Wasting paper and killing trees

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.

journals 1992-1999.jpg
1992-1999

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.

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2000-2011

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.

journals 2018
2018 alone – seriously?!?

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.

cumulative journals 1992-2018.jpg
The complete pile. Those top two huge piles in the left corner are 2017-2018.

cristy@meximinnesotana.com

 

 

 

 

Dark nights of the soul

I have not yet read the book by Thomas Moore bearing the title “Dark Nights of the Soul” but I just added it to my Amazon list. Perhaps the universe is nudging me in that direction. This concept that rises up now and then as I try to anticipate changes ahead.

Lately I have been struggling with some insomnia, despite my commitment to get more sleep and the strategies I have put in place to help me do that. I power down my devices by 8:30 p.m. and try to get myself “wound down” by reading a book (an actual paper book), taking my magnesium and 5-htp supplements and leaving my electronics outside the bedroom. Sleep

All of those things help, to be sure. But sometimes my brain still gets stuck in the “on” position. I meditate, I try watching my thoughts and letting go. I try breathing exercises, with nice long exhales to activate my parasympathetic nervous system, the “rest and digest” part of the body. And still: the brain latches onto things and spins them.

I trust that someday I will get better at this, and I am practicing the skills to help me get the rest I need. I have struggled with insomnia since my teen years, I think, when anxiety about school or other issues crept into my consciousness. My Dad used to tell me how I needed my sleep, that I would have a heart attack if I did not sleep adequately. I was a skeptic back in those days, and I knew this was extreme. So I did what all teenagers do: ignore their parents’ warnings.

I have always enjoyed mornings, apparently since I was a tiny baby, and my Mom tells me I was a bit colicky after eating. But I always woke up with a smile, and I guess that persists to this day. Well, most days. As long as I have my coffee

Instead of tossing and turning in bed and waking up my poor husband, I typically go out to the living room and journal things out. It’s a “thought download” of sorts, and I hand write all those spiraling thoughts, to empty out my head and externalize them. It is a practice recommended by psychologists. It can help, but my brain is a determined little monkey.

dark night
Photo credit

Reading fiction books is also helpful. But when they are too good? That can be a problem. Liane Moriarty was my “drug” of choice last night, but her books can be too engaging so I suppose that backfired a bit. I finished re-reading Truly Madly Guilty last night and enjoyed it as much as the first time I’d read it. It is a bit of a mystery, you see, and I wanted to see if I could appreciate the craft of the story as much as I had the first time, now knowing the ending.

But I digress…

I tend to do that a lot when I’m sleep-deprived.

What I do now thought, instead of beating myself up for not mastering the process of getting good sleep EVERY night is to acknowledge I am getting better at it. No, I have not mastered it, but with practice we all get better at skills. Humans are fabulously adaptable creatures, when we let go of the need to control everything (which does not work anyway).

So I am going to offer myself patience and kindness. I am going through a transition right now, and there may be a few dark nights of the soul. And that’s okay, I will get through them just fine.