The joys of keeping a journal

Columnist Joanne O’Leary began keeping journals for herself, as a way of making sense of her world.

I was very excited to purchase a new journal recently because I find joy in writing.

I began journaling 32 years ago. I remember that time specifically because I was pregnant with my son. I now have several bags of journals that document the many years of my life.

There are numerous benefits to journaling. Writing provides a release and so reduces stress and anxiety. Journals are a vehicle for self-reflection and self-awareness. They help us think, feel, remember and dream. They document our personal development. Journal writing promotes creativity and improves communication skills. It also boosts memory. I love to write, and journaling helps me explore language. It is a healing process as well.

I can personally attest to these benefits. Often I will open an old journal and travel back in time. My journals allow me to revisit all of the different stages of my life — as a daughter, as a wife, as a new mother, as a high school teacher, and as a retiree. Most importantly, my journals trace my voyage through this life. They record the many changes I have seen and experienced. The writings are a record of my hopes and dreams, my inspirations and disappointments, my successes and failures.

When I reread my entries, I realize that there are common threads that run through my journals. My happiness when surrounded by family is evident. My love of flowers and gardening shine through. My interest in reading and writing is sprinkled throughout the pages. I recognize a curiosity about life and death and the pursuit of happiness.

The journals document my happiest moments — meeting my husband, my wedding, the birth of my son, my daughter’s wedding, my career accomplishments and my own retirement. Family vacations, and special birthdays, holidays, and anniversaries are also represented.

The saddest moments of life are also recorded — the deaths of family members and friends, illnesses, and accidents.

Some entries convey my anger, and others document confusing and troubling periods in my life. Some entries convey my excitement about travels and one time experiences.

I do not know what will become of my bags of journals once I am no longer here on Earth. I must admit that I began journaling only for myself — to help me make sense of my world.

Perhaps one day my children and future grandchildren will read them and develop a more intimate understanding of the person I was. I hope that my writings will depict a life well-lived and well-loved. Perhaps they will be a record for posterity.