I’m very excited to introduce my first guest blogger: Barbara Brown. I met Barbara ten years ago at Flinders University when we were enrolled in the Bachelor of Creative Arts. Like me, Barbara is a mother with a couple of qualifications and a successful career behind her, and like me she did her degree because she wanted to be a writer. We both did a PhD and in the last three years of our candidature we shared an office and the problems associated with intensive and personally confronting research. Barbara’s thesis, like mine, consisted of a memoir and an account of research into therapeutic writing, although our topics and main interests, as well as our backgrounds, are very different.
Barbara is also a fierce defender of the rights of asylum seekers. She actively supports several refugees, men and women who’ve experienced terrible situations in their own countries and found in Barbara not only a sympathetic ear but a source of sound practical advice and assistance. In case I’m making her sound like a saint, you’ll see from the opening lines of her post she is very human. Her post reminds us there are different forms of therapeutic writing and she has inspired me to adopt her approach.
‘Grumpy, grumpy, grumpy – I’ve been yelling at Jim all day. This is the result of doing too much for too many people over Christmas. Each year I promise myself I’ll say no, but when the time comes my need to be everybody’s friend gets in the way. There I go again climbing onto the self-sacrifice merry-go-round. You might want to laugh, but my inability to refuse requests has its dark side. Anyway, it’s over now, so time to shut up, put up and act more graciously.’
You have just read my journal entry for December 26th 2015. The fallout from doing everything for everybody had spread far and wide, but was mainly directed towards my poor husband who consistently maintained his innocence (yet who spent most of the day with his feet up eating shortbread?). As you can see, I have always used journal writing as a way of letting it all hang out. No holds barred.
Journals are my private release valve; a place where I can vent my frustrations and receive a sense of peace when I eventually put the pen down; but these entries are always pretty negative and I don’t want them to be a just record of my moaning. So, I thought I would tell you about another piece of cathartic writing I engage in. My gratitude list. This is where I record my serendipitous moments; the moments that bring me joy
I wrote this in bed one Saturday evening:
‘I am grateful for the smell of lemon scented gums in the park, winning a game of cards after tea, talking to Junie on the phone, and finishing the long overdue beanie for Maurice …’
You get the idea. This is my Pollyanna time. A list of ‘thank yous’ designed to counteract my feelings of negativity. No matter how awful the day has been I can usually find at least half a dozen glimpses of happiness.
Both ways of writing are important to me, the need to release my anxieties and a place to remember that life is really pretty good. And over time I hope my gratitude list will grow longer and the list of frustrations ebb away. But I live in an imperfect world, and I am a long way from sainthood; so for time being I will rely on these two different styles of cathartic writing to help me stay me sane and balanced.
What do you think? Has Barbara reminded you of life’s bounty? What, right at this moment, are you grateful for?