I pulled out several journals from my closet yesterday. They are all kept in this basic 64 gallon storage bin, and have moved with me from place to place over the last 10 years. I’m not a person who keeps a lot of stuff–however, these journals are what I have not parted with since childhood.
Writing has been my way of making sense of the world, for awhile now. I’ve journaled routinely since I was 12, and before then I loved learning cursive, and practicing different signatures over and over again. I wrote letters, and had several pen pals. Collecting gel pens and different colors of paper and stationery made me excited.
Now, I don’t think I care to pull out what I wrote when I was 12 years old. I’m sure I will part with these before too long. But as I reached into the bin and sorted through the journals, I pulled out the ones from the last 5 years.
The ones that kept me sane through the worst parts of my illness.
The writing that saw me through all my pain and fatigue, confusion and questioning.
Those pages that existed to help me sort through my shame, guilt, anger, sadness & despair. The pages that helped me to feel intensely, who told me that I must move through these emotions, rather than to bypass them.
My journals are a mess-as my sister likes to say. I’m a pretty structured and organized person and my journals are a place for me not to be organized. So in those pages are letters that I’ve received, grocery lists, poems, prayers, impressions, hopes, longings, outlines for books, gratitude prompts.
Those pages contain business ideas, to-do lists, and in the worst of my illness, lists upon lists of things I needed to do, written down just so I wouldn’t forget.
My writing is a live record, not just of my growth, in a vague, broad sense. I believe they contain subtle shifts, cues, directions, themes. They point to shifts in awareness, discernment through small and big decisions, relational quality, how I’m processing my emotions. They highlight my honesty, or lack of it, how my view of the Divine shifts from day to day.
These 5 years of journals are going to be my companions for the next month or so. Some of these words will make it into my next draft of my manuscript, adding authenticity & clarity.
When I met with my spiritual director on Monday, I spoke to her of these journals, of my upcoming vacation to Michigan, this strong rootedness I’m feeling towards the past right now.
She asked me how I felt when thinking about reading through these journals. “Even though I’ve dug into my story deeply, and know it well–I think I’m going to be surprised. I think I’m going to see clues everywhere of how Spirit was present and I didn’t even know it. I’m going to see things that worked out that I had forgotten about, deep pain that has lessened in its intensity.”
I’m taking these next few weeks pretty slow. I’m finishing up with my students for the summer. I’m leaving on vacation in less than two weeks.
I’m letting myself say yes to things and people who give me joy, stretch me, that place me in a position of learning and listening and receiving. I’m saying yes to theatre, to music, to nature, to writing, to political engagement. I’m saying yes to being with people, and I’m still saying yes and going places alone.
This summer has already been more than I’ve expected in so many ways–and I haven’t even gone on vacation yet! What I’m most thankful for is the ability to be outside for so much longer. Yes, I still get tired, but tired just like everyone else, rather than extra-extra-extra tired, where I’m recovering for several days afterwards.
I’m thankful that I haven’t had huge reactions to mold in buildings. I’m thankful I didn’t have to move my tutoring locations for the summer, which I thought I might have to do.
I’m thankful for this deep centering I feel, which has come from my own inner journey and solitude, yet surrounded by many supportive friendships. I’m calling summer this deep time of integration, where I’m learning how to step into my gifting, where I’m learning what my strong “yes” feels like, where I don’t feel guilty for saying no to most things, where I know that my hard-won inner wisdom must align with my purpose in the world, or illness will come knocking again.
While talking to a friend last week, I said, “I feel like I’m entering into the fall more aligned with my values than I’ve ever been in my life.”
As I said that, I took a breath. I was surprised at how true that was. And yet learning to trust my intuition and my body naturally has put me in a position of alignment. I just wasn’t quite sure how true this was before I said it out loud.
Alignment for me looks like: regular times of spiritual practice and rest, both communal and individual. Right now this looks like centering prayer, breath work, qigong, walks in nature, quarterly weekend retreats, spiritual direction, massage, sauna sessions, an inter-spiritual practice & discussion group and Sabbath.
Alignment for me looks like: not working before 10am. And on Wednesdays, having a longer, drawn out morning, and not starting work until 2pm. Strengthening relationships with families, continuing to press in deeply in conversations regarding limits, scarcity & fear. Continuing to be aware and interrogate dynamics around power and money.
Alignment for me looks like: starting my last year of spiritual direction training, participating in the anti-racism team at my church, and helping to facilitate/gather white folks to read My Grandmother’s Hands and engage in the healing process around white racialized trauma.
Alignment for me looks like: continuing to write. And not setting deadlines & timelines. But writing and pursuing publication and letting go of the rest.
Alignment for me means be willing to be surprised, being open to wonder wherever it may be found.