They say the teacher learns more than the students, and last night’s journaling class verified the truthfulness of that. In the process of teaching the lesson, I learned a very important lesson: be specific. Although I already knew the importance of specificity in many types of writing, last night I saw that its significance in journal writing as well.
Based on the prompting of Sarah Ban Breathnach’s Simple Abundance and the gratitude journal that accompanies it, I began a journal of my own about 17 or 18 years ago. Like Sarah (my friend June and I came to think of her as a friend with whom we were on a first name basis), for years I simply listed a minimum of five things for which I was grateful each day.
Did I ever run out of things to put on my list? Never. Even sad, uneventful, or frustrating days provided something for which to be grateful. As Sarah said, “Even lousy days possess hidden wonder.”
But here’s the problem. The entries are so darned boring…and kind of skimpy. Don’t get me wrong. They provide a nice chronicle of goings-on in my life, and it’s exciting to look back and read that I hosted a bridal shower on Saturday, April 22nd and that Elizabeth and I spent much of Friday, December 30th in Provo.
BUT there needs to be more detail. Who was at the shower? What did we eat? What kinds of gifts did Heather receive at her shower? What did she wear? And the Provo trip? Well, it was so unique that I can easily recall tons of details. But why didn’t I write them down? My posterity might want to read about our trip someday.
As years went by, my journal entries got a little less neat as I got away from lists and ventured into occasional paragraphs…and even pages. They’re the entries that are fun to read.
Here’s a more detailed entry that I came across while preparing for last night’s event. It’s so much meatier than “Went to mall.” I’m not correcting grammar, punctuation, or sentence structure—just her name.
Something interesting happened as we were standing in the mall watching the children. A woman about 60 with long gray hair and a pretty face and nice eyes approached us and seemed taken with Ethan. She smiled at me, and then she and I started talking. She told me she had been an LPN until her husband retired and wouldn’t let her work anymore.
The word “let” was my first cue that there were problems He’s apparently a big time grouch who sees her as a caregiver period, and he’s not really even sick—yet. I told her a bunch of platitudes from behavioral psychology (what you allow will continue) to self-actualization things like, “You deserve the best that life and love have to offer.”
She spied him walking by (with a glare in our direction) and left to go with him. We hugged and I’m wondering how things are with her today. She said that despite everything, she wants to stay married. Doesn’t want to get into the dating game.
Mary Beth was her name. Otis told me tonight that he had seen us hugging and thought I must have known her from my earlier life, the one in Myrtle Beach. I guess it’s just easier to form an instant connection with some people than with others.
I don’t know whether anyone from last night’s class will read this blog, but if so, perhaps she’ll consider being specific in her journal writing. It’s definitely something I’m going to work on. What about you?