Reflection: good for the soul?
I don’t often make New Year’s resolutions – but if I decide to, and they’re realistic, I’m reasonably good at sticking to them. This year I was inspired by my Czech sister-in-law, who was thrilled to receive a new diary as a Christmas present from her husband (my brother). It was a particular brand that she’d had before and definitely the ‘journal’ type of diary rather than an appointments diary.
I asked her what sort of things she noted down each day – was it what she’d done or how she felt? She thought it was probably a mixture of the two. Her daughter is five weeks younger than my son, so there are parallels in our lives. I decided there and then that I would keep a diary for this year. My resolve was due to the fact that, as mum to a toddler, building up my own business and renovating a barn in France, I felt that this year might be an interesting one in itself. I have kept journals religiously for several years in the past (even writing each entry in the same fountain pen in 1989) but it’s a while since I’ve done so. I reasoned that it would be a good discipline to do again.
The first difficult decision was choosing the appropriate diary. I visited Paperchase, Clintons, Waterstones, Cath Kidston etc. etc. in the quest to find the right style. I wanted a page a day so that there was enough space to capture the detail if the day warranted it, rather than trying to squeeze my entry in. Interestingly, a lot of diaries have a full page for Monday to Friday but only half a page for Saturday and Sunday. Isn’t that strange? For a lot of people, the week can be routine, structured and repetitive and therefore doesn’t require a lot of space; but the weekend is when we have time to pursue leisure activities, visit friends and family, and just do more interesting things. Yet, there’s less space to record all of that. In the end, WHSmith came up trumps; they had several cover designs and, I was surprised to find that I felt I had to choose one that appealed on an emotional level – a cover that felt good to touch and hinted at secrets within.
Over the years, I’ve completed various personality diagnostics and one thing has appeared consistently – I’m not one to spend much time on reflection. I’m always on to the next activity, focusing on tasks and achievements. Writing this blog is teaching me to look at incidents in a completely different light as I link events, thoughts and musings to learning and development.
Writing a daily diary entry is encouraging me to look back and pick out the joys and frustrations, big and small that weave through my life. I only spend about five minutes at the end of each day capturing the day’s comings and goings and my associated feelings, but it’s incredibly cathartic. I feel as though I can go to bed with an emptier mind, which I think is resulting in more restful sleep. Also, noting down the minutiae of my son’s development – new words, capabilities and moments of loopiness – is so important because, already, I can’t remember what he was like as a new-born and I know the days will just fly by and I’ll forget how wonderful a young life is.
I’m only seven weeks in but I’m thoroughly enjoying the process of writing, as well as reviewing what’s already happened. I try to write as honestly as I can and I hope it will be an engaging record for me to look back at in my dotage. And, who knows? It may even be of historical relevance to my descendants; actually, perhaps I shouldn’t be too honest…