I’ve been journaling off and on since middle school, far more off than on until a few years ago. Looking back at the collective experience, I can identify three major perks of putting my pen, pencil, or Sharpie to paper. First, journaling is a fabulous way to explore my feelings. I’ve written my way through all manner of crises through the years, things that were all jumbled up in my head but seemed to make sense on paper (eventually).
Also, regular journaling is a fabulous way to document experiences that might otherwise slip right out of memory banks. For example, I have the most magical archives from my pregnancies and early motherhood. There are thoughts and experiences that otherwise would have long ago slipped from my mind.
The third thing is by far the most transformative, or at least it has been to me. It’s the exposure of something of a dark side, that which I affectionately refer to as the bullshit factor. There is something undeniably concrete about writing down the things you say you are going to do and then following up in writing about how it’s going from day to day. How many days can you write, “I didn’t do it again today because blah, blah, blah…,” before you start to want to pitch yourself out the window? It turns out, for me, it’s not that long.
Ironically, the writing trick even worked with the writing. When I committed to Julia Cameron’s “The Artist’s Way” program, it meant writing morning pages every day. I wrote a couple of days, then something “came up” and I missed a day. Then, it was a few days, and before I knew it almost every entry started with, “Well, I haven’t written in a while…” Blah. It only took a few weeks before I got sick of watching my hand write the excuses. I couldn’t not notice how I wasn’t doing what I said I was going to do, that which would result in something I claimed to want. It was like shining a light on my promise, and it kept me from wandering off.
When we experience resistance, it’s easy to move on to something else. There is always something willing to take my attention when the task at hand cultivates even the least bit of discomfort. Working out, cleaning the house, writing the book, and sometimes even answering emails. If you show me an activity that causes alarm, overwhelm, anxiety, sadness, really any uncomfortable emotion at all, I can show you something I’d be willing to push to the back burner.
If the task is something we already did well, then the change would already be made. If all of me wanted to lose this weight, it would already be off. If all of the parts of me wanted to be doing yoga every day when the sun comes up, I would already be doing it. The resistance comes from the conflict between the different parts of me, one that wants to do the new thing and one that thinks the old way is just fine (safe, easy, familiar, etc.)
Sometimes the “want to” part of me has to corner the “don’t want to” part of me long enough to reason with it, “We want this… remember?” The thinking me really needs the feeling me to be willing to just stay put. Stay. My mind reassures my feelings, “We want to make the change. This is good. Stay with it. Don’t run away because you feel a little (or a lot) alarmed. It’s going to be okay.”
This is how we face and move forward through resistance. We stay.