Monday, April 13, 2009

Saturday Soirée - Write your way through any storm

The following piece was first pubished on February 10th 2008 in my weekly column. I decided to share it here to encourage you to not forsake writing when your world crumbles around you.

This could be the year that you’ll sail on calm seas and reel in the best that life has to offer. For some of us though, turbulence maybe waiting just beyond today’s calm waters. For some of us, our worlds will explode and everything we hold dear will fall in fragments around us. It’s easy then to let the emotional devastation overwhelm us, cause us to lose our sense of direction and sink into the dark, murky waters of despair.

Journaling is an easy and effective way to deal with the pounding waves and battering winds. It can help us to understand the storm’s true impact on our lives and to regain the will, power and strength to gather the shattered pieces, apply the appropriate glue to mend them and move on with the business of living.

Certain events can easily throw us overboard, disrupt our normal lives, shatter our emotions and leave us struggling and sinking out at sea. Periodically we surface just long enough to see that we have drifted far from the familiar shores of our lives and have instead settled into a strange treading pattern, breathless and disoriented. Parents often insist that they have to stay strong and survive for their children. But we have to survive for our own sakes as well.

Here are two things to keep in mind as you consider using a journal to stay afloat in the ocean of your crisis.

Start early.
As early as possible after the storm hits, reach for your journal or any notebook and start writing. Forget eloquence, flawless prose, accurate sentence structure and precise grammar. Instead, focus on writing out your disappointment, your pain, your anger etc. But don’t let your preconceived ideas or my advice hem you into writing certain things and in a particular way. Write your way, whatever it may be; individual words, stream of thoughts like a prayer, a letter to the person who has hurt you, or to someone who might be going through the same torment.

Visualize land.
As in most instances in life, you’ll want to keep your eyes peeled on the horizon -- the life to which you hope to return or your dream destination. In the grand scheme of things, it might only be a hazy strip in the far distance but keep paddling by writing as often as possible.

Journaling provides a way to ground yourself, at least for little snatches of time. It is a safe, private haven where you pour out your confusion and sorrow and still maintain the composure and grace to carry out your daily functions.

When our hearts are broken, seemingly beyond repair and the pain feels so real, we clutch whatever we can to keep ourselves afloat. Reaching for your journal is far better than launching an attack or “spilling the beans” inappropriately.

The record you keep now for your sanity can one day be the catalyst for initiating a positive turnaround for you or for someone else going through his or her own crisis. Library shelves and the Internet are loaded with stories written by survivors of some of life’s most devastating incidents and many of them started with journal entries as memory aids and therapy. And they provide a clear record of their struggles, hopes, deliverance and triumphs.

Your circumstances are no less worthy of pen and paper. The account of your turmoil and how you survived will live on in your journal long after the event and serve as a reference for lighting the way for you in some other unfortunate situation or furnish you with just the right words to comfort and encourage someone else.

Keeping a journal helped me to brave the fear of my deepest feelings, bring them to the fore and engage with them to understand my reactions to the storms in my life. The practice also taught me how to gain a different perspective on life’s events based on my spiritual beliefs.

Only when I forced myself to reread my journals did I discover how a particular period of my life appeared to me. My written record read like the delirious mumblings of someone in the throes of an insane fever. The handwriting was almost illegible. But the pain, was so evident right there in black and white, sprawled across the pages. Naturally it evoked some red hot tears of remembrance. But between the lines, in the midst of the obvious anguish, it was evident that I was hopeful when despair and mental exhaustion diluted my emotions.

As a writer, I have found value in my journal not only for myself. But I hope, words of comfort, advice and encouragement that will help turn today’s victims into tomorrow’s survivors. Often I unearth something that strikes at the core of a topic I am researching or the pain I hear in someone’s voice or see in their eyes. That something, that experience, that truth, my truth inspires me to look at life, my life from a different perspective and provides me with globs of soothing balm to help ease someone else’s pain, clarify their confusion and revive their hope.

When you find yourself sinking in the current of an agonizing, confusing time of your life, take your journal and write your pain, grief, loss and prayers of hope in it. The practice will help you brave the storm and reach land once more.


Magnolia said...

You are an incredibly insightful writer Cheryl.

I am sitting with tears streaming down my face because my daughter has just stormed out of my bedroom angry with me. Again.

Our relationship is the most jumbled up mess and I am beyond despair in wanting to fix it, to heal it.

I came to your blog and read this. It turned the faucet on. I can hardly see this stupid box to tell you thank you.

Thank You.

Joanne said...

Great post, writing is such a "ship" carrying us over rough seas, bringing us safely to shore. I journal in a little different way, having several small journals for different topics, rather than a daily reflection type. There's a book journal recording all I read, a music journal for the concerts, manuscript journals, itineraries, etc. I suppose if you put them all together, they'd come close to having much of my life beneath the words.

Cheryl Wright said...

The word "connection" says it all. You kept popping into my mind as I re-read this piece to post it.

I would hate to think I made you cry. On the other hand, I would be happy if my words "turned the faucet on" and the literal tears help to clear the mental and emotional clutter that might be making the situation worse.

Mags, if you like, you can email me ( you want to take more about the situation or just to chat. Sometimes just "chatting" about disconnected matters brings clarity, sanity and peace.

Even if you can't seem to find the words at the moment, as soon as you can write it out. Get the raw thoughts, the painful emotionals, what you said and did, what she said and did and what remained as she stormed out and you stood or sat in your bedroom alone. Again.

This too will pass Mags. God is doing a work in you and in your relationship with your daughter. And His work is always good, right and marvelous.

Cheryl Wright said...

Hi Joanne,

I can only manage two journals - one for life thoughts and reflections and one to record goals and dreams, thoughts and processes and anything else related to writing.

It's a marvelous accomplishment to be able to juggle your life and your passions and record each separately yet see them as a whole - one choice life.

Terri Tiffany said...

Amen! I keep journals going as well as my other writing. I love to read them again after a year or so goes by and see how I got throught those storms!

Cheryl Wright said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Cheryl Wright said...

That's great Terri. I know from my own experience how difficult it can be sometimes to put words to our broken hearts and confused emotions so inherent in the storms of life.

Sometimes the trials in our lives may give us a reprive and it is during that time we find that we can sit and record what has happened or what is happening. At other times, when the battering winds won't stop, we have to write on the run, as it were, in the midst of the swirling catastrophe.

Returning to those writings, can really help us to understand and appreciate our journey and identify the lessons and blessings that helped us cope, gave us strength and facilitated our growth.

Jan said...

Love your sailing metaphor in regards to journaling. Wonderful! And what you say 'tis so true. Journaling does help us navigate the storms. In a wonderful synchronicity to this post, my husband and I penned a relationship book a few years back ("Perfect Love") and we used this same metaphor to demonstrate a way to navigate our relationships, esp. the relationship "storms" as we called them. A couple's journal can help, one of the tools we recommended in the Tool Box that we created. Writing notes to one another in a journal, responding in kind, can be quite helpful.

I love journaling, you probably know that by now, though I have seasons to my journaling and various journals for various types of writing. I just honor what I feel I need to write about in the moment, no strict regimen for me. Every one needs to do what works for them...

Cheryl Wright said...

I've heard of the practice of using a couple's journal, not only when there is a rift in the relationship but as a tool for all of one's marriage. It is much like having a weekly date or a yearly vacation. The reciprocal journal entries, made in both good times and bad help to draw couples closer together and manage issues that would otherwise, drive them apart.

I believe that a strict journaling regimen can stifle one's voice. journaling is such a beautiful, adventurous and liberating practice that we lose out on these and other benefits when we believe we have to do it instead of being led by our hearts and our individual needs to sit with it.

Share |