Writing to Myself

I love journals.

I’ve kept a personal journal since I was ten or eleven, and I have them all lined up on a shelf in my room. Every Christmas and birthday, I acquire journals as gifts, and I use gift money to buy more journals. Something about the pretty covers and blank pages of yet-unlived stories gets me every time.

I don’t recall how exactly it started, but I do remember starting to journal my thoughts, daily life, and memories with the conviction that these were all very important. I remember becoming so overwhelmed with each detail of life, so convinced that they were all significant, that I had no choice but to write my life down as I was living it.

I still don’t know why the ins and outs of daily life have always been so significant to me, unless of course it has something to do with me being a writer. I always wrote with the conviction that people in the future would want to know what my life was like, and I wrote, at first, like I was writing a story.

As I got older, of course, my journals became more raw, more honest, more stream-of-consciousness. This shift has made each journal like a tiny time capsule of who I was at the time. Now, I look back at my numerous autobiographical tomes and see patterns in my life that led to where I am now. I read about an event that happened six years ago, and I see how that led to some of my present-day behaviors. It’s fascinating how my own words, thoughts, and feelings jog my present memory. They put me in situations long forgotten.

Reading a diary is like time travelling; you meet your old self, hear her hopes and fears, and tell her things you’ve learned, things you know now that you didn’t know then. It’s very therapeutic in a way; it closes a loop and completes a journey. The things I struggled with in the past find peace, or at the very least explanation, in the future. The older and wiser me can meet the younger with more knowledge, more grace. It makes you more forgiving of yourself, more aware of the process that life entails. And even this pseudo-time travel is a process, because someday I’ll be older and wiser than I am now, and the cycle, the journey, continues.

It’s ironic, isn’t it? While I thought I was writing for posterity, I was really writing for myself.

 

A Cautionary Tale

I don’t get road rage. I really don’t. Every once in a while I have a bad day and I might grumble at a slow person, and whenever I drive in Pittsburgh I will let out a string of Pittsburgheze. But these aren’t common occurrences. I’m a pretty placid driver.

No, I don’t get road rage. Unless… unless someone else is exhibiting road rage. And then I’m mad as hell. I get road rage at the people who get road rage.

I don’t know if it’s some righteous anger business. Maybe it is. (It probably is not.) I think it’s probably the result of mixed panic, overstimulation, and a compassionate sense of justice. I mean, come on, where’s the justice in tailgating someone who’s going five over the speed limit? Where’s the compassion in flipping someone off? And what the hell are you honking for? It’s taking me a while to lift my foot off the brake!

Yesterday I was on my way to Pittsburgh, and to be honest, I was in a sour mood. Something had ruffled me before I left the house, and then the previously sunny day had gone all gray, and then it started raining, and I can never seem to get the windshield wiper speed right. It’s either molasses-slow or ADHD-fast. I stopped at a light, and when it turned green, I took my foot off the brake, and suddenly heard six indignant horn blasts to my left.

Sluggishly and sullenly, like a toddler woken too soon from a nap*, I looked over. The lady in the huge brown SUV in the left lane hadn’t been honking at me; she was angry with the guy in the beat-up Toyota pickup in front of her, who was taking his (reasonable) time turning left. The sheer injustice of it all overwhelmed me. I was suddenly seized with road-rage road rage. My own horn looked incredibly inviting. I made a decision. I honked six little indignant horn blasts of my own, with a smug staccato that mirrored SUV lady’s. I felt a thrill of power and righteousness.

And then, terrified at my own strength, I scanned the area for police cars.

And then, by the time I’d gotten another mile down the road, I felt terrible.

And then I repented.

And then I kept myself from crying.

And then I wondered if SUV lady felt as bad as I did.

Road rage does no body good.

 

It’s Friday, which means I’ve released another chapter of my newest novel! Check out my Patreon page, where all my lovely sponsors can view an exclusive look at my first draft. Fiction is better than road rage. Read a story; save a life.

 

*Though, let’s be honest: anyone waking up from a nap is like this.

Weekly Reflection: Traditions

Hello friends,

Every Sunday I’d like to do a little “weekly reflection”, a sort of journal post. It’s nice to take a day before the next week’s craziness begins to reflect and give our minds a rest.

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The fourth commandment says to “remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy” (Exodus 20:8). Some people take that very seriously, and are quite strict with their Sabbath days. And that’s okay. But for my family growing up, Sunday was a day to recharge from the pell-mell activity of the week. We weren’t super strict, but we had our little Sunday traditions that made the day relaxing and special. And even though I’m an adult who doesn’t live at home right now, Sunday still means those little traditions.

Every Sunday morning we went to church, unless occasional illness or total exhaustion or travel kept us away. This gave us an opportunity to quiet our hearts and worship the Lord. This was a huge priority in our family’s life, and still is. This helped us to keep the day holy.

After church we usually had a big lunch, our main meal for the day. Mom would cook something special: sauerkraut and kielbasa, beef roast and potatoes, or her famous lasagna. After lunch we’d have a nap time and sleep for most of the afternoon. It was lovely :o) Then finally, we’d have “Family Night”, when Dad would make an enormous bowl of popcorn and we’d watch a movie.

Obviously, this routine changed from time to time, but overall that was our Sunday tradition. It’s funny how you grow up with a certain routine, and it never occurs to you that other people don’t do things the same way. I’d have friends over sometimes on Sundays, and as the evening wore on they’d ask, “When’s dinner, by the way?” and I’d think it was so weird that they actually ate dinner instead of just popcorn on Sunday nights. Seriously, who eats Sunday dinner at dinnertime? :o)

Long story short, my family’s traditions really instilled in me that Sunday isn’t like any other day of the week, or at least it shouldn’t be. We need to give ourselves just one day of not running around, working, or being busy. We need just one day of rest and reflection and devotion to the Lord.

However, we should not be a slave to the Sabbath either. Jesus Himself said that “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath” (Mark 2:27). While we should be purposed to attending church weekly, “not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some” (Hebrews 10:25), even good Christian church activities can become a ball and chain, a way to be even more busy on Sundays. I really respect how my parents achieved that balance when I was growing up. We were active in church, but there were times that Mom and Dad made the decision to not attend certain functions or activities so that we could keep our unity and integrity as a family secure, so that we could be together to rest on the Day of Rest. This is a mindset I have even now and it is a mindset I want to have with my own family.

This past week was nuts. I’ve realized that I need to work on being kind to myself about halfway through the week, because by then I am so burnt out. I get to bed so late and wake up exhausted. This past Tuesday night I had a little meltdown. Tuesdays are my busiest days, and my head is perpetually spinning as I try to keep the proverbial plates spinning. As an introvert my first reaction is to shut down and go off somewhere solitary. The only problem is that I live at a college, where there are people everywhere. And when you’re tired and burnt out, being around people is not the best idea. Whenever I find myself thinking “He’s stupid, she’s stupid, they’re stupid”, it’s a sure sign I need to go lock myself in a closet and not come out til I’ve had a good cup of tea and a nap.

Obviously that is not a correct reaction. It’s something I need to work on. With God’s grace I can live at peace with others, even when my head is spinning and I hate everyone. (Heck, with God’s grace I can avoid the head-spinning and people-hating altogether! :o) So I relish the Sabbath day, and weekends in general. It’s a time to take a step back and decompress. It makes it a whole lot easier to go into another busy week.

So in summary, have a great Sunday. Rest. Reflect. Worship. Don’t overextend yourself or let others dictate how you remember the Sabbath and keep it holy. Meet with other believers, yes. Don’t forsake the assembly. Give yourself time to be with the Lord, because that is the most precious and lasting thing you take away from the Sabbath. Draw your loved ones close to you and have one heck of a peaceful day. And have a splendid week to come. :o)

Much love,

Hannah

(Photography by Hannah Allman. Bible references from the English Standard Version.)