I began feeling pretty low mid-September. Therapy was helping, but I don’t go often enough–I could never go as often as I’d like, given how good I feel when I leave there. I needed something more, something I could carry with me throughout the hard days. I thought back to my early twenties when I was depressed, and I remembered this little leather journal I carried with me everywhere. I must have had a name for it, which I can’t recall now.

In it, I listed all the things that made me happy then (eventually the list exceeded 100). I listed things I want to do in my life. I scribbled song lyrics, quotes, and passages from books. I doodled with markers. That book went everywhere with me during those dark days. Opening it made me feel better, comforted. And, because I have always been a writer, it made me feel good to put pen to paper. Writing has always been my go-to tool for working through my emotions.

This past September, as the days grew shorter and colder and my mood changed with the weather, I decided to start another book. This time, I chose a cheap (but colorful) notebook from Target–less pressure to keep things pretty inside. I referred to it out loud one time as my “positivity notebook,” knowing my struggle to overcome my negativity and pessimism was causing, in part, my depressed mood. The name stuck, even though it isn’t very creative. But sometimes, simplicity is best.

I began writing in it within minutes of coming home from Target. Here is the first page:

Opening page of the positivity notebook

For a month, maybe slightly longer, I carried the notebook with me everywhere, and if I wasn’t feeling well enough to write things down, I’d simply flip through what I’d already written and find some solace there. There is nothing painful in the book, nothing that isn’t uplifting to me in some way. I haven’t written many of my own words inside, but rather I have relied primarily on things others have already shared. This is because I couldn’t trust myself to not write a page-long rant about whatever is bothering me, combined with my fear of someone reading my deepest thoughts.

This is part of a poem by my favorite poet, Frank O’Hara. I love it, so into the notebook it went!

By the end of October, I’d stopped carrying the notebook around with me because I was feeling much better, far less negative. I don’t know whether the positivity notebook should get all of the credit for that, but I feel that it helped me through a rough patch.

Lyrics to “No One’s Gonna Love You” by Band of Horses, which I was listening to nonstop for a while there. Not exactly positive, but beautiful.

Now I toss the notebook in my purse when I start feeling heavy again or when I suspect the day might be hard for me. And sometimes I toss it in there just because it’s never a bad thing to carry a resource full of inspiring reminders about how life can be. Sometimes I just crave the positivity notebook.

This is part of an exercise I learned in therapy that I find soothing and helpful. I wrote it down as a reminder. Don’t you just love the word “unstuck?”

I think this weekend I will dig out that little leather journal from a decade ago and reflect on the things that made me happy back then.

Do you write down things that inspire or comfort you? Or do you use Pinterest (or something else) for this? I’d love to hear about your method!

 

This week’s Mother’s Pride blog carnival really got me thinking about what I’m proud of about myself, and I’d like to add one more thing: I’m proud of myself for writing down so many of my thoughts and feelings throughout my life.

As I’ve mentioned (several times…sorry), I’ve been feeling rather nostalgic lately. I’ve been mourning some of the people I’ve lost touch with through the years, some of the wild and crazy times, my long hair and size 2 body….

I’ve been referring to it as suburban mom angst.

I love my family and friends and the life I have now, believe me. But for me, it is possible (and hopefully forgiveable) to also miss some of my “past” life, too.

So the other day, I busted out my box of remaining diaries and poetry notebooks and gave myself one full hour to read some of my thoughts, dated as far back as 1987, when I was 10 years old.

I had a blast. At times, I felt as if I were reading the diaries of someone not me. I cannot believe how much I’ve changed over the years. I’ve changed and changed and then changed some more. Don’t get me wrong, there are still plenty of glimmers of the girl I once was, of the thoughts I once had. For example, in these About Me books I used to love to fill out, I wrote down my likes and dislikes in 1996 and again in 2000. If I had to write those lists again, I know that many of my likes and dislikes would appear on the third list.

Those lists made me laugh out loud. This morning, I shared them on Twitter. No, I prefer not to share them here (Hi, Mom!) but I will share some of the equally funny responses I got on Twitter about my dislikes:

  • I’m with 22-year-old [James] on toilet paper, and with 19-year-old [James] on “All My Life.”
  • Haha oh I love it! Sounds like you had some major men problems. And body issues :( But the pregnant thing cracked me up!
  • I like how you disliked chores AND a dirty house.
  • i hate guys up my ass too :P
  • Hahahaha! That is a very long list..Hilarious.
  • lol! Basically as a teen u didn’t like anyone? Sounds typical. ;)

What else made me laugh out loud were all the pages of my whining and venting about drama with my girlfriends, about how the boys I dated were treating me, about having to do homework, about hangovers.

These days, my diaries are much different. Oh there is still plenty of whining, but most of it is about not being able to pee alone or having to share my makeup with my 2-year-old son or my husband watching too much tv.

Anyway, reading my diaries (and the bad poetry from my adolescence) cured my nostalgia, for the most part, because it helped me realize how I’ve romanticized the past as I grew more distant from it. Looking back at what I’d written then, it doesn’t seem like something I’d ever want to go back to, really. I had awful taste in dudes back then, and I don’t miss waiting for one to call when he said he would or calling me drunk after midnight! I had some major drama queen friends back then, too. Sure, I miss some of the awesome times I had with those people, but all I need to do is bust out my diaries and do a little reading and I feel like I’m right back there again.

The best part is, I can close the book when I want.

Some of the diary entries, poems, and lists are too funny to not share. So I’ve been toying with the idea of starting a second blog just to showcase them. There, I would post that stuff and also invite YOU to post your own rants & raves from your youth.

Whaddya think? Does that sound like something you’d read and/or contribute to?

 

To kick off 2010, I downloaded the Gratitude Journal iPhone app. The aim is to log in 5 things every day for which I am grateful. I did well with it as I worked through my PPD. I even added a photograph to each entry (these were almost always of Jax). The app invites you to rate your day, which was helpful for me because it gave me the opportunity to think about my day in terms of “Ok, how bad was it really?” I don’t think I ever rated it lower than 3 stars out of 5, even on the days I thought were pretty bad. So, it kind of put things in perspective for me.

But then I stopped regularly logging my gratitude, sometime this summer. I  simply got busy and forgot about it. This morning while “cleaning up” my apps, I opened the Gratitude Journal again. I wanted to see what things I was grateful for 6 months ago today, just out of curiosity. I hadn’t posted on May 17, but I’ll share with you what I posted on May 15 instead, which apparently was a 4-star day:

  • Jackson’s progress sleeping in his crib–3 hour stretches are the usual now!
  • Playdate with [a friend] and the boys
  • Sunny day!
  • Ice cream!
  • I didn’t have to cook for the second day in a row!
  • Shopping trip!

Here’s my photo that day:

Jax in the jumperoo! Age 9 months.

In the spirit of Thanksgiving next week, I’ve decided to start using the Gratitude Journal app again and logging in the 5+ things I’m grateful for each and every day for a month. It really helps put things in perspective and serves as a ready reminder to be grateful for everything I have and not take it for granted. For instance, it’s funny to me now that I wrote how grateful I was for Jax sleeping 3 straight hours in his crib. When he sleeps 3 hours straight these days, I consider that a bad night. Maybe this little reminder of just how bad things used to be will help me get through this teething/bad sleeping spell we’re currently in!

The other day, I read a review of 365 Thank Yous by John Kralik the other day in some magazine, I forget which. The concept really appeals to me, and someday I may try it myself: writing 365 thank-you notes in the coming year, one per day, to anyone and everyone. The only downside, in my case, is mailing them out. I’m still sitting on a pile of thank you notes, already written and just waiting to be addressed/stamped, from Jackson’s birthday party–in August! (Sorry friends & family. I suck. I know this.)

Do you have a gratitude journal or other method to give thanks regularly? Please share!

For 25 years, I’ve been writing. When I was 8 years old, my mother gave me a red diary with teddy bears printed all over its cover—and a writer was born.

Future writer

Fast forward to age 13. I wrote my first “novel,” which was actually more of a short story although it was over 50 pages long (in bubbly teenager handwriting). It was called “The Tracks” and was about a group of friends who set off on an adventure following their town’s railroad tracks. I can’t remember now what happened once the story really got on with it, but I do remember the looseleaf pages clipped together with binder rings and the blue, pink, and purple ink I used to handwrite them.

Fast forward to age 16. I moved back to my hometown and met my neighbor across the street, Melanie. Together, we wrote pretty awful poetry about our feelings and then we self-published it and sold it to our classmates. I think we called it “Rages of the Moon” or something like that.

At age 20, I enrolled in an Advanced Creative Writing course at my college. My short story, “First Trip,” received kudos from my peers. Re-reading it now, though, I can’t believe just how terrible it was! I sure hope I’ve come a long way since then.

At age 26, I got my first writing-related job—as an editor for a small publishing company. Ok, so maybe it’s not really writing related exactly, but hey—helping others perfect their writing was as close as I could get to writing something of my own at that time, given my extreme anxiety about sharing information with others who may judge me for it!

At the ripe old age of 29, I decided I didn’t like 20+ years of diaries boxed up and lugged from apartment to apartment to my first home and to who-knows-where after that. I even thought about what would happen to all my inked secret thoughts if, gasp, I should die! Images of my loved ones sitting around reading about my debaucheries scared the living daylights out of me. So after much deliberation, it came to me—keep the diaries that were written during important times in my life and toss the others. I spent an afternoon on my bedroom floor, my carpet and my legs covered in diaries. It was fun (and a bit scary) to relive a lot of experiences I’d completely forgotten about over the years—the boys I’d dated (those I should have treated better, as well as those I should never have given the time of day), the parties (including those I had thrown myself), all the bad poetry I’d written in my teenage angst, the ranting about friends who’d scorned me, the bout with depression at age 21, the pages written about this new guy I met (who would later become my husband and the father of my sweet baby boy), and so on and so on.  There were an awful lot of memories in those diaries, but mostly I discovered the diaries kind of served as a venting ground for many moments I’d really rather forget. So it became easier than I expected to simply throw them into the garbage dumpster outside of my apartment—after carefully tearing certain pages into pieces, of course! You never know who might go dumpster diving, read my life story, and publish it on the Internet! I believe I’m currently down to maybe 4 or 5 diaries buried in a box in my basement—diaries that wouldn’t mortify anyone I love, I hope.

Today I’m launching my blog. I figured, I’ve been writing for so long that it seems like the next logical step is to blog about my life. Surely there’s a pearl somewhere in this head of mine that might somehow help someone, or at least serve as a source of amusement during someone’s superboring work day. I thought long and hard about blogging—my main concern was that I probably don’t have anything interesting to say (who could possibly care about my baby, my struggles with postpartum depression, my insane obsession with The OC). But you know what? I stopped caring about that and what you are reading here is my attempt to stop my self-conscious thoughts from keeping me from doing something that is so natural to me. So here I am.

I expect my blog will take a more defined shape as I go along, as blogs often do. But for now, consider it part new-mommy blog, part everything-else blog. Hope you enjoy it. And if you don’t, well, whatever.