The Last Hurrah
My New Year's Revolution: The Supplement War

Journaling

Some good friends, all met through blogging, are filling in for me while I take a two-week sabbatical from Time Goes By. Today it is 68-year-old Steven, who blogs at Projections. He lives in Orland, California, with his wife and a cat. He was a serious racewalker (the “funny” walk, says Steven) until this year. He was a carpenter for 30 years, became an IT guy and programmer/instructor and did that for 16 years. He dabbles in all forms of art and he journals.


When Ronni asked if I might be able to submit an article for use on Time Goes By while she was away, my first thought was to read through my daily journal and see if there was anything worth mentioning. Or reading.

Then it came to me. Journaling is what I would write about. And in my mind, journaling is something that should come naturally to an elder. Okay, I'm wrong about that. Journaling has to be learned and practiced. But it is something that should be done by each of us as a gift to those who follow us.

I remember that I came up with the idea of journaling sometime after my father died. It wasn't a moment of revelation; it slowly dawned on me that I didn't know very much about my father's history. And now I wouldn't be able to know about those things that made him “dad.” And I counted that as one more loss.

At the time, I was a young father and it struck me that I should leave something of me for my children, my grandchildren. I don't think this desire to leave something of yourself is about ego as much as it is about the basic human need to share our story as we pursue the question, why are we here? Without my father's story, I was at a loss for some answers, but my children would know more than I. Those were my good intentions.

Some years went by before I tried a hand-written journal. That was a failure. A few years in the medical field had ruined any skill I might have had at penmanship and I couldn't even read my own entries. How would my children make sense of them? It would be almost ten years before I found the perfect solution - the personal computer and a word processing program, Pro-Write.

I started journaling in August of 1990, August 3rd to be exact, followed by a very brief entry on the 4th. And that was the end of that exercise for almost two months. Unfortunately, that is how the first year went as I slowly developed the habit of writing daily. With each successive year, the entries grew in length and frequency. It was becoming a habit and a good one.

It's now 18-plus years later and I rarely miss a day of writing. And every entry is usually a page in length. In fact, I wrote 449 pages in 2008.

And along the way I became a blogger and now I use the journal to help me with that. No, I don't post my daily journal entry verbatim, I cut and paste and then edit ruthlessly. Some things are meant to stay within the family!

Although the journal was meant as a way for my descendents to gain some knowledge of their own place in time and how they came to be, I have found the journal to be an even better way for me to learn more about myself. I can go back to earlier entries and read about what I believed and how I felt on a certain day in history. I can go back and read of the joy, and yes, the pain of some of those days. I can see myself change over the years. Yes, I'm a “waffler.”

I can even pinpoint when I first noticed my physical condition changing. Yikes! I'm growing old! But that knowledge is handy when you have to talk to the doctor. Do you like to reminisce? A journal is the greatest for that!

With the computers and software of today, your journal can be as elaborate or as plain as you want it to be. Mine is kept in yearly volumes and my later ones contain photos and hyperlinks. That makes for fairly large file sizes and you will need a decent computer to make it work smoothly, but it's worth any effort you have to make.

Elaborate, plain or in between, it's definitely a worthy project. Someone, somewhere and sometime, will thank you.

[The story bin at The Elder Storytelling Place is empty so until some new ones arrive, let's revisit some from the archive. Today, In the Kitchen from Nikki Stern. All elders, 50 and older, are welcome to submit stories for this blog. Instructions are here.]

Comments

I have often wondered about the thoughts and times of my grandparents and great grandparents and thus my blog is my solution to that in case those who follow want to know about my life. It also helps me sort my thoughts and see how I change. But I am also concerned about archiving and wonder if I shouldn't print this 'journal' in case blogger goes the way of the dinosaur after I am gone.

I think blogging can be a great way to journal. And like Tabor think perhaps making a hard copy would be good idea. Thanks for sharing this with us.

When my mother died I had that feeling too, that now I would never know the answers to questions I had never thought to ask before it was too late. We come to the realization late in life that we really wish we knew our parents' and grandparents' lives better.

A dear friend's father who is 92 now is writing his autobiography for that reason. I've had the privilege to read and edit it and I think my friend is very lucky to have a parent putting his life in print as a legacy to his children. Our stories are important, they may not seem so at the time but they are.

Tabor and Kay... I have been copying my blog into document form using Select (the text only) Copy and Paste. Blogger's Archives lets me go back and do it one month at a time. Which reminds me, I'm behind on that project!

Thanks...

Great article, well said. I haven't done as much as I'd like to do with my blog, RememberGranny.com, where I hope to encourage other Boomers to become "virtually immortal" by leaving a digital legacy. Check it out.

http://remembergranny.com/index.php/about/

Each of the children received a photo 'book', the kind that hold 200 pictures -- and within the pages are family stories - typed to fit the 4 x 6 'slots'. Some stories are two or three pages long, some longer, each with pictures of the time, war, school, etc., and some of the pages are just pictures of weddings, complete with 4 x 6 copies of wedding license, babies with their birth announcements, etc.
There are also letters, again reduced to fit, from ancestors with their pictures.
I think of it as a convenient time capsule.
It's my way of passing on family history.

I agree with you that we should leave a journal for those that follow us. I started by writing my Memoirs. It ended up being more about my family than me so I wrote my personal journal. Now I blog and reveal more than I should, but it's cathartic.

I've been keeping a journal since I was 15, and now it fills a couple of bookshelves. In the past couple of years I've been keeping it on the computer, and I think that it's a good idea to print it out, just in case.

I don't know whether my children will get any benefit from it, or if they'll even want to read it. But that's not the reason I keep it.

My journal keeps me grounded, gives me a place to rant and be unreasonable, a place to try out new ideas, to grieve, to celebrate, to reflect on life and its vicissitudes. It is so much a part of my life that I would give up almost everything before I gave up my journal.

How nice to meet you. Yes, I have been journaling since 1974, and right now I am scanning the oldest and getting them on disc and external hard drives. The tool I use most is a good quality scanner. I have two, but the old flat bed HP gives me the best images of my jpgs and doodles. One has to keep those as well as the words.

What an interesting essay on journaling. I wish I had kept a journal all these years. Perhaps it it not too late.

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