27 Creative Ideas for Keeping a Journal: Supporting Your Out of the Box Midlife & Beyond Healing Adventure
Someone recently asked, “Do you journal? What do you write in it?”
I began journaling when I was 15. Journaling is how I developed into the writer that I am. It is also how I got to know, express and process my life.
There are many ways to journal and I have experience with a number of them.
I was recently asked, “Do people use minimalism as an escape mechanism?”
My response was as follows:
I’m sure some do - as life is full of everything.
What I fear, more, is that many use minimalism as a way to shame themselves and curl away from the delicious, abundant juiciness of life.
My parents were both artists. I loved my dad’s bronze, emotive sculptures. My mom’s artwork, however I didn’t appreciate.
Oh, I appreciated that my mom was a passionate, creative woman who welded, sculpted, designed one of a kind jewelry and painted into the wee hours.
I loved having a studio in the house with access to all sorts of materials, learning and creative expression.
What I didn’t appreciate was my mom’s outrageous concepts, compositions and color combinations.
When I was diagnosed with low thyroid function, I began to entertain the idea that I was now a flower wilting into middle age, that maybe I justcouldn’t do and sustain everything anymore. I considered that maybe at this point in my life I actually needed to slow down and do less in order to feel clear and connected. I considered that I was being carried along toward my own death, that this was part of the natural cycle and winding down of life. e notion of living a life in connection with myself and the Divine was relieving and calming.
Something that I noticed soon after arriving to Mexico in 2006 was the (to me) strange and inefficient way things were done here.
Example: At a little stand that is offering something novel like hamburgers. That’s all they make. You get a hamburger on a bun with ketchup and mustard if you want it.
Suppose you go up to the stand with three of your friends and each one of you place an order for a hamburger, all the same. The lady or man will start with the first hamburger, cooking it, heating the bun, making the sandwich, adding the condiments, and serve it. Then they will start cooking the second hamburger. It proceeds like this, with all the attention on the entire process of making each hamburger, one after the other.
I used to be afraid of winter. I dreaded the going within, the darkness I was sure to be confronted with there.
Then, one winter I made a project out of working through my attitude about winter.
That winter I read through "The Dark Side of the Light Chasers," by Debbie Ford.
I learned that the Universe is all one thing, with light and dark, duality, contrast.
I learned that everything is a mirror and that whatever triggers me is evidence of some aspect of me that I'm not at peace with.
This is a tool and truth that has stayed with me over the decades.
What is selfishness?
Paying attention to yourself at the exclusion of others?
Others may balk, argue with or judge your new behavior, if they’re accustomed to being the focus of your loving attention and care.
It may feel to them and to you cruel and drastic – but is it? Or is it just a shift in how you use and direct your precious life force energy?
Let's get right to it, shall we?
At this moment, I’m receiving a priceless gift: the forgiveness, acceptance and redemption that came to my foremothers in the full bloom of their sixties is arriving at my doorstep. I see the ancestors, the women of my lineage and soul community walking en masse, bringing message and meaning.
Each step heavy with the solidity of woman, of earth, of love.
I’m making them some campfire hot chocolate right now, in welcome.
While it heats up let me tell you a little story...
Assume Nothing and Release
Ever since the earthquake in 2017, I don’t pull the keys out my pocket until I’m literally at the door.
There’s nothing like emergencies to bring us back home
To the present moment
To what’s really important
To the tenuousness of life
Most of all, though, crises make me take nothing for granted.
Not taking things for granted naturally implies appreciation for what is:
Our lives, our health, our homes, our families and friends. Money, freedom, abilities, support and meaningful lifework if we’re so fortunate.
But when I think about not taking things for granted, I mean not assuming or expecting anything to remain the same.
Do you ever look in the mirror and say, “What?? When did I start looking like an older woman? Shit!”
It happens to me periodically. More and more.
I recognize less and less the person I see reflected. What to do about those new gray hairs?
Have you noticed new ones appear suddenly and then seem to fade away, until the next wave?
I attach meaning to every influx of silver streaks. I see them as evidence of recent struggle or of triumph. Two sides of the same coin.
The Price and the Gift of Time
I feel I earn each gray hair. I treasure them as trophies, little gifts and reminders from Time. That yes, life is passing, and while my time on earth is shortening, I am learning and the tradeoff–is so worthwhile.
It’s so easy in the States. It is comfortable, physically. Walls are smooth, carpets offer cushion, water runs endlessly from the faucet.
Yet, this is exactly what troubles me about the luxurious life.
Separation from the root source.
Why is this important?
Hasn’t our whole culture built itself with the idea and goal to hide nature? To surpass her?
Impossible of course, as EVERYTHING is nature, and comes from nature. Besides the obvious like trees and birds – how about
“My life now, after so much turmoil, was good. On paper it looked virtually perfect.
Yes's and No's
When I was growing up, we didn’t talk about feelings in my family. It was as if they didn’t exist – except for happiness and maybe a little sadness.
When my mom reached midlife, however, I could tell something was brewing. She seemed more angry and less tolerant–in a good way. Good because these hot emotions weren’t directed toward her daughters, and good because she shared some of them with us. And mostly good because midlife was leading her to set limits, consider her wants and needs at the risk
I was filled with grief this morning. It hit me: what kind of times are we living in?
I had just come back from town and the market where I “stocked up,” upon recommendation of a friend from my village. I’d run into her in the zócalo and she told me the sobering news that on Monday our tiendas are going to be closed. I have felt quite fortunate to live where I do during this time. If the local stores close, that brings the Coronavirus scare even closer to home than it already is.
I returned home and sprayed my keys, coins, backpack and shopping bag with the lavender disinfectant I’d made. Next order of business: I took off the clothes that had perhaps touched someone on the combi or brushed against a shopper or vender in the market – and hung them on the line in the sun. Then I set to disinfecting the produce I’d purchased. This time, not just to kill any bacteria from water the fruits and vegetable might have been sprayed with. At the top of my mind was that surely the venders had touched the fruit or greens and who knows if they might have it? In batches, I let the produce soak in the tub I use for that. Fortunately, the mountain spring water that comes via garden hose was trickling sufficiently today to at least disinfect my food. Washing clothes would have to wait.
I was struggling with how I wanted to take and handle the news of the Coronavirus. Normally I distance myself from political news and health scares, not giving either much relevance in my life. Choosing to live on the edge of a village in the mountains in south central Mexico is not only a calling and a joy, it is also a fitting metaphor. I live on the edge, on purpose.
I stopped watching the news during the first George Bush presidency. Just two seconds of his voice, appearance and vibe and I could feel myself crumbling into a heap of despair, depression and hopelessness. I’m that sensitive. I remember deciding in that moment, “Well, I guess I won’t be watching the news for the next four years.” The determination was effortless to implement and has remained so. Many may see me as irresponsible and denying “reality”, but first, I get the gist of what’s happening. The details aren’t important and it’s not new, it’s been going on for ages. I get it and know enough of myself and my values to distance myself from it for self-preservation. Second, we all have different strengths, gifts and ways to share them for the betterment of the world. Mine is by maintaining myself in the purest, highest vibration possible so that I may radiate that to the world and hopefully be of service by what I model.
I normally am unaffected by world events. Even Trump, I choose to ignore and in that way continue on my path and life without that distraction and upset. So when I became “infected” with fear of the Coronavirus, I didn’t know what to do. I’m accustomed to distrusting the media. If I were to isolate myself socially, wouldn’t than mean I had fallen prey to the fear virus? One thing I fear is being a fool. I didn’t want to be one at the end of this world drama. But, I did feel afraid, and so struggled between these different parts of me, not trusting either and not knowing what to do.
When I was little I remember hearing my mom share that the rationale she learned from her mother about changing her underwear daily was to avoid the horror of being in an accident and the hospital or ambulance people seeing that you had dirty underwear. That was my grandma: behaviors were taught, motivated and performed based on what others would think.
Despite my rebelliousness about doing things because of what others would think, I’m a bit embarrassed to admit that some mornings I look at yesterday’s underwear, cock my head and consider, “Could I wear these again today?” I feel I have a little more permission to do this knowing my older sisters used to reuse hers Inside-out when she was in college and responsible for doing her own laundry for the first time.
I do my own laundry by hand outside where the mountain spring water arrives via garden hose. But sometimes it doesn’t come, or the weather is too wet and the pile accumulates. It is on those rare occasions that I might (grimace) turn a pair inside out and use them, praying I don’t get in an accident so everyone would see the seams on the outside and know. Though here in my mountain village in Mexico I don’t think people would judge or even notice that!
When I started living simply, in according to my values, I was shocked to discover there was a movement in the states called Voluntary Simplicity that dealt with the same issues.
I formed a Voluntary Simplicity support group in the city where I lived which lasted over eight years. Now it is twenty-five years later and “Minimalism” has replaced Voluntary Simplicity.
I am not a Minimalist in that I don’t aim to have nothing. The principle we offered and shared in our support group was more about following your heart, discovering who you really are, what you really want and are passionate about - and then have the “things” you need, if any, to support that. There is no judgement about what that passion is. It could be sailing around the world - in which case a large, good quality, safe boat would be idea. That is appropriate, not a bad thing!
It can be frustrating being around people who mirror issues we have and don't like about ourselves, let alone to admit! Just like with all addictions - as dealt with in the 12 step programs - each person has to hit their own bottom and realize it. Only then can and will they choose to make changes that better serve them and those around them.
For people in this situation I suggest that they keep doing and developing, making time for, the things that represent “stopping and smelling the roses” for them. You can do these things alone, with others, and even invite the person your thinking about in your question. The key and challenge of course, is fully owning just for yourself those activities and the joy and nourishment they bring you. That means, without attachment, need, manipulation to try to “make” (the same as “get” - both of which indicate force or control over) the other do the same for themselves.
Not easy, I know, but the only answer I feel is healthy and truly productive. By being yourself fully, which includes “smelling the roses,” you are living in a good way for you, with just that motivation. Paradoxically, you are then being a model for others to do the same.
This was demonstrated to me years ago.
I have increasingly been receiving questions about living simply lately. When I changed my lifestyle over twenty years ago I was surprised to discover an actual movement based on the ideas and sensibilities I held, called Voluntary Simplicity. Now, Minimalism has taken hold as the trendy term.
I have some issues around the term, as it seems to hit some people as a a lifestyle change requiring unwanted discomfort, poverty, giving up of "stuff" overall perceived as a sacrifice. All of which has negative connotations and seems to be received sometimes as the hammer of justice telling people what they "should" and "must" do. Ouch.
A local woman who has a restaurant came to my authentic Indian cooking class today. When the students went around the circle taking turns introducing themselves and speaking about what the attraction was that brought them to the class, her story surprised me. She shared that she disliked Indian food. She had a particular isue with the spice cumin, that she said made her feel ill. Smelling it was not a problem, but when it was used in dishes she found it overpowering and literally sickening. Another student suggested perhaps she has an allergy to the spice. When she would be visiting her daughter in San Fransisco and they would go to and Indian restaurant, she would bring her own food.
We continued talking about cumin for awhile, two participants shared that they love cumin, and one woman shared that in traditional Mexican cuisine, cumin is used often in the north, but not in the south. I agreed with Laura that cumin can be overpowering and told her, “Well, most of today’s recipes happen to feature cumin, and in fact I had planned to give you all a lesson in cumin! Are you open to having any cumin in the food or do we need to make two batches of the dishes?” She said that a little cumin would be all right and the other students agreed to this adjustment.
Last night I had a dinner that felt good to my body and that I felt proud of.
It took days and lots of preparation to have this simple, wholesome meal.
Last week, I made a new batch of fermented vegetables, which took about three days to ferment to the point of having a tasty, tangy bite due to the freshly squeezed lemon juice, grated garlic and ginger I added.
Six days ago, I started soaking my quinoa for fermented quinoa, to which I added some of the brine from the fermented vegetables.
My unconscious woke me up this morning with the song. "Let's Get it Started".
What good, smart, fun, creative and wise inner accompaniment I have.
Followed by "Dialogue" by Chicago. To which I've been dancing, singing, crying, smiling and acting out.
This song rocks and it's words are true.
I urge you to dwell in the positive. What you imagine and project with feeling, happens.
Give it a listen, make your decision, and see how your day and world changes.
I'd love to hear from you, let me know how it goes!
I'm struck by the triviality of my life. The tabs open on my computer when the earthquake hit included: Shopping for a new backpack because the one I have is faded and sags and has some holes. Then, a page that explains something I recall hearing about: using vinegar to wash and disinfect veggies. Finally, how to remove rust stains from clothes. And I think my life is meaningful.
Such are the concerns of a life with so much abundance and freedom it can spill over into decadence and mis-led energy investments.
When I finally made it out my door in my pink clogs and the ground had stopped shaking I called for my landlady who lives on the same property to know if she was okay. She was fine and wanted to go see what the horrible deep rumble had been, maybe a house had fallen. We went out to the street and neighbors were talking. A house that is being built across the street had cracks in some of the lower adobe bricks. Would they have to start over from scratch, I wondered? The men who had been working on the second floor told about how they couldn't get down for the shaking and wondered if the house would crumble and them with it.
Maria came back minutes later from down the road in the direction of the deep rumble and said that part of the mountain that faces us had broken off. Soon, her sister came crying, holding a plastic cup with a swig of jerez in it, sharing with Maria that their other sister's house had fallen. While Maria went in to get her house keys her sister turned into my arms for an embrace. They went off to see about Rosa's house.
I stood in the middle the street talking to various neighbors, some of whom I did not know, all of us sharing stories and agreeing on the degree of shaking and fright, and realized, "I'm not enough part of the community. I don't know my neighbors. I need to get out more, make more of an effort to interact with the people." In this moment of survival standing at the crossroads I saw: what matters is community and love. That's all.
I went to buy emergency supplies in Inez's tienda, just in case. She showed me where a wall had separated from the ceiling, revealing old timber. Then she told me about the church cupula and how it was damaged. We stood in the doorway together and I noted with sadness the poignantly crooked cross on top of the dome. Behind it, in the distance, la ventana, a sacred natural "window" high on top of the mountain. Inez told me, "All during the earthquake I was worried about our dear ventana, would it be alright?" The ventana is intact, but in our village and nearby towns, the poor crosses are eschew. As with all the natural disasters lately, with the crooked crosses it seems blatantly significant. I wonder, "What would it mean to right the crosses in a way that they felt heard, understood and respected? And our dear Earth?"
Today I want to share about something that I have fought most of my life and yet have just experienced how subject to it I am: The Power of the Word.
When I was fifteen, I had an awakening on many levels. One of these was a keen awareness and anger towards modern medicine. In particular, the power it asserts and takes from those in need.
The left brain scientific approach to health seemed limited and arrogant to me. The patriarchal, “I know and you don’t” attitude hurt my sensibilities and angered me. “What about intution and other ways of knowing?” I raged.
I got home and while putting things away decided to keep the door open, although I knew it meant flies could enter, whose tone I find irritating. A noisy fly entered and bounced its buzz all around and I got up to close the door. Immediately I felt a calm. “Now I’m contained.” And that’s when I realized: a house is a womb.
Robin Rainbow Gate
I help people midlife and beyond to find their inner power, health and well being through slow living
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