In my quest for self-improvement I have started quite a few journals: morning pages journal, food journal, practice journal, exercise journal, gratitude journal, writing journal, control journal (for housework), tarot journal, weight journal well, I think that’s about it. Oh, and a notebook to capture my project ideas, and then I also have a general notebook, and a knitting notebook, and a small notebook to carry in my purse, and another one next to the computer. And a record of books I buy and read. And a notebook to jot down musical ideas.
I also have to-do-list software. Then I found myself, after running, checking “running” off in three places. And then I thought that my journaling had gone a bit too far.
I started to record all these things in order to measure improvement. I wanted to achieve certain goals and I started of actually measuring whether I achieved them or not. Otherwise one can think that one exercises at least three times a week only to find that, oops, a week has gone by, and then another. That’s all very valid. I also love my morning pages, so I sit down and write them almost daily. And then I don’t for a few days, and then I go back to them. No problem.
I do love putting my exercise time in my calendar, and with the toggle of a button I can see all the days that I exercised in one place, and then I feel all virtuous.
The food journal, that’s another thing. I have started writing down what I eat many times in my life. And I started again on January 1st. At first I was all good, but then I missed a day here and there, then a whole week, and now I find that I’m really not all that interested in keeping a food journal. I don’t count calories or anything. I just write down “1 piece of toast with almond spread, 1 glass of orange juice, 1 cup of black tea with 1 piece of sugar”. Of course food journaling can help when you want to know what’s going on but I don’t need to write down “ate a whole bag of potato chips because I was bored and angry” to see why I have gained weight. There are people who eat better when keeping a food journal, I’m not one of them. I have food journal entries laying around the house from years ago that go, “Was completely pissed and therefore ate a bag of chips, one bag of gummy bears, half a chocolate bar, and two beers. Feel lousy and bloated. Half an hour later: finished the chocolate.” (Just typing this makes me nauseous these days. I think I have come a long way.)
So I try to be good with the food journaling but what’s the point. It helps to show me that the treats I give myself are not exactly treats because they happen just about every day. These days I’m rather good with food, mostly, and so I will skip the food journal.
But you know, every time I write a paragraph here I remember yet another journal of mine, and add it to the first paragraph. It’s clear that the record-keeping has gone out of hand. I’m not quite as insane as that list of journals implies, though, because there are quite a few of these journals that I no longer keep. But right now I’m on the verge of giving up on record-keeping altogether. These journals were meant to be helpful for me, not something to occupy me all the time. I think I might get rid of one or two.
It’s not like I bought about twenty notebooks one day and thought, “From now on I’ll record everything!” I just bought a morning pages book in 1999, well the first of many. And I’ve had general notebooks even longer than that. I remember going into the one big store in the small town where I lived until 1986 to buy a notebook because my life had reached a level of complexity too high for keeping it all in my head. That was about the same time that I started using a calendar as well. Until then there was the family wall calendar for things like doctor’s appointments and that was it.
Let’s see – the morning pages stay because I like them. Having several general notebooks makes it a bit hard to find things later but still I like it. And I have a system. Sort of. So they stay as well. Also the knitting notebook, and the place were I record my reading. I started cataloguing my books when I had bought the same book twice one day. I hadn’t remembered that I already had it. The gratitude journal didn’t really work out for me. When I read back it only made me realize how unhappy I really was. the control journal for housework never really worked either. I do know that I have to clean the house at least once a week. I don’t really need a checklist because a look at the house itself will tell me what to do.
I’m quite attached to weighing myself daily. I even have an iPod app that gives me progress reports on how I’m doing with weight loss. I think I’ll keep that. Apart from that I think I might take some time off from journals. I have taken a bit of time off from trying to improve myself in all areas at once anyway.
So for now I’ll accept that I’m both journaled out and self-helped out. I take a break. And I won’t create a new task on my electronic to-do-list that’s called: take time off from journaling, repeat daily until further notice. I promise.