Sunday, February 25, 2018

So much writing

An average of 2,500 words!

That's how many words Queen Victoria* wrote daily. Her journals span nearly 70 years (from age 13 to 81) and total 43,000 pages in 121 volumes!

That's simply amazing to me (especially since I feel I've been slacking in the writing department lately). Journaling is something I've always been rather passionate about.

It's something church leaders have encouraged us to do:
I urge all of the people of this church to give serious attention to their family histories, to encourage their parents and grandparents to write their journals, and let no family go into eternity without having left their memoirs for their children, their grandchildren, and their posterity. This is a duty and a responsibility, and I urge every person to start the children out writing a personal history and journal.
President Spencer W. Kimball, April 1978 
President Kimball was an avid daily journaler, though he himself admitted that he only had "thirty-three large, well-filled journal books" in his library by the time he was 85, so it would appear that the queen out-wrote him!

I haven't really considered how many volumes my writing would amount to, but I do have a box of handwritten journals in storage right now. Growing up I kept regular journals at school, as part of my school day. Sometimes we were given prompts, but most often we just wrote whatever was on our minds. Our teachers read what we wrote and sometime responded with little notes in the margin.

It was a safe place to voice our thoughts, concerns, and hopes to someone who would listen.

Sometimes stories we wrote would land us sessions with the school psychologist, not that I know this first-hand or anything like that (just kidding; I totally know! I had a few therapy sessions when my teacher was worried about my behaviour (withdrawnness) while my sister was chronically running away and life at home was somewhat stressful).

I wonder about this. I know that my children have had school journals before, but I've never been very impressed by them. Teachers didn't use them regularly just wasn't the same as it was for me all through elementary school. My kids don't have a journal with regular entries from every year of school (and that seems like a real shame to me—what I wouldn't give to convince my girls to write in one journal until it's full, just to have that consistency, to have everything down in one place (I know you're reading this, girls)).

With the recent tragedy in Parkland, Florida (another school shooting, which, while horrifying, no longer seems surprising these days) there has been a lot of talk of solutions: better gun control, mental health screening, parental awareness, and so on.

A friend of mine posted a video on Facebook (which has been, like, whoa these past couple of weeks—so heated!) about gun control in Japan and how they seem to have had great results from the measures they've taken (a mix of things, really (so both mental health stuff and increased firearms regulations and other stuff) which is the best solution for everywhere, probably, including here)).

Someone responded saying that life is not all sunshine and roses in Japan (they'd served a mission there, so they know). Something which, they said, was "not mentioned [in the video] is the fact that every child is trained from birth to think of others before they think of self. Society is more important than individual." And this collectivism was considered by the commenter a con, a negative aspect of their society, which rather blew my mind because I had been trained from birth to think of others before thinking of myself and...I'd never considered that a bad thing.

I still don't, actually.

Social ideas, communal ideas make me feel warm and fuzzy.

Individualistic, self-serving ideas make me cringe. I's the way I am, I guess.

This is not to say that I am wholly self-sacrificing or that I never look out for #1—because I am very good at being selfish, thank you very much. It's just to say that I really believe that we are only as strong as our weakest member, so we've got to look out for everyone.

Anyway, I began to wonder. What if...children in America kept regular journals—journals that they knew would be read by their teachers? Sure, older children would become adept at hiding "things" from their teachers, but I really am not sure that younger children would be prone to doing so.

Children are ruthlessly honest with their commentary and feelings.

Case in point: Benjamin asked Auntie Emily if she was pregnant, which wasn't pleasant to have to apologize for. He also complimented me on my "golden hairs," which are really silver because he doesn't quite grasp the difference between silver and gold. And as we all know, silver is just a fancy way of saying grey.

Case in point: Zoë woke up screaming this morning. I think just because she was feeling grumpy. Eventually we made pancakes for breakfast (for probably the first time in my children's lives—any of them (and the oldest is ten so, uh, that should tell you how often we make pancakes for breakfast)) and that helped cheer her up. But, like, she wasn't feeling happy and she was not afraid or embarrassed to tell the world about it.

Maybe it's just my children who have absolutely no filter (but my guess is there are probably others out there because I've met a lot of children). I also had no filter. My journals detail happy times, completely fabricated stories, and playground tragedies like "no one was nice to me today."

Opening up my mind to my teacher allowed my teacher to reach out to me. "Why don't you ask Jennifer to play tomorrow?" she might suggest (because, perhaps, she knew that Jennifer was feeling lonely as well and wouldn't say no to a playmate). Sometimes she (or any teacher; I'm just thinking of Ms. Ewart, in particular) might just respond with, "That sounds really hard," or "That sounds really wonderful!" which was also great to hear.

My journal allowed me to sort out my thoughts and gave me reassurance that someone out there cared. And that's no small thing, really. In fact, it was probably a huge burden for my teachers to struggle through page after page of misshapen letters and sounded-out words. But I imagine that if it impacted my life so positively, it likely had a positive impact on many other lives.

(And, also, who doesn't love to sit and read some good kid-lit every now and then? Kids are hilarious. So perhaps it wasn't such a burden to the teachers after all. One can hope.)

Obviously journalling alone isn't going to stop gun violence, but I thought journalling might be a positive step in mental health facet of the problem (not that all gun violence is linked to mental health—because that's a myth—but, just mental health in general, which isn't addressed well within our "health care" infrastructure at all anyway).

So...that was quite the tangent!

Journalling is personal and yet also communal for me, and I like it that way (hi blog universe).

Its importance was instilled in me at church and at school and although I don't have 33 volumes or 121 volumes of journals and I definitely haven't written an entry every day. But as a somewhat avid journaler, I can certainly be wowed by the idea of keeping such a fabulous record of one's life.

(Guys, all of the above was only 1274 words!)**

* We're watching the BBC's Victoria right now and it's so good and, so far, seems accurate (with what meager fact-checking we've done (hello, Wikipedia)). Given that Queen Victoria's very detailed journal is rather easily available, I imagine accuracy was fairly easy to write into the show. 

** 1315 including the footnote, and 1326 including all of this.


  1. Ugh I had to get off facebook because I just didn't need to know what a bunch of my friends were thinking. It made me so mad. Clearly people are not grapsing the fact that when we talk about mental health issues of kids we aren't talking about mental health issues of my kids. Which by the way I am keeping tabs on and am trying to help them learn to deal with frustration in constructive ways and think about collective good. Good grief. I can't believe someone thinks that is a negative. But if one of my kids did get super angry and crazy we don't have a gun for them to go shot a school up with. Maybe a knife. I will keep my eyes on them. You dudes with a ton of guns need to do the freaking same. We are talking about the mental health of your kids. Not some hypothetical mental health. J's dad bought a ton of guns during the Obama years because he thinks he might need them, "just in case." Um ok. After nevada J and I turned to eachother and were like if he ever seems a little depressed or confused we are turning him into the cops. Guys that is what that means. It means we have to freaking keep an eye on eachother and narc any family member out who seems a little off. Geez. Also it would be a lot easier to swallow if a certain group of people hadn't passed a law allowing people on disability for mental issues to buy guns. Good grief.

  2. Education in BC was a beautiful thing. Leigh Elementary was a magical, healthy place. Breath of fresh air. So glad you got to do so much growing up in that wonderful environment! So glad that you have kept up the journaling habit. I wish that I had written more things down!