In a Bubble
I surprised myself a few days ago. Not only did I create an account on a free online journal, I went back the next day and shelled out a whopping $20 for a pro account.
The journal site itself, Penzu.com, is nicely done. It’s easy to use and there’s a big emphasis on privacy. But that’s not why I joined, not why I paid for what I could have for free, nor is it why I’m writing about it now.
When I sat down to type out a few thoughts, I felt as if I were letting go.That’s all. It felt as though a bubble had formed around me, holding off the world for just a little while.
The folk wisdom is that writing a journal helps deal with stress and enrich one’s life, sort of like the bubble. Other forms of wisdom indicate the same thing. A 1999 study in the Journal of the American Medical Association suggested that writing about stressful experiences may help reduce symptoms of common diseases. Even the Mayo Clinic sprinkles references to journaling through its web site. One article, called “Building Resilience,” says,
Keep a journal. Write about your experiences, thoughts and feelings. Journaling can help you experience strong emotions you may otherwise be afraid to unleash. It also can help you see situations in a new way and help you identify patterns in your behavior and reactions.
I began journaling in middle school and continued with some regularity until family and work gobbled every waking moment. When my child was in elementary school, a writing colleague of mine and I immersed ourselves in Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way, regularly writing the three morning pages Cameron prescribes. Our professional writing developed in surprising ways, taking on a new suppleness. It felt good. But, eventually, even that fell prey to (over)scheduling.
It’s been a long time since I’ve journaled on a regular basis. It hasn’t been for lack of trying, though. I’ve bought nice new notebooks. I’ve dug out ratty old notebooks. I’ve scheduled journal time each day; I’ve decided to write only on a whim. All of this, only to find myself… not writing. There’s a grim little irony about a writer and teacher of writing not journaling, especially when I exhort my students, all in an MA program in teaching English, to write with their students.
I don’t think that not writing is always due to the difficulties of writing, though. I think sometimes I, we, forget to stop to listen to ourselves, to our worlds. Later, we promise ourselves, later. While I think this may be especially true of educators, who juggle planning, teaching, grading, and constant contact with others (i.e., students), it doesn’t seem as though anyone’s life is getting any slower.
The mantra of my first teaching mentor sounds in my ear as I write this: If you are going to teach others, you must first take care of yourself.
That’s the same idea as when the flight attendant tells you to put the oxygen mask on yourself, first, before attending to anyone else.
Except today it’s a bubble, not an airplane. And because my pro account lets me design my pages, I can make that bubble any color I want.