It happened in the early morning as I wrote in my journal. As my coffee began to kick in and my fingers limbered, I began writing about a person from my school years, someone I’ve always believed “made my life miserable.” I’ve even been known to claim (only partly in jest) that said person “ruined my life.” Suddenly I dropped my pencil as a voice in my head blurted out a startling message:
She didn’t ruin your life. She didn’t even make you miserable. If anything ruined your life, it was the way you compared yourself to her and came up short in your own view. Plus the way she had a few people skills you hadn’t yet learned. But that had nothing to do with her and everything to do with you. Besides, was your life really ruined, or simply nudged around an inevitable corner?You know that feeling, that great big, whack on the side of the head “DUH!” moment? I had one of those moments. Had anyone been watching, I would have been the classic image of shock. My jaw dropped and my eyes widened. I simultaneously felt a surge of energized excitement and a wave of relaxation. My shoulders dropped as if a huge load had lifted, and I sank deeply into my chair. “Wow!” I said, in a loud whisper so as not to awaken my still-slumbering spouse. “Wow!” What other word would do?
With that thunderous insight, whole chapters of my life flipped into a new configuration as quickly as if I’d clicked on “re-sort,” and my understanding of the peculiar relationship I’d had with this classmate flipped 180º. Suddenly all was very right with my world — or I should say even more right. I knew more certainly than ever that everything in my life has happened specifically to bring me to here, to now, and that’s a very good thing. Some would say healing occurred. Perhaps. I call it growth in understanding.
Would I have come to this understanding without my journaling practice? Maybe. Would I have thought of this if I didn’t spend time writing stories about my life? Could be. One can never be fully certain of things like this. Obviously sages through the ages have acquired great wisdom through mediums other than writing, but there is no question that the discipline of journaling and related forms of life writing will increase the odds.
This discovery is not something I had consciously sought. For over half a century I had taken that relationship and analysis for granted. Why change the story now? That is indeed magic. It’s a blessing, and although I didn’t seek it, I did set the stage by sitting here, day after day, with my hand moving a pencil across the page. Without question, writing about the person opened this door.
If I could give everyone in the world a gift, I would give them a journal with an endless supply of pages, a pencil with a perpetual point, and the desire to write.
Write now: about a pesky relationship from your past. Do it as freewriting, leaving your mind open to the possibility that you may have something to learn. But don’t do it with expectations — just hang loose and see where it goes. At the very least, you’ll have the makings of a story on that topic if you want to continue writing about it.