When I discovered my little blue book at the stationer’s store in Boston, I fell instantly in love with the daily chronicle. The book–part perpetual calendar and part happiness journal–allotted five lines a day for five years running. I tried to wait until New Year’s Day 2012 to begin, but in less than a week, the little blue book became a permanent fixture on my nightstand.
I fell in love with journalling at the same time I learned to write. My first journal with its Hello Kitty cover had a lock with a little silver key on the side, and in it, I wrote precious notes about my life as a seven-year-old. My earliest journal gave way to many others: butterflied covers, slim leather-bound volumes, and minimalist cardboard books, capturing my five happiest moments of the day or documenting college heartbreak. Folded up in the pages of these abandoned volumes, I’ve found homeless journal entries scrawled randomly on scratch paper, and tucked besides them, the mementos intended to animate the words on the page: ticket stubs, playbills, notes. In nearly every era of my life so far, there has been a place to chronicle.
But this little blue journal was a different kind of chronicle. On October 8, 2011, I began to document the comings and goings of my days. That autumn I was on maternity leave with my second daughter, knee deep in anxiety over finishing graduate school, and trying to manage the day to day of stay-at-home parenthood while my work tugged at my brain. And my brain felt like a soggy sponge, leaking details, ideas, half-baked thoughts out of my ears. So in those early days, while I wondered what I should write, I tried to abandon the compulsion to make meaning or to romanticize the day. I reported the facts.
At the end of each day, no matter how tired I am, no matter where I am, and no what I am doing, I take less than a minute to quickly remember what has happened and record it. Not every day is remarkable. More often, the days are plain. But unlike the journals of the past where I absolved myself of fear or heartache or sadness, where I listed my five happiest moments or points of gratitude, in the pages of this little blue book, I captured perspective.
Perspective is something we’ve lost in this age of social media. We have forgone the practice of analog writing because quickly typing and texting are far easier than taking the time to hand write anything. It is easy to get caught up in the sliver of the day, the indignant moments, the infuriating bits, and use various channels to broadcast them for public consumption, even if these moments are for no one’s consumption by our own. We think we’re gaining perspective by pleading to be seen or be heard. I was lost in this vortex, too, broadcasting documentation of my life in pieces for approval. In searching for perspective, I’ve shifted my focus from the big moments that garner acclaim to the little moments we would soon forget if we didn’t take a minute to capture them.
In the chaotic passing of days, in the nitty gritty details of everyday life, myopia is nearly guaranteed. It is almost entirely possible that you will forget the mundane everyday, the joy of a meal with friends or the surprise over something endearing that our children did or said, or the satisfaction felt when you accomplish something at work. And in our myopic discontentment, we focus on the chaos of our days, on the stress and sadness, the anger or fear we feel.
The little blue book changed that for me. Unlike any other experiment in documentation, this daily account has provided me with a newfound and comforting perspective. Because once I have recorded something, I also reflect on last year’s day or the year before that. And this perspective and the chance for reflection are like gifts to myself. Every night, I relive the same day from the last two years. Some nights, I look ahead a few pages and treat myself to the reflection I’ll have when I catch up to myself. On birthdays and anniversaries, I remind myself about the hijinx of celebration. On days of loss, I can rededicate the memories of people I love. On days when my children reached milestones (“Emily WALKED!” or “Sadie wrote her name!”), I smile, thinking about how quickly my two little ladies are growing.
And every night, I am able to tell myself that so much can change in one year or two years. In revisiting moments of true grief, sadness and anxiety–emotions I have felt viscerally over the last four years–I am able to remind myself how dark days pass eventually. And revisiting delightful moments I feel even greater happiness.
Tomorrow, I close out four solid years of daily journaling, embarking on the fifth (and final–at least for this little book) round of the daily report. When I began this experiment, I wondered how long it would last–how long I would last. For nearly all of the last 1,460 days, I have recorded the day’s events (only 9 days remain blank).
And now, as I open the little blue book tonight, I treat myself to a reflection on four years running before jotting down the day’s events.
And for the perspective, I am eternally grateful.
I have one of these as well! If I ever skip a couple of days, it’s amazing how hard it is to remember what I did just three or four days prior. How easily we forget! I’ll have had mine for almost a year, so I’m not quite where you’re at, but I’m enjoying it very much. Thanks for sharing! (:
Lovely to read your reflection on daily journaling. I have the same little blue book sitting near my bedside, but I have been less successful with the practice. I recently visited an art exhibit where some of the painter’s daily journal entries written over the last 10 years were on display alongside paintings completed during the same time frame. Thank you for reminding me of my own (neglected) book and an artful process I really admire.