I reach for my journal, find the end of the satin bookmark wedged between the pages, patiently waiting for me to pick up from where I last left off, ready to receive my lazy drone of ramblings or precarious staccato outpours. The mood will reflect that of my day and the state of my mind. Do I feel calm and contented, full of gratitude and wishing to share it here, on this page? I write in order to help myself make sense of the stories that twirl in my head. Theirs is a wild dance, at times fluid and graceful, and at other times intense, turning from a moderately paced waltz into a passionate tango that morphs into an expressive modern-style outburst, culminating in a supine crescendo on the floor with pieces of the current version scattered around.
With fluid black ink at the tip of my pen, I pick up the loose pieces and watch as the words take shape on the page, creating a story that is more cohesive, more disciplined, now resembling a classical ballet. The emotions are expressive. The style is elegant, but like a skilled dancer, it leaves an impression on me as I feel everything the character feels. As I sit back and watch my pen move across the page, from left to right, again and again, it all slowly starts to connect. There is magic in catharsis. My mind is clear now, ready to experience anew, to absorb, to contemplate before once again, working to make sense of the stories that will start to weave themselves.
Writer Dani Shapiro, in a video she shared on Facebook on Sunday, introduces us to ‘commonplace books’: small books that she carries with her and in which she records poems, quotations from books, etc. She allows herself time to contemplate those pieces, letting them take their own shape and forming a type of memoir. She refers to the commonplace book as the antidote to social media. It’s a resource that allows her to mindfully absorb its content, moving through it at her own pace. In addition to my dancing stories, my journal also contains quotes and poems that move me and help to propel my own life story forward, influencing its present and future chapters.
The practise of writing for ourselves is slow and mindful. As I move away from a habit of frequent sharing on social media and toward personal contemplation, I make room for silence. I create new experiences and keep them to myself or share them with my friends and loved ones who are there in person, or to whom I will tell my story later. They are my secret vignettes of curious exploration, allowing me the freedom of choice and – yes – at times indulgence, and reminding me of the importance of mindful connection.