After years of teaching journaling workshops, the regular habit has slipped away from me. Life is moving faster. I’m moving slower. Taking an hour at the end of each day to jot my thoughts and prayers simply rarely happens anymore. I’m poorer for that. Quiet reflection, pondering both simple and complex aspects of the days God has filled with grace and loveliness, even difficult blessings, made me a better person. More thoughtful. Deeper.
The habit of journaling, as I often told my students, also sticks a peg on the wall of one’s mind. A place to hang memories that otherwise slip too far below the surface to be retrieved. So many are lost to me now. Firsts and lasts, beginnings and endings. I catch mental glimpses of them sometimes. Wisps of thought, coloured joy and echoed voices, taunting me to chase them, grasp them. I try. It almost never works. Those memories are as gone as yesterday’s clouds. I tell myself that maybe it doesn’t matter, and maybe I’m right.
But every so often in the evening, before the ink of day dries on the ceaselessly flipping pages of my mind, I sit at my computer and tap out my thoughts. Inevitably, I rise with a better understanding of life, and sometimes a clear realization. A few nights ago, after everyone left our home following our family Thanksgiving dinner with the Beans, I penned what may be the most important bit of journaling I’ve written for years:
“I am grateful. So grateful that God spared my 66 year old husband a dozen years ago. But. HE IS NOT THE SAME man and the lingering effects of his brain injury (encephalitis caused by his West Nile Neurological Disease) mean that indoor celebrations and gatherings with our wonderful, loud and large family, such as the day and dinner we’ve just had are excruciating and debilitating for him; physically, mentally and emotionally.
After everyone left I found my darlin’ man sitting hunched over on the edge of the bed. Almost catatonic. Used up, hurting and beating himself up that he can’t be the husband, father, father-in-law and grandfather he’d like to be. That he has tried so very, very hard to be these dozen years. He won’t admit it, but I see it: the trying is killing him.
It’s time I stop accepting his self-sacrifice in order to have the Rockwellian type of gatherings that so often accompany birthdays and holidays. Time we stopped pretending this will pass. That next time will be better. That the lost days of recovery and dread in the lead-up don’t matter. We must completely up-end the way we do family gatherings or large gatherings for any reason.
I can’t imagine what that means right now but Christmas will look far different. We will find a way that works for us all or “us all” will become, of necessity, us two. I have a feeling our daughter, still recuperating from her concussion, will understand.”
Father, for all people forced to seek a new way to do life today, no matter the reason, bring clarity and determination. Let love lead the way, and let love follow. Amen.