back on years from now, in addition to all the pictures and videos and embarrassing Snapchats. It’s my voice on a page. It is the story I tell, of the life I’m living. I use it to shape my life into a particular narrative. I consolidate what I want to remember and discard what I don’t.
Ironically, though, some of what I write – and this goes for journaling as well as my fiction – involves thoughts, behaviors, people – that I’m better off letting go.
And this seems counterproductive, right? Why would I want to immortalize the bad experiences? By writing them or using them for inspiration, aren’t I reliving them? Or making myself emotionally regress to wherever I was in that particular situation?
My awesome critique partner Michelle and I discuss this all the time, usually in an elaborate email chain (thanks, living on opposite sides of the world). She and I find a similar liberation in putting less-than-ideal experiences into words. And while the whole act of writing can be cathartic, I think it also goes a bit beyond that.
In my experience, it’s almost like an exorcism (not to get too Catholic or too spooky, since I know, it’s only October 2nd *sighs bitterly*). This bad situation or this feeling or this person had so much power over me, and by writing it/him/her into a story or into my journal, I reverse the tables so that I can have power over it. I can arrange it, direct it, cast it out and tell it to get gone for good.
Not only am I returning the power to my own hands, but I’m acknowledging that I’ve done all I can to fix the situation and whatever happens next is out of my control. Then I’m freeing up mental space to absorb more material, to let in more life.
And so the cycle goes.
So it’s possible to hold and to let go at the same time. As it is to write and to live.