I was feeling agitated.
Nothing had happened that warranted what I was feeling. It was a pretty day outside, and there wasn’t much on my To Do list. I’d spent the night before out at a concert at the Hollywood Bowl. I was home by midnight and had slept well. My girlfriend was in a great mood, making a smoothie and singing in the kitchen.
But I wasn’t even out of bed yet and I was frustrated at the day.
Over the years, I’ve gotten to know this feeling well.
When I was younger, I struggled to pinpoint the root. All of a sudden, I’d find myself in a terrible mood — and would often look to other people or certain situations to place blame. I’d say that I was aggravated because someone had done something to me.
Eventually I learned my frustrations stemmed from me not giving enough to myself.
When I left my girlfriend’s apartment and made it home, the first thing I did was sit down with my journal. I’ve been keeping journals since 2011. Sometimes I’m consistent. Sometimes, weeks go by without a single entry. My first sentence back always echoes the same refrain: “Well, it’s been a while since I journaled.”
And then I begin.
At first, everything that came out sounded like blame.
Especially when it’s been a while since the “piss pot” has been emptied, the first few paragraphs always sound like a pissed off teenager. There’s a lot of rambling, a lot of pointing fingers and avoiding the mirror. That’s just part of the process, and being okay with accepting that less-than-ideal portrait of yourself is the first step toward self understanding.
A page later is when I started to get to the good stuff. I could hear the tone of my writing shift from angry teenager to reflective adult. I started examining the past two weeks, and how little time I’ve had to myself. How I’d been traveling, and traveling some more, and then came back to a crazy work week. How I couldn’t remember the last time I’d been to the gym. How I’d fallen out of practice with morning meditations. How I’d been constantly in output mode, with very little time spent reading or reflecting or journaling. How I’d been catering to everyone else instead of taking a minute to take care of myself.
A few pages and 30 minutes later, I let out a deep sigh.
I felt significantly better.
For some people, this process doesn’t work. Either they’ve tried it and never found it helpful, or they’ve never given it much of a shot. But for me, the journaling process is essential — not only to my growth as a writer, but my journey as a human being. Without journaling, I feel as though I am a surfer caught in the undertow, my board broken and floating far out of reach.
After I’ve journaled, the entire ocean changes shape to calm. I feel at ease again.
Originally published at medium.com