May appear in a moment
May appear in a moment
I spent some time Tuesday morning listening to podcasts with writers. In the meantime, I dusted off the boxes in my office and decided to put some order to my journals. As some of you know, writing for me is somewhat a compulsion. It is a non-optional part of my daily practice.
I hand write my journal. I am old-fashioned that way. The ideas that pour forth with a nice smooth pen on paper seem qualitatively different than what I write when I sit down to the keyboard. More raw. Less pre-meditated. Just me.
My intended audience for these journals is just me. I made my college roommate promise me that if anything happened to me she would have the journals burned without reading them.
I was a little embarrassed when I started sorting the piles of journals into decades. The sheer volume of the once-blank books that span the last 26 years astonished me. Think of all the wasted paper! All those poor trees have been sacrificed for my greedy writing habit…Then I was kind of amazed. I started to wonder about the periods when I had been faithful to journal at least weekly, or other periods when journals were either lost or not kept.
What happened to 2008-2009? No journals from that time. Mysterious.
Did I start journal-writing prior to 1992, the year I left home to go to Swarthmore College? I have a cute little lock & key style diary from when I was about 7 years old, a that I probably got from my Mom.
I decided to document via photos the journals I have kept. This is as much to illustrate my insanity as to be able to let go of these books at some point, as per my desire to live a more minimalist life.
My collection from 2018 includes 15 blank books (so far, since I just started #16 today). That is really embarrassing. But I suppose in a way, it is something I can embrace. I write. My days flow better when I write each day. I also seem to have less insomnia when I let it all out rather than letting it simmer.
When then if I want to work on a big project, a book idea? Do I keep writing? Do I perhaps use my journal as the “reward system” for after I’ve gotten my daily pages and work done?
Clearly it’s a habit that’s not going away. It feels like a lifeline to me, and I am sure I would need to spend a LOT more on therapy if I were NOT writing each day. Come to think of it, the gaps in my “years” of journals actually correspond to episodes of major transitions and/or clinical depression in my life: 1995, 2002, 2009.
Wow. Sh*t. Ages 21, 28 and 35. It seems I was due for an episode in 2016 at age 42, but it never arrived. I am giving credit to my consistent pile of journals and some proactive therapy. When you have tasted that flavor of darkness more than once you sometimes recognize the signs before it arrives again. Self-care is now a religion for me.
I told and AirBnB host back in September: I write because I must. Indeed. Apologies to the trees that sacrificed their lives for my mental health. And everlasting gratitude to you.
I think we are fortunate in Minnesota that there is very little doubt about that distinct feeling of winter. The cold bites at us, and we notice. It will get down to single digits this week and it is inescapable.
I have come appreciated quiet times of the year, when I take my time. There are less events, though some people attend holiday parties (I manage to avoid most). There are some family gatherings at the holidays, but right now feels like a nice quiet opportunity for reflection. I enjoy my peppermint tea with a dash of eggnog in it, and I snuggle with my cats.
Working from home, some days I am not required to go anywhere. I typically make it outside at least once for a yoga class, a dance class or a walk (at the very least a trip to the mail box). My grandmother used to say she enjoyed winter because there were a lot less yard work chores, and plenty of time for reading. I agree. SO many good books on my shelves.
What is your favorite way to spend quiet times of the year?
Snow has come for us.
Blankets and layers abound.
Snuggle in with Cat.
On Monday I learned of the passing of Earl Bakken, co-founder of Medtronic, and inventor of the first battery-powered, wearable pacemaker.
I worked with Medtronic for 11+ years, and I got to see firsthand the commitment of so many people to the mission: to alleviate pain, restore health, and extend life. Earl had endless creativity and persistence around the invention of technologies that could help physicians treat their patients.
For many years, there was an annual “mission and medallion” ceremony where new employees would learn more about the mission and history of the company. We were “inducted” into the Medtronic way, and the important focus on quality and a patient-centered culture.
I used to love the annual holiday party and employee meeting that Bakken implemented, where we would hear from patients who had received devices, and the difference in their quality of life (or in some cases, life itself). It was moving to hear stories of real patients and to connect with the mission on that level. In clinical research there can be a lot of bureaucratic processes to enable to get things done, because of regulations. Keeping our focus on the patients served always kept us striving toward excellence and quality, despite the challenges.
Earl Bakken was a role model and a humble leader in his 40 years at the helm of Medtronic. He hired good people and got out of the way to let them do their jobs, said Earl Hatten (employee #8 of the company that now employs 84,000 people). After he left Medtronic, he stayed involved in many philanthropic endeavors. His focus was on enabling people to live full lives, not just implanting devices.
I am honored to have been part of the company he co-created, and to have shared in that journey for a substantial part of my career. I am grateful for the impact and influence Earl Bakken had on so many people, employees, patients and communities.
Thank you, Earl. Your legacy lives on through the dedicated work that continues today.
The stories we tell.
Minds running on full throttle.
We can let go now.