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For decades, I’ve written a journal. Sometimes I was unfaithful. But when I returned, which I always did, the question scratched at me, “Why were you gone so long?” It was so sweet to be back. After a number of such wandering absences, I came to realize that my journal was also my best friend.
I forget exactly when I first identified what I called “Journal Reality,” the pleasurable and disturbing sensation that nothing significant was real, and certainly not complete, until I had written about it in my journal. A conversation would churn around in my head and keep me awake at night — until I wrote about it in my journal. Same when there was something I had said or done that in retrospect, I saw as dumb. Or an opportunity missed. Or something that I later realized I had misunderstood. Or – these are the best – the recognition of a moment when it all came together, and I showed up exactly as I wished to be. I couldn’t let go of any of these — until I wrote in my journal.
I didn’t tell anyone about my attachment to journal writing, and I never showed my journal to anyone. She was my secret lover. I thought about her during the day, and counted the hours until we could be alone together. I didn’t understand why I needed to pursue this odd attraction, but I knew I needed it, and pursue it I did. Years later, a little wiser and a lot older, I realize why this early mistress was so important.
I was trying to answer the oldest question on earth, “Who am I?” I was embarrassed that I didn’t know the answer. I’m over the embarrassment now. I recognize that what I did know is that I didn’t know, and I knew enough to pursue the question. I was writing my story to discover who I was. Or as Joan Didion put it, “I write … to find out what I’m thinking, what I’m looking at, what I see and what it means. What I want and what I fear.”
My journal and I these days? Well, we’re such old friends we finish each other’s jokes. We meet for tea and crumpets, more like a meditation than the desperate probing of the early years. No longer the urgency, or the desperation. When we sit together, we know we can trust one another. Still sweet.
It’s good to have a friend.
How about you? If you’ve tried journaling, perhaps you know. Or perhaps there’s a friend out there there waiting to meet you. The journal is one of the major forms of what I call “Mindful Writing.” There’s a world out there to explore. So many possible friends.