Writing Into Who I Want to Become: The Hope and Optimism of Daily Journaling

Week of 1/13/20

This morning, in bed, I found myself thinking about my journaling. So much of what I journal on is not about “who I am,” but about “who I want to become.” In other words, I write into my future self. I do not write as my current mindset, but that mindset which I wish to move into. My journal self, in this way, drags my real self with it, pulls it along into new being and new creation.

Is this journaling a false self? No. I don’t believe so. Is it a hypocritical self? No. I believe, because I am aware of this ‘disparity’ between the two selves (I hesitate to even call it a disparity as the two are not really in conflict) they are actually part of a larger, unified identity.

As Father Erent says in “The Fourth Stooge”: “There is something about fools you fail to see. When the fool knows he is a fool, he becomes something more. He becomes both actor and audience. He becomes both fool and sage, stooge and scholar, sinner and sacred, alive and dead, existent and non-existent.” This holding of my two identities in creative tension with each other is what drives me toward growth and change.

It is as if I have become, in many ways, my own teacher. I think this is what contemplative practice does. And yet, it is not I who is the teacher. Perhaps the better image is of myself as observer (or audience) and practitioner (actor). The teachers are actually others: Rohr, Merton, Keating, the Stoics, the Bible, philosophers, thinkers, writers, all. But I, like Father Erent, see myself in a kind of dual role of paradox. This perspective, at least at times, grants me insights into God and myself that I wouldn’t otherwise have.

Before journaling, I lacked any capacity to think of myself. That sounds bizarre, but it is true. I could not really perceive myself. I perceived the world around me through myself, but I never perceived myself directly. Only in the silence of these mornings, only when I’ve learned to be comfortable here, without the noise and distraction of the day, have I begun to see myself through a lens of continuous evolution and roiling thought.

Only here can I stand awed by my experiences, be humbled by my blessings, be patient withmy failures and frustrations, be blessed by love. It is only in this space, where I write into who I want to be, who I can be, that this is possible. Once the din of the day begins, I backslide into “who I am.” But always, in that eternal silence, I know who I can be. And that hope is why I journal every day, why I think, why I live. Journaling has made me hope to become a better person. And even just that hope is enough.

Originally written on 1/8/20. Photo by Jan Kahánek on Unsplash

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