Even as a girl, I knew journaling was for me. It was something the adults in my life knew was powerful.
My oldest sister owned a red diary with a clasp and key. My mother read the pages of this daughter’s diary, the one with gold painted edges. This let me know that a growing woman’s thoughts could be a threat to other women in the house.
I was in junior high when I sub-consciously internalized the triple threat of journaling–a danger to a family’s status quo for female roles; a sharp tool of liberation for a woman who could keep it hidden; a comfort for a young woman seeking to understand her sexuality.
One of my favorite high school teachers, Mrs. Goodman, assigned reading responses on A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, The Invisible Man, and Brave New World. We wrote them in lined composition books that she would take home with her on the weekends. I got to imagine female protagonists who wrote their own stories, learn compassion for the vulnerability that Black men in America face daily, and escape into a world where parents couldn’t hurt you because mothers and fathers were taboo.
Journaling meant I could visualize the world beyond my childhood town and position my place within it.
Seeing the stack of composition notebooks in my teacher’s hands as she walked through the parking lot meant that I would be seen.
Since these two powerful journal experiences, I have used my journal to heal:
- It includes a first poem about my port-wine stain birthmark, which led me out of a spiral of self-loathing in my thirties.
- It captures a moment of domestic violence in my marriage.
- My journal holds micro-poems of my first year as a forty-year old mother.
- It holds my dreams for calling in a new partner to journey with.
- My journal includes a letter written to my inner child at the Sunset Cliffs overlooking the Pacific Ocean.
All this time, I never thought, Oh, I am journaling. Or I am keeping a journal. I just wrote in blank notebooks, kept track of my I Ching readings, scribbled down lots of questions on nature walks about my purpose in life, and was always always looking for clear answers about why I was feeling alone or upset or burdened or overexcited. Now I know that I was journaling.
My journal is still my 24/7 standby therapist. She lets me rant and rip and let it roll off my chest. My journal doesn’t try to fix me or judge me or rush me. She challenges me to push through the pain and practice even greater liberation once I do. She sops up the tears and never tells me That isn’t true. Don’t listen to your thoughts. She is the great witness to my story and a true friend.