A few months ago, in a moment of mindlessness, I left my 2020 journal on the side of the road. On my way to work one morning I stopped to take a photo of something. I was already running late, and in my hurried state I grabbed my pack from the back seat of my car and set it outside on the ground so I could dig out my phone. I snapped the photo I was hoping to get and jumped back in my car and drove away without remembering my pack sitting there. It had my lunch in it, a pair of reading glasses, and my journal.
I’ve lost a good number of things in my life, but never anything as personal as my journal. For a few weeks I obsessed over it. In my mind I replayed the whole scenario as if I could undo what I’d done. I scanned the side of the road each time I drove to and from town and I put the word out about my lost pack on social media and the local radio station, and contacted the police department in hopes that it would return to me.
Journaling is a private affair, and so my first thought was one of deep embarrassment. Who had my journal and what must they think of me after reading my writing? I wracked my brain trying to remember all the things I’d written about, and goodness knows I’d written about all kinds of things, the most significant among them being my attempt to figure out what I’m capable of doing in a world that’s in need of so much healing. The thought of those words being out there, at large, outside of my control, kept gnawing at me.
Over time I took comfort in imagining a few different things that might have happened, the first one being that the person who found my backpack needed a good meal, ate my lunch and then tossed the remaining contents of my pack into a dumpster somewhere. The next scenario involved the person reading my journal and laughing maniacally over all of the weird, esoteric ramblings that it contained. After a while I imagined a person reading my writing and finding some bit of comfort or insight in it. In reality, I’ll probably never know who found my journal or whether or not they bothered reading its contents. All I know is that it’s gone. The physical manifestation of all the hours of writing, exploring, and digging deeper into my own thoughts and questions is out of my hands. Still though, I like to imagine that in some kind of miraculous way it will find its way back to me.
But because I am a person who tries to make meaning out of things, and because I believe there is always something to be learned from the things that happen in my life, I have decided to use the lost journal incident as something of a turning point in my writing life. I’m still trying to sort out exactly what I’m turning toward, but I’ve identified a few important truths that are helping me move forward.
The first and most important truth is that in my life the act of journaling matters more than the physical journal. Yes, my physical journal is gone, but the hours I spent in the creative, contemplative space of filling the empty pages have served me well. I know myself and my convictions more completely because I have taken the time and made the space for journaling in my life. I continue to grow as a critical thinker, as a more compassionate human, and as a person who’s engaged with living because I question and examine my thoughts through journaling. This is true even if the words that I write are not available for me to read again. My old journals can serve as a record of my personal evolution, but the evolution has taken place, even if the journal is gone.
The next thing I gleaned from the incident is that while journaling is useful, it can be limiting if its only purpose is to serve as a repository for ideas, dreams, and desires that are never acted upon. As I mourned the loss of my journal and all that it contained, I sensed that I was being challenged to do something, to start something, to create something. This is how the Autumn Equinox Journal Series came into existence.
The invitation that follows is a melding of my belief in journaling as a transformational activity and my determination to do something with it beyond myself. It’s an idea that grew into being on the pages of my lost journal, and by offering it now, I’m answering a calling I felt to do something rather than just write about it.
So, I’d like to formally invite you to sign up for the Autumn Equionox Journal Series: Recentering in Times of Uncertainty. It will start on the fall equinox, which is Tuesday, Sept. 22, and run through Saturday, Oct. 3.
Everyone is welcome to participate, but when designing the prompts I made them specifically for people who are feeling the need to garner some strength as we move toward winter during these eventful and uncertain times. All of them are written as an invitation to examine your life from a slightly different perspective, to go a bit deeper than what our day-to-day lives typically allow for, and to engage the imagination.
While the act of journaling is private and potentially impactful on an interpersonal level, my hope is that a community of journal writers engaging together for twelve days will have meaning that reaches beyond the personal.
If you have questions or would like to sign up to receive the prompts, send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. I’ll add you to the list and send an introductory email in return.
There is no cost for participation, but there will be an opportunity to offer a gift payment if you feel so inclined. I encourage you to join, regardless of whether or not you feel you can afford to offer a monetary gift.
I hope you’ll consider journaling alongside me for twelve days and sharing this post in order to help me spread the word to a wider community of people. Together we can center ourselves and support each other as we navigate the months ahead.