by Erica Sittler
Let’s all heave a collective sigh regarding the discipline of daily journaling. Some of you may be doing a sigh of contentment and deep peace. Note: you are in the minority. You have my respect. I; however, do not fall into that category, despite my collection of partially-filled scrawls in prettily-bound books.
Yet here I am a Witchcraft I Mystery School student and the very first lesson, and the constant part of every homework assignment, is “daily journaling”. Not just a page, but the mystical, magickal three pages a day!
Seriously, my life is far too boring for three pages a day, every day. It brings about a feeling of a hairball stuck in my throat. Even with the wonderful journal prompts, I’m just not feeling it most days.
I have the genetic facts to prove my ineptitude at journaling. I have the rare good fortune to possess several slim notebooks, about the size of a deck of cards, of my great-great-great something-or-other grandfather’s journals that he kept over his short life, including during part of the Civil War.
He was a merchant up in Maine, but before that, he was an adventurer, an actual California gold rush ‘49er. That adventure broke his health and he returned to Maine to run what appears to have been a rather modest general store. His journal entries were mostly commenting on the weather and the trade and usually took up less than three lines. He talks about a cow he purchased that died five days later. A batch of potatoes that netted him a healthy profit. He writes about the Battle of New Orleans and how his brother’s ship was lost in a storm. My grandsire died at age 37, leaving behind his wife and their only child, a boy aged seven. Such a thin, fragile string that holds us all together.
Even so, for this past year, with dogged determination, I have been attempting to write in my journal and failing quite miserably. Days go by without a jot. How do you catch up on the events that happen, even in a most ordinary life? The truth is, you can’t. Forget memoirs! I can’t even patch together a week, much less a longer string of days. But I kept picking up the pen, scrawling out whatever would come to mind: there was the week of page after page of affirmations or the patchy weeks of all food I ate and how much I weighed each morning and how much I wanted to be thin again and still eat cake.
I took my journal to Templefest, not out of love for journaling, but because my roommate was a Witchcraft IV student and goodness knows I’ve watched her journal for what seems like hours on end and I didn’t want her to think I didn’t take my craft seriously.
Because all true practitioners have a disciple of journaling, right?
Then a bit of a crisis happened in my personal life. Something that shattered my soul and broke my heart. I was drowning internally in a sea of emotions with no safe place to put them. So, yeah, I wrote them down in my journal. I lost count of the pages and grabbed another journal and kept writing. Rage, fury, heartbreak, fantasy, self pity, need, desire, want, fear, terror… over and over… none of it fit to print, and most of it possibly incoherent. And no, it wasn’t every day, but it was almost every day. Week after week and month after month, I wrote. I also saw my therapist who mainly tried to understand the firehose of emotions pouring out of me. He tried. But when you see your therapist once every three years…. Bless his heart. I reached out to dear friends. I met with my ToW priestess and got her insight. I did dream work with very specific questions and got very specific answers back. All of these were well and good and needful, but the most persistent thing I did was write. And the more honest I got with myself, the more the journal stayed within arm’s reach, hidden in my purse or in view, but untouchable to anyone save myself.
One day, for some random reason, I pulled out my tarot deck and knocked, breathed on the cards, and asked only one question: “What is my unconscious trying to tell me?” One card only and then I’d write. And I’d thank the wisdom of the cards and move on. There was no more trying to make my boring life sound glamorous. There was only trying to understand myself and this situation I found myself in. Day after day. Knock knock knock. Blow and breathe my prayer into the cards, “show me what it is I need to focus on that has remained hidden”. And suddenly one day, all the cards became reversals. Why? I suspect because at this point I was writing with brutal honesty about myself. Good and bad. My gaze was inward looking for solutions and understanding. I nodded and said to the cards, “Ok. Let’s go there then.”
And so I did. In the process, I encountered lots of the ugly bits of myself and I wrote l about them frankly and unashamedly. Those that were harmful, I wrote realistic solutions I could do to begin to implement change in small, daily, non-threatening steps. “Today, I will focus on this and work on this.” Jolting, toddler steps. Imperfect, but moving.
For example, I have serious issues around food. Always have. And though this wasn’t the “crux of my crisis” it definitely has a role in all my issues. So, through journaling, I decided to implement a few “non threatening” steps strictly for my peace of mind as it revolves around food. Those steps are: I will pause between bites of food, denying myself nothing, but allowing my body extra moments to enjoy the taste and feel of each bite. In that pausing, I will listen to my body for when it has had enough. Finally, I will allow myself the freedom to leave food on my plate. There is no diet here. No deprivation. Just the smallest of changes that I can live with and be at peace with. The number on the scale doesn’t have to change. Being slim again was someone else’s goal for me, never mine. Not deep down in the core of my being. So, I can let that go now and just do those invisible, personal changes that actually increase the level of pleasure in my life with every savored bite.
This morning, I wrote the last pages in this particularly chunky journal. Page one started with the words, “There are times when putting something down on paper makes it all the more terrible because now it is recorded…” As I was writing today, I realized I had come to the completion of this particular event’s cycle. There was no more pain. No more angst. I had written, talked, dreamed, meditated, and used every tool in my little toolkit we’ve been taught in W1 so far. But more than anything, I wrote. I journaled out everything imaginable and the process worked. It actually, freakin’ worked. And as I closed the journal out, I was writing from a grateful heart the things I had learned through the process these four months. Was it magick or discipline or just time passing?
The card pulled this morning was a Five of Swords, reversed. I chuckled and tapped the card and whispered, “I see what you did there.”
Does it have to be tarot? Heck no! Tarot, of which I know practically nothing, was merely the means for me asking for guidance. Through this beginner level course of witchcraft that I have embarked on with my fellow classmates, I believe and have been taught that the universe, the divine, our guides, our higher self, will use whatever device(s) we allow to be a tool for communication. Be those tools cards, bones, clouds, tea leaves, Bible verses, dreams, or smoke. For your highest good, harming none: use whatever that tool is for you personally to help you journal.
No, I’m not in the minority of contented sighs when it comes to journaling. I would rather be doing a dozen other things. There are still plenty of days it simply doesn’t happen. Give me a couple of years; however, and I might just surprise you and me both!