Stories from a life in progress.

The perils of journal writing

This morning I opened up my notebook, as I do most mornings, and scribbled some personal stuff, as generally happens.  I've mentioned before how important this writing is for me and I've been making a much harder point of doing it regularly.

It's common for me to scribble about a problem or worry I'm experiencing, and the notebook is a good place for me to dig into what I really think and feel about what's going on.  Today was the same.  I wrote about some things that worry me, searched around a bit in the reasons why, wondered how I may change the underlying patterns over time.

And then I stopped.  I felt tired, not helped by the season's constant sinus stuffiness, and I didn't want to think anymore or write anymore.

Some of the choices which influence our lives are so subtle we don't even see them.  Sometimes it is sheer grace when our attention catches in just the right place, and we discover we have more power over our experience of life than we thought.

This is my classic pattern of journal writing: write about something that I have difficulty with, think about the problem, and then stop writing.  Chewing on problems is good.  Digging around in root causes is good, when it helps me understand those root causes.  Stopping here, stating the problem and then leaving my pens behind, is bad.

Brains don't stop thinking about things just because we stop actively thinking about them.  Whatever we work on and think about stays in our brains, rolling along in background processing.  When I write about a worry and then leave the writing behind, I've formed a ball of worry and set it rolling through my brain, and it keeps going even when I think I've moved on to something else.  I set myself up for more worry and I don't even realize it.  And then I wonder why the tenor of my emotions is negative and sad.

I was given a bit of grace this morning; I caught the choice.  I spotted the mistake in time to fix it.

I didn't stop writing this morning after talking about problems.  Instead, I turned a page and started writing deliberately about what's positive and in my favor.  I wrote about what goes right, and what I would like to do, and where I'm glad my usual patterns are helpful rather than difficult.  I spent time praying gratitude for those things, and I kept writing for several more pages, where before my spirit was heavy and I just wanted to go away.

The day looks far more bright now, and it needed only a subtle choice.  I'm grateful for the lesson, and the opportunity I have now to change a dubious writing pattern into a joyful, fruitful one.