“This above all: to thine own self be true,
And it must follow, as the night the day,
Thou canst not then be false to any man.”
– William Shakespeare
To thine own self be true. If only it were that easy. Most of us … after many years of questionable upbringing, sibling rivalry, an education system that seemed bent on knocking the stuffing out, and a society where everything, even the pain we suffer, is measured … are still striving for a perfection that seems forever just beyond our reach.
So we talk to our friends and we buy self-help books (occasionally reading them,) go to workshops, see a therapist, do some counselling, visit psychics and commune with whoever we pick for our higher power, desperately trying to be better, to grow, to become healthy, balanced, grounded or whatever the term is at any given moment. I can admit to all of the above, and a lot more besides, over the years. Approaching that magical age of 40 I got to thinking.
I create… We all create. I won’t get into the intimate details, but as either man or woman we have the ability to create a child – and it don’t get much more creative than that! And whether I build a bookcase, write a book, set the table, prepare supper, I create the best bookcase, manuscript, dinner table, meal, that I can.
I was created… (and I’m going to keep this so non-denominational, it’s not true) … Whoever, Whatever, However … I was created. Somehow I don’t think that He, She, It said: “I know, I think I’ll make a really lousy Shena today!” I believe that what was said was: “I think I’ll make the best possible Shena that I can.”
Meanwhile here I was trying to be better, improve, change, grow, ground myself, you name it. Wasn’t that like someone bringing me over a nice dish for supper that they had created, and I blithely add spices, whip up a sauce, or sautee it in brandy … without even tasting it first?
How insulting! It occurred to me that maybe all I really had to do was to stop trying so hard to be perfect and just be who I was created to be ~ myself. Which is where this all began, being true to my self…
Now in no way am I demeaning therapy, friends, counselling, psychics, books, workshops or anything else that we can try. All of the above have helped me enormously and besides, I actually now do most of the above, for myself and with others.
But the single most thing that has been with me day in, day out, in sickness and in health, in sorrow and joy, in quiet moments and in celebration, in the depths of despair and the heights of the awesomeness of life, is my journal. You see, there’s a special relationship between me and my journal that has yet to be found elsewhere. Think about it: a journal doesn’t disagree with you, doesn’t argue back, doesn’t criticize, is always there, and best of all, LISTENS.
It’s a safe place to scream, to be silly, vent, explore feelings and beliefs that I might not just yet feel comfortable sharing with others. Mine goes EVERYWHERE with me. I am totally indiscriminate about what I put in it. My days, my thoughts, great quotes that inspire me, recipes, photos, the fortune cookie message from last night’s dinner that was unbelievably meaningful. Notes on a book I’m working through, a class I am taking. Cards, I keep copies of letters I have written to other people. Stuff I don’t know where to put but don’t want to part with. I draw, sketch, doodle, paint, collage, whatever matters to me at the time.
I have no rules. I buy sturdy, ring bound, inexpensive notebooks with a pocket inside the front cover, and decorate it, making it mine. I make sure I have an abundant supply of pens I like to write with, one permanently clasped inside the rings. I do have some really beautiful journals that I have purchased in a weak moment (they were on sale) and a couple that friends have given me, but I am afraid they lay abandoned on my bookcase. It’s really hard to make a mistake in a lovely book, it’s even harder to be nasty and I absolutely cannot, for the life of me, swear on ivory colored paper. I just can’t. And I’m not saying you have to swear, but sometimes writing an entire page of the rudest word you can think of is very cathartic. Doesn’t happen on ivory paper, trust me.
I have no special time to write, no particular topics, and especially no set amount a day. This is my best friend remember. Unconditional love on both sides. And because I get to be really who I am, it becomes a joy to visit, a treat to pick up and write a little, and yes, a huge comfort at three o’clock in the morning when I feel very, very alone and the dog is snoring soundly in my ear.
My journal is my friend, my confidante. I have always been able to see things more clearly when I am writing them down. It calms me, and helps me to feel all the things that I’m trying not to feel. I don’t seem to be able to fool myself when I write. It helps me see myself differently. My journal is my reflection, a mirror to the inner part of me. When I look back over the pages at a later time I can relive the good, positive feelings I had about myself, I can actually see the changes that are coming about, and sometimes, just sometimes, I catch a glimpse of the wonderful person within.
Why journalling? Because however honest I like to think I am, to a certain extent I can still B.S. my way through, or out, of most things. Especially when it involves my own stuff. When I write, it’s really, really hard to lie. And when I do, I know full well what I’m doing. And word by word, journal by journal, I find that I am becoming more true … to my self.
© Shena Meadowcroft