Need a Breather? Try Old-School Journaling

I’ve been obsessed with paper all my life—notebooks, sketch pads, pad papers, writing pads, and what-have-you.

Writing has always been my recourse whenever I need a breather. On paper, everything becomes lighter—emotions and thoughts that burden our senses are released and let go. I believe in the might of the pen, and the profound meaning of each stroke for the writer. Thanks to paper, these meanings could be immortalized or sentenced to naturally die.

Journaling infuses in me a sense of belonging: that if the world ostracizes my being, redemption is always at hand. It is an escape from the world’s helter-skelter and depravity. Regardless of how crude, unrefined, or awkward in manner, writing has always provided a way to make sense of things. However, I feel that the world will never see journaling this way, and it will always be regarded as a mere documentation of one’s heartfelt messages to oneself and personal perceptions on life. 

This reminds me of Queen Victoria. She kept an extensive collection of notebooks where she poured her heart’s longings. In the midst of misery from having had an excessively controlled childhood, and the depression when her beloved husband passed on, her journals captured how she felt about the times, the people around her, the political climate, and the intimate friendships she had with certain servants.

Queen Victoria chronicled her almost perpetual grief, decried how her soul had been shattered by events she hadn’t fully understood herself. I wonder how she could have survived such emotional turmoil without a pen, ink, and paper.  Eventually, as she herself succumbed to mortality, she left behind a legacy that had a positive impact on Britain; but little do we know, such accomplishments glimmer against the backdrop of the countless words set on paper–the art of which, on its own, was sanctuary to her.

Journaling, therefore, serves a sacred purpose: through the freedom that writing brings, the soul could wander blissfully. Verily, one could get too engrossed into the craft that the senses become even more attuned to the heart’s inner whisperings and the nudges of conscience that serve as parameter for personal mores.

Journaling affords boundless tolerance for emotional adventurism. Journaling allows for endless rumination on the pros and cons of possible life decisions.

There appear limitless possibilities for thoughts and impulses to be pacified and kept in check: Should I undertake this? Is today the right time? What shall I do for the morrow? What are my goals, really?

There is tendency for organization, and with this, a more lucid projection of one’s aspirations. And while the self tries to gain control over desires (the uncanny dominance of wants versus needs), journaling lends opportunities for sound judgment on things unexpected and otherwise. Temperance is then exercised, helping oneself understand the consequences of events through reflection. It is thus impossible for one who compiles thoughts in a journal to be awash with pettiness, as reflection can always give way to meditation—clarity even more.

The ability to soak up endless stash of notebooks or numerous reams of paper with words upon words that try to accurately depict sorrows, joys, and all that go in between, necessitates temerity and patience. It is not easy to be precise with one’s thoughts when it comes to laying down feelings in a more concrete way, all for the purpose of maintaining one’s sanity.

For, if all of those whose presence fill you up on a daily basis may turn about their faces and stab a dagger to your fragile heart, at least that singular notebook in front of you remains a loyal friend.

About the Author

Shirley M. Monreal is a senior high school teacher from Fort Bonifacio High School, Makati City.

She graduated from the Philippine Normal University Manila with a Bachelor’s degree in Secondary Education major in English and has been taking up her Masters in Literature at the same institution for some time.

As an academic, her interests include literature and language research, philosophy, theology, science, and the humanities.

When not dabbling with academic-related preoccupations, she is drawn to art (including creative journaling, digital and traditional art), creative writing, music, gastronomy, and blogging/content creation. She mostly writes about mental health and faith.

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