Sunday, May 8, 2016
Part 2- Preserving Memories - Creative Journaling Techniques
I became aware of journals and keeping a journal in the early seventies after I finished graduate school. I learned then that writing can be for purposes other than preparing papers for classes or lesson plans for children and adults I saw in the speech clinic or writing my thesis.
During those early days of discovery, I noted the trend that changed the noun, journal, into a verb, journaling - an interesting linguistic switch!
Diaries in the Lives of Other and Their Influence on my Life
Writers I admired kept journals and inspired me in different ways. Anne Frank's diary gave me an insight into her life as she shared thoughts and feelings of an emerging teenager and chronicled events that happened while living in seclusion with others. A few decades later, I gained strength from a sentence she wrote with which I could identify: "I can shake off everything as I write, my sorrows disappear, my courage reborn."
Anne Morrow Lindbergh, wife of Charles Lindbergh, the famous aviator, first released her series of diaries and letters in 1972. I admired her reflective spirit as well as the opportunity she had to leave her husband and five active children for a week to write her well-known book Gift From The Sea.
I didn't have the same luxury as Mrs. Lindbergh. When my children were young, my husband was busy with church meetings and congregational responsibilities, so finding time to write was a challenge. But I did my best, listening for God's voice to inspire words and ideas. They came in spurts back then as I wrote regularly for a clergy spouse magazine called SPICE.
Then I became aware of Madeline L'Engle, whose writing helped form my spiritual life. She set up a separate writing area in a garage behind her home. A bit jealous, I longed to find a dedicated space set apart from the bustle of family that could contain paper, pen and typewriter to bring my thoughts to life. Despite this longing I loved seeing how Madeline L'Engle found God in everyday life as she raised children, cared for an aging mother, and ran a country store in Connecticut with her actor husband who shuttled back and forth to New York City for work.
Ways to Keep a Journal
Keeping a journal has often challenged me, as I am inconsistent writing about thoughts and feelings. I received a maroon-colored journal for Christmas when I was thirteen, but I had no idea what to do with it nor was I given any guidance, instruction or encouragement for how to develop a pattern of recording reflections.
These three influences, Anne Frank, Anne Morrow Lindbergh, and Madeline L'Engle, filled the gap as they became models for writing and helped me realize I could incorporate writing "in between" everyday life. I discovered it wasn't so much what or how I recorded what I felt in my heart and soul, but that I gathered pieces of my life and develop a way to reflect and record.
Here are various types of diaries I've kept or am keeping to chronicle moments I want to remember:
1. Finding a Coin - When I find a coin, I tape it in a notebook, writing the date and where I found it next to the coin.
2. Recording a Period of Time - Two years ago, every Saturday morning from January to June, I went to a one-hour program at the Indianapolis Museum of Art called "Yoga in the Galleries." Each week, I took a picture of my yoga mat in front of a picture in the gallery where the class met. I taped the photos in a handmade book, a birthday gift from my oldest daughter, Sarah. I enjoy looking through this small journal containing only the date and pictures; it helps me remember the thoughts that were on my mind during each week's class.
3. Four years ago I attended a "Visioning Your Life" program held the first of January at my church. I created four collages that reflected thoughts about my family, myself, and life in general. Referring to these through the years helps me see how I visioned my life and realized how a few areas have evolved.
4. Gratitude Journal - At the end of each day, I write a few words that express my gratitudes. I am into the fifth year for completing this daily task. It's interesting to read my gratitudes through the years and how a few are repeated.
5. Art and Words for the Day - Each day, as a way both to stay present and mindful, and to remember and record how God came to me, I make small sketches or write a few words that were important. These illustrations and phrases increase my awareness of God's provision, encouragement, strength, and blessing. I paint what I draw, adding more color and life.
6. Charm Bracelet - In the days following the journal gift decades ago, a charm bracelet became my private, yet visible record of memories. (See Gather the Pieces entry for May 1, 2016: "Part 1 - Charm Bracelet - A Visible Diary.")
Take Time to Keep a Journal
Keeping a journal, whatever form it takes, does require some time. First, it's necessary to slow down the pace of daily life and become mindful of daily experiences and encounters, allowing feelings and images to surface. Next, assemble the necessary tools in one place - pen, paper, pencil, markers, fabric, paints, computer - to record what you want to remember.
Allow time, daily, once a week or whatever frequency you decide to offer moments of relaxation, blessing, refreshment, and renewal. Keeping a journal manages stress, reveals how God is at work, assesses strengths and weaknesses, chronicles challenges and celebrates life.
I am grateful for the writing and encouragement of Anne Frank, Anne Morrow Lindbergh, and Madeline L'Engle, and how these women guided my writing. In different ways each one strengthened the path of my life and nurtured a meaningful way of self-expression.
Prayer: Thank you, God, for giving us ways to record our experiences and encounters. Often we develop, explore or discover new abilities as we select and practice writing, art, and collecting to record life's moments. For the gifts of reflection and expression we give thanks. Amen.