Change or Die

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 twenty  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), 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 to be grateful for. As Sarah said, “Even lousy days possess hidden wonder.” A couple of decades later in the midst of an ongoing worldwide pandemic, I focus on that thought more than ever.

But here’s the problem. The entries were 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 needed to be more detail. What year was it? Who was at the shower? What did we eat? What kinds of gifts did Heather receive? What did she wear? And the Provo trip. I can easily recall tons of details, but I didn’t any of them down. Our posterity might want to read about the excursion someday. Would they find it interesting that we were awed by Temple Square and that it began snowing as we enjoyed Sonic Blasts somewhere between Salt Lake City and Provo?

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. Those are the entries that are fun to read. Following is a detailed entry that I came across while preparing for a recent class on journal writing. It’s much meatier than “Went to mall.”  I’m not correcting grammar, punctuation, or sentence structure, so don’t judge.

“Something interesting happened as we were standing in the mall watching the children. A petite woman about 60 with long gray hair and a pretty face and nice eyes (the hubs described them as sparkly) approached us and seemed taken with Ethan. He smiled at her, and then she and I started talking. She told me she had been a substitute teacher until her husband retired and wouldn’t let her work anymore.

“The word “let” was my first clue that there might problems in paradise. He’s apparently something of a grouch who sees her as a caregiver period, and he’s not really even sick—yet. I spouted off a number of platitudes from behavioral psychology including, “What you allow will continue” and some self-actualization truths like, “You deserve the best that life and love have to offer.”

“She spied him walking by (with a glare in our direction), and we hugged before she hustled to catch up with him. 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.

“Jane Doe was her name. The hubs said he’d seen us hugging and thought I must have known her from my earlier life, the one in Myrtle Beach. But no, we were strangers, and sometimes it’s just easier to form an instant connection with some people than with others.”

Update. That encounter took place when my grandson was a toddler. He’s eight now, and quite frankly, if I hadn’t added any details, the memory would have floated off into oblivion. And without details, there would be no bones for a story…or a lesson in self-preservation around bullies.

Postscript. I don’t think it’s mere coincidence that this scene is the first one I spotted when flipping through that old journal today. I know some folks who need to be reminded of their self-worth. Do you?

About jayne bowers

*married with children, stepchildren, grandchildren, in-laws, ex-laws, and a host of other family members and fabulous friends *semi-retired psychology instructor at two community colleges *writer
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