Tools for the journey

It is one thing to suggest that the first task of aging is to accept that we are old or getting old and that death is the inevitable conclusion of this stage of life, it is another to seriously reflect on this task, and all of the tasks we will explore. We need tools to help take us down inside ourselves, down inside where the chatter and distractions of daily life fade to a mere quiet hum. So here are 2 tools to facilitate this inward-turning, more to come later:

Quiet: How many of us have the television or radio or music on all the time — not because we are watching or listening, but to provide background sound so that we don’t feel alone? Today, try giving yourself the gift of quiet. Sit and listen. Listen to yourself. You might want to write what you hear when you feel ready.

Journal WritingIf you don’t keep a journal, try it. Lots of people like bullet journaling but it is more directed than what I am suggesting. I suggest finding a blank book, lined or unlined according to your preference, but one which appeals to you, which is attractive enough to make you want to use it. I use unlined paper because then the lines do not dictate the size of my writing so I am freer to scrawl in bold letters or write teeny tiny ones. But the choice is yours. Try it. Write every day for three weeks or so. Write what you feel. What you think. Your dreams. Your wishes. What you are grateful for. What you want. Write for as long as you want. Grammar and spelling don’t count. Just write.

Here is a little bit about how journaling is for me:

Most people who know me know I am an ardent advocate of journal keeping. I started my own journal 45 years ago. A friend of mine told me about her neighbors, two sisters in their 90’s who had been keeping journals since they were young women in their 20s. My husband and I were about to begin our efforts to become parents which led me to realize that I, and indeed most people I knew, really had no sense of our parents as people, as people with separate identities from being Mom or Dad, people with dreams and thoughts and wishes of their own. It occurred to me that if I kept a journal, at least when I died, my kids, whoever they might be, could read and learn about Cheryl who was more than Mom.

That’s how it started anyway. In the spring of 1974, the year Nixon resigned, I began my journal. My mother-in-law, after learning I was planning to do this, sent me 5 beautiful red leather bound blank books, probably the nicest gift I ever received from her. And for the first three years or so, it really was a record of my life. Things like the effects of inflation on our lives, the experiences of my pregnancies and birth experiences, the ups and downs of married life. But sometime after my second child was born, my writing took a different turn and my journal became far more about my interior life. And by the time I started in  analysis several years later, it was all about my inner life. In fact reading my journal from most of the years since the mid-80s, the reader would be hard pressed to know much at all about my outer life or even that I had one!

My journal became an important part of my inner work, my efforts to know myself, to explore my inner world, to deepen and continue the work of my analysis.

There were stretches of time, long stretches when I wrote every day, sometimes more than once a day. But over time i have settled into a fairly regular routine of daily writing. I have become an early riser. I make my tea and then in the quiet of early morning write — my dreams, associations to them, reflections on issues in my life. 

I am in perpetual search for the perfect blank book. I like unlined pages. I like the book to be attractive — my favorites remain those red leather bound books that I started with — I have never found anything like them again. I have used several different sizes but most commonly around 5” x 7”. I write with a fountain pen. I love changing the ink color when the mood strikes. I realize I am a little fussy about these aspects of the whole process but over 45 years, this is what works for me.

I debate about what to designate for dealing with my journals after I die. The original intent, to give my children a sense of me, is long gone. And I don’t know that I want to give them the entree to my inner life that reading my journals would provide. It remains an unsettled question, but one I have to settle sometime in the next couple of years.

© Cheryl Fuller, 2018. All  rights reserved.