Monday, 24 October 2016

Multi-level journalling

Last October, I couldn't for the life of me remember what younger daughter had worn for Hallowe'en in 2006.

I've kept journals since I was ten - not particularly consistently, mind - and ever since 1990, in the aftermath of one of my "used years", I've done rundowns of individual years, which involves a quick précis of each month in a given year.

Recently, I got four years behind, but I'm stubborn, if nothing else, and spent the past spring and summer catching up.

Why do I do this?

Ira Progoff was the creator of the "Intensive Journal method" in 1966 and about twenty or thirty years ago, "Journal workshops" seemed to be all the rage.  I never attended one -- they're kinda expensive -- but we were going through a rather dreadful period in our lives, beginning with The Resident Fan Boy losing his mother and his job in the same week, a few months after we had taken on a mortgage.

I heard about Progoff from the Volunteer Coordinator at Victoria Hospice where I was myself a volunteer. I took any part-time job or contract I could muster, finished with my master's programme, then purchased the book, working through the exercises of dream recording, meditations, and micro/macro journalling.

Did it help?  Sort of.  It gave me a focus in the maelstrom of continually dashed hopes.  After nine months of agony, the RFB got a job with the federal government and our long inexorable path to Hades began.

But I can't blame Progoff for that.

To oversimplify the process, you don't really keep a linear sort of journal.  Your writing sessions become a sort of lens:  sometimes you write about the minutiae of the day; sometimes you skip waaaaaay back and look at a year, or sequence of years, looking for patterns.

The only Progroff practice I have really stuck with is my "yearly rundowns", which I'm not sure is even a Progoff practice, but it's based on those months of journalling his way.

Some years - the "used years" - are torture to write down.  I recently did a "decade rundown" of the years from 2001 to 2010, and was astonished at how much I'd forgotten, and how painful it was to remember some of it.  I have to wonder sometimes if I'm not simply re-injuring myself.

However,  I can't just let my life and my memories of the early lives of my children slip away into a blank, and that means the bad stuff as well as the good stuff. Lately, remembering that the  Progoff journalling  process involves several levels of journalling, I've been carting around between three to five journals:  one for daily "free writes", one for keeping track of my time, one for my genealogy scribblings, one for dreams, and, oh yes, a separate journal for the yearly rundowns.

It turns out that the "rundowns" are proving to be really handy way of figuring out when something happened.  On a prosaic note, the RFB recently wanted to know when we had the roof re-done, for the insurance records.

And younger daughter's 2006 Hallowe'en costume?  I hadn't written it in the rundown, nor had I written it in my regular journals, nor had I taken a photograph at the time or mentioned it in my correspondence.

It occurred to me, months later, that I could try asking her.  She's living on the spectrum and has severe memory issues, but not for everything.  She told me, clearly appalled that I'd forgotten, that she had been Peter Pan.

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