Journalling for almost 30 Years and Counting: Now What?

I’ve been journalling for almost three decades and have just as many journals (30 of them). I travel down memory lane once in awhile, but other than that, they sit in my closet, waiting to be discovered by my kids when they’re old enough and tall enough to reach them.

About two years ago, I read a biography on Louisa May Alcott. Alcott would sometimes write notes to her younger self in her older journals. It sounded like an interesting exercise, so I gave it a shot. I couldn’t have expected these results.

Journalling to My Past Self

Author Lori Wolf-Heffner journalling in a notebook for her business
Photo by Erin Watt Photography

I turned the pages back to a more difficult time in my life: When my oldest was born, there were complications with his birth. He had tubes coming out of him, wouldn’t breastfeed for the first week, needed an oxygen hood, started turning blue at one point…He’s totally fine now, but back then, I had no idea what to do or what would happen with him. [2021 update: He’s still doing just amazing.]

When I turned back to those pages, I travelled back several years emotionally and mentally. I gave the sadness some attention and then returned to the present (where both my children are happy and thriving). Writing from my current vantage point, I wrote a note to my younger self. I explained that everything turned out okay and that he’s doing just fine.

Talk about losing a spiritual ten pounds. I felt a release, a deep sense of relief. The tension that event had been holding up in my being evaporated completely.

But there was one other unexpected effect: higher self-acceptance. And this wouldn’t be the only time.

Continuing to Talk to Younger Lori

I’ve only written to my younger self a few times, but each time I did, I experienced even more self-acceptance. Please don’t get me wrong: I don’t spend my days hating myself! But, like most people, I have insecurities and guilt, and they’ve stunted my spiritual growth. Although journalling helped me acknowledge those areas, it didn’t always help me overcome them. Now, every time I’ve released tense energy from past events in my life, I feel increasingly more secure and start bulldozing through my goals. I’m less concerned about whether I succeed or fail and more concerned with what I learn along the journey to attaining my goals.

During those difficult events, I didn’t have the life experience to help me deal with them, so it’s no wonder journalling didn’t “heal” them for me. Sometimes I turned to others for help, sometimes I just did my best to move on. But I didn’t have enough experience to deal with those issues when they happened. Now that I’m older, I do.

When I read about some of the more troubling times in life, I re-experience my fear, my anger, and my sadness. By writing back to myself, acceptance replaces those emotions. It’s an incredibly powerful experience. (But again, do seek help if you’re finding yourself overwhelmed with life!)

Words of Wisdom to Yourself

I’ll never go through all 30 journals. In the end, they’re there for posterity’s sake. But whenever I’m in a bit of a rut, I’ll find an old entry where I’m expressing some kind of trouble (even if it’s worry about not having a boyfriend when I was 16), and I’ll write some words of wisdom to myself. Helps every time. Also means I’ll keep journalling until I no longer can.

[Note: This blog post was updated in 2021. However, all dates still refer to the original post date.]

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