Journaling for Millennia, Not Just for Millennials

Despite my best efforts to promote the call to "BE BESTIAL," it seems that one of the hottest New Year's resolutions this year is... journaling.

While that isn't a very "bestial" practice at all, it is kinda visceral if you do it by hand in a stream of disorganized consciousness. People with lives fancy enough to allow the time and space for rumination and anxiety disorders have been journaling as self-care since ancient times. As Candida Moss writes for The Daily Beast,

Apparently many wealthy, educated [ancient] Roman men struggled with feelings of anxiety. These were men who were already trying to live what we might call 'self-aware' lives: they studied philosophy, they lived in moderation, and they tried to regulate their behaviors. And yet, all the same, they would feel psychic distress. Anxiety, it turns out, is not just a modern phenomenon that only affects 'spoiled millennials;' it is actually a millennia-old condition. Roman authors diagnose different reasons for distress (many of which were tied to acquisitiveness) but self-examination through journaling was one of the technologies by which a person could hope to achieve what we might call ‘inner peace.’

I've journaled on and off throughout my life, starting sometime around kindergarten or first grade. My second-grade daughter journals a few times a week in an adorable, sparkly notebook with a kitty face and a tiny padlock. I received a new journal as a Christmas gift this year, so I've restarted my own practice--but this time, instead of documenting each day at its end, I am writing down my thoughts upon waking up in the morning. Then I transition to creative writing (working on Matka Danu), and when it's quitting time, I record how much time I spent writing and how I feel about the work I've just done.

After only a few days, the results are kind of amazing. I've already uncovered my greatest stumbling block against productivity--not online distractions but real people. Go figure. My family members bumbling around the house and interrupting me--a lovable distraction but a sticky one nevertheless. And also the background psychic interference of people-stress carried over from work and neighborhood drama.

I'm sure all writers have experienced those little epiphanies throughout life, when simply realizing the cause of a problem--often through stream-of-conscious journaling--helps us to let it go immediately. It's like noticing where you're holding tension in your body--face, shoulders, stomach, wherever--and releasing it all at once. Ahhhh.

Starting this journal has helped me re-start my work-in-progress after a holiday break, with a fresher mind and a clearer sense of purpose. And I find that when I attend to my human issues first thing in the morning, I can really get out there and BE BESTIAL during the day.

Happy 2019, fellow human people!

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