Keeping Journals

The trunk where I keep completed volumes is so full, I can't close it anymore. I need a bigger box...

The trunk where I keep completed volumes is so full, I can't close it anymore. I need a bigger box...

Sixteen years ago on this day, 27 April 2001, I began keeping a journal. This has been the very best thing that I do for myself.

Journaling is a sanctuary, a place to pour out my thoughts and feelings and get them organized and integrated. It is a creative outlet, a place to collect and safeguard my life experiences, a space for all the little things I want to hold onto (like movie ticket stubs and cards from family). My journal is the repository of dreams, and the safety deposit box for things too precious to be forgotten.

For me, my journals grew out of one of the darkest chapters of my life. On 22 February 2001, my father died instantly and without warning from a heart attack. He was only 55 years old. He and I had a habit of writing emails to keep in touch (because I was working my first post-college job in Arizona and he lived in Michigan). I loved those letters. And after he died, I found myself missing the habit of writing. What I really miss (and cannot replicate) is the advice he gave out in his letters. But writing out my daily life, it helped me be centered and helped me survive.

I encourage anyone who will listen to keep journals. It's a form of self-care. In the frantic pace of life, none of us ever seem to have enough time. There is no time to think deeply, too many chores to do. There is not time process the experience because we are being bombarded by the next event before the first has even wrapped up. Journals are stolen time. Time just for oneself.

I have often heard women, especially wives and mothers, say they have no time for journaling, because they are already over-committed. I would argue, that is the best reason to journal. If you only ever take care of others, eventually, you will use up the well within you and have nothing left to give.

When I look back at my journals I find I am rather proud of them. I am currently in the middle of volume 84. I never expected to reach a number like that when I began. Every page is evidence of the life I've lived and it has been a good life. So today, on my anniversary, I've decided to share a few pages from my journals. I hope you can't read much of the text, that's private. :-) These are my gift to myself and if I could share that and inspire even one person to take up this art form, then it's worth being a little vulnerable for that.

Best wishes to you,
Bren

My ticket and program for the Marine Corps Ball. Semper Fi Dad!

My ticket and program for the Marine Corps Ball. Semper Fi Dad!

I'm sort of obsessed with the book the Bridges of Madison County. Even though it the story of an affair, something that will normally cause me to disconnect, I find that I love that story and those characters. When I read that the leading man, Robert Kincaid, loved the song Autumn Leaves, I had to go find it. It's now one of my favorites...

I'm sort of obsessed with the book the Bridges of Madison County. Even though it the story of an affair, something that will normally cause me to disconnect, I find that I love that story and those characters. When I read that the leading man, Robert Kincaid, loved the song Autumn Leaves, I had to go find it. It's now one of my favorites...

I love quotes and I love to draw them out. I'm no calligrapher, but this is something in my journals I really enjoy.

I love quotes and I love to draw them out. I'm no calligrapher, but this is something in my journals I really enjoy.

This is the first photo I ever had run in USA Today. I don't need to frame it, but I want to keep it. So, it has a home in one of my journals.

This is the first photo I ever had run in USA Today. I don't need to frame it, but I want to keep it. So, it has a home in one of my journals.

I know a lot of photographers who have kept every press badge from their years in journalism. Some of them are pretty cool. I've seen whole walls filled with these. I thought of doing that, but it was just too messy. So, I keep my taped in journals usually along with the printed photos.

I know a lot of photographers who have kept every press badge from their years in journalism. Some of them are pretty cool. I've seen whole walls filled with these. I thought of doing that, but it was just too messy. So, I keep my taped in journals usually along with the printed photos.

I spent a lot of time writing in my journal about this event. One of the hardest events I've seen at the Daily Inter Lake was when we had two young reports die in a plane crash. It was devastating to have to wait, and hope, and pray, and also keep our cool and do the job of reporting. These were our friends who were lost. The went flying on Sunday morning. It wasn't until Wednesday evening that they were finally found and we got the word that there were no survivors. I don't know if you can see it in this photo, but these pages are taped down with boxing tape. Normally, I just tape down the corners. But I wanted these pages to be extra protected. I wanted to know that someday, when I am ready to look back at my life I will still have these pages to read.

I spent a lot of time writing in my journal about this event. One of the hardest events I've seen at the Daily Inter Lake was when we had two young reports die in a plane crash. It was devastating to have to wait, and hope, and pray, and also keep our cool and do the job of reporting. These were our friends who were lost. The went flying on Sunday morning. It wasn't until Wednesday evening that they were finally found and we got the word that there were no survivors. I don't know if you can see it in this photo, but these pages are taped down with boxing tape. Normally, I just tape down the corners. But I wanted these pages to be extra protected. I wanted to know that someday, when I am ready to look back at my life I will still have these pages to read.

Sometimes I make my own layouts like this.

Sometimes I make my own layouts like this.

This is volume 1 of my journals. On the inside cover there is my address in Flagstaff, Arizona (in case the book ever got lost) and a quote I liked: "Enjoy yourself. It's later than you think." -Chinese Proverb

This is volume 1 of my journals. On the inside cover there is my address in Flagstaff, Arizona (in case the book ever got lost) and a quote I liked: "Enjoy yourself. It's later than you think." -Chinese Proverb

Photos and my journal from a trip to Arlington National Cemetery.

Photos and my journal from a trip to Arlington National Cemetery.

A page from my journal when I was backpacking Western Europe. This is Blarney Castle, in Ireland.

A page from my journal when I was backpacking Western Europe. This is Blarney Castle, in Ireland.

And finally a quote that sums it all up. Jonathan Swift. "May you live all the days of your life." Journaling makes me feel like I am doing that.

And finally a quote that sums it all up. Jonathan Swift. "May you live all the days of your life." Journaling makes me feel like I am doing that.