How to fall in love with you: step two

Pink_notebook To fall in love with ourselves we have to get to know ourselves first. I remember reading a quote somewhere that said a great marriage was one where the conversation never ended. This is what we want with ourselves: the conversation. The getting to-know-you part of the courtship. The intrigue, and then the honesty. One of my greatest healing tools has been my diary. Begun in 1984 when I was 11-years-old, I’ve unravelled the stories of my life into a collection of exercise books, lever-arch files and now beautiful Moleskine notebooks. But what I‘ve discovered over the years is that the act of keeping a diary isn’t enough to make you fall in love with you; there are many years of diary entries that I now consider superficial and surface, ramblings about my relationships or my neuroses about work or friends or some other thing that was occupying my outer world. And the key word here is occupying – I always managed to keep myself distracted by stuff other than me. Writing it all out in a stream of consciousness made room for deeper enquiry, but I just never went there out of fear, leaving me skimming along the surface for years, always at the mercy of the whims of others.

One of the gifts (and I feel comfortable using that word now) of my bereavement was the opportunity it gave me to dive below that surface while supported by my therapist. As I began to do the hard work of healing, I turned to my diary every day as a way to record the process and vent the hurts that were surfacing, in turn nurturing a richer and more honest relationship with the page. Not that I ever lied to myself – I just avoided looking at the Stuff. You know the Stuff? The issues I covered up with a bottle of wine; the feelings I swallowed down with a bar of chocolate; the worries I placated with a menthol cigarette. I read my diary back and marvel at how something that was supposed to be all about me was all about everyone else, and what they were doing and feeling. And how that was affecting me. External, external, external.

I sometimes wonder what would have become of me had I not endured such a devastating bereavement, but that thinking never gets me very far. This has been my experience, and the key to uncovering all I needed to heal. This can be translated and applied by starting an honest conversation with yourself. When we push ourselves to be honest, and not hide behind the distractions or fear, we can begin to see ourselves as we truly are and find a place of loving kindness to carry ourselves. So start with some quiet time alone – no phone, no internet, no television, no other people, just you and a notebook & pen – and make some conversation. Start with some small talk, then take it up a notch. These have been helping me lately:

1. There’s a life coach-y technique you can use, to get to the bottom of your feelings about a particular situation or person or memory. Ask yourself: ‘how do I feel about this?’ and write an answer. Then ask yourself again: ‘but how do I feel about this?’ And write another answer. Then do it again: ‘but how do I feel about this?’ and continue on in this way until you have asked and answered as far as you feel you can go. Often if I feel myself getting stuck when I’m writing an article, a blog post or a longer piece of prose, I start a new line with the words ‘But what I really want to say is…’ and then let rip. Either technique helps me cut through the surface clutter and into the real issue underneath.

2. Pull back from using your diary as a chronicle of the day’s events. Instead, chronicle your feelings from the day.

3. Keep checking in with your needs. When premenstrosity strikes, I have a tendency to see everything through an overly-emotional veil, but underneath all that melodrama are very real, very tender emotions. By regularly checking in with how I’m feeling (see no.1) and what I need (more time alone, more fresh air, a call with a friend, an afternoon to play), I (usually) manage to write my way through the crazies and find some (self) support.

4. For some of us it is hard to be doing something so seemingly ‘selfish’ as keeping a diary – do it anyway. Let it rip. Indulge yourself. Be honest. No one else is reading.

These are just a few little ideas to get you started if you yearn for more connection with the gorgeous fabulous being that is YOU. A diary/journal is simply a tool to get us talking to ourselves – it can be lined or unlined, either works ;)

How to fall in love with you: step one :: step three :: step four

31 responses
  1. Marianne @ Zen Peacekeeping

    Fantastic post – When I choose not to distract myself (with wine, chocolate, drama, even a book) I start to see myself so clearly that I have no choice but to find compassion and love for myself.
    As for line and unlined journal’s working just as well as each other, well – you know what I think about that. ;-)

  2. charlane

    when i was going through my divorce i kept a diary of my feelings – horrible, painful and i felt as if i would ever be well again. then, almost like the sun parting storm clouds – it was better. i re-read the diaries and wondered who that girl was and then i burned them. it was very liberating.

  3. amanda

    this post is a great kick in the pants for me.

  4. Kath

    Oh I know you are so right. I should really just get up from this computer and go grab pen and book and write write write.
    Today I saw a coyote, he ran across the road in front of my car. He was majestic, his coat still winter thick. I went for a run yesterday, I imagined that he was a sign for me, running & agile. I later read that the coyote as an animal totem is a trickster, he makes you look between wisdom and foolishness by tricking you. An interesting idea to explore.
    Okay, so apparently I started writing here ;-)

  5. michelle

    I love your advice and tips on how to journal about what is below the surface. I often find my journals getting too “listy” and this is a great way to jump start back into what is more real.

  6. Andrea B

    These are great suggestions for someone like myself who struggles with a lot of self-hatred, and wants to break free of that into more healthy self-acceptance. I also want to start an art journal so that I can begin to remove the clog that has kept most self-expression to a minimum these last few years, have some fun & also work through some issues that a standard writing journal just can’t quite get to.
    I’m glad that you’re doing this series right now – the timing couldn’t be more perfect! :)

  7. bella

    I started keeping a journal (or journals) in my late 20’s. I love looking back and reading them. Sometimes I share snippets on my blog. But my unravelling Red Moleskine is by far my favorite.

  8. Amie aka MammaLoves

    “But what I really want to say is…”
    That is going to be such an incredible tool for me.
    Love this series you have going.

  9. Neil

    I think this is probably my main reason for blogging. I need to express these things publicly. For me, keeping a diary would just be too intense right now. Maybe I’m not comfortable with really knowing myself.

  10. Janine

    This is such valuable and sensitive advice, thank you. Just yesterday I realised this when I perceived that it is not ‘I think’ but ‘I feel, therefore I am’…

  11. Helen (Dixon Hill Girl)

    ‘But what I really want to say is…’
    Great advice!

  12. Christine

    Oh, I needed this.

  13. sas

    i love this post.

  14. mary

    I think 1. is a great technique for going deeper – thanks ! I too tend to sometimes skim the surface but also find that my morning pages are a way of accessing the wiser part of myself as well.

  15. margie

    i never spend enough time thinking about how things, bereavement in my case as well, have impacted my life. i spent and spend far too much time thinking about how it effected my children. so many years later, i need to take your advice. thank you.

  16. migration summer

    i loved this post & i deeply *get* this post as a fellow lifelong journal writer. This process has saved me (and i’m not even being melodramatic) many times, especially over these past two years as i’ve had to grieve for the loss of my life as i knew it. Thanks for sharing this!
    Love to you,

  17. Carmen Torbus

    Excellent post.

  18. the Duchess

    I really love your blog and these posts in particular. As a woman who went through a divorce young, moved to LA alone and is recreating her life as a single woman, an eternal optimist and a writer, I feel I’ve found a friend and inspiration in your blog. Bookmarked and ready to go! Merci!

  19. shaina

    thank you so much for this. i needed it today. <3

  20. Kristin

    I know so well all the writing that can be done about *other* people’s feelings, or how their feelings affect you. It’s so much easier to be entrenched in the drama of friends and coworkers. And writing about them feels productive but it’s really just spinning your wheels. Thank you for your insight and bravery, as well as inspirations to try at home.

  21. Cassie

    the moleskine notebooks never fail to let me talk it out with myself.
    another good tip is to write using your favorite pen, in your favorite color. my journals are all written in purple felt-tip. it makes me smile whenever I get to use that pen, which encourages me to really dig into my thoughts on that creamy paper.

  22. Catherine

    I absolutely love these posts of yours. So inspirational. I’ve been keeping a journal since 11 too! “External, external, external”… it’s so true sometimes. Thank you! I needed some food for thought.

  23. ToLiveInspired

    Loving these posts.. I have been journaling for years, since I was about 12 or so, and journaling has helped me through many a difficult time.. But I also admit that I often did surface writing at times , that my true voice was not being spoken, that is something that is changing. Thanks for a great post again!

  24. Brandy

    i really enjoyed this post. i too have been keeping journals since i was around 10 years old.
    these are great tips to dig a bit deeper,so thanks for the inspiration as always.

  25. Diane

    Thank you for bringing us this series. I love to journal, but I am definitely someone who does more writing about the day’s events than my actual feelings on things. I keep thinking that my life is dull and routine, but my feelings on things are usually all over the place and it is those that I should be writing about.
    By the way, I love all things notebook and pen related! I have more pens than I will ever use.
    Thanks again for your great writing and sharing skills.

  26. sara

    Thanks so much for these tips! I just started doing morning pages again after 5 years, and this will make it much more meaningful when all i can think of to write is “blah blah blah”, : )
    I enjoy your blog, it’s one of a few that I’ve read from the beginning and only recently got caught up. Thank you for sharing.

  27. Ingrid

    i really love this series that you have been writing. isn’t it astounding that after 20, 30, 40, 50 or more years, we are still searching for the essence of ourselves and the answer to the question “who am i?”? the exercises you suggest are fantastic, and i’m looking forward to opening a dialogue with myself and learning to love who i am.

  28. lv

    i found my diary form 2005 and just remembered why i don’t keep one anymore: pain. lots of pain. the same reason i decided i don;t want any pictures of myself either: each one remind me of the deep pain i felt that day. enough is enough

  29. Howtogetyourexback

    Thanks everyone for sharing your thoughts, it’s great to read your stories and see some similar experiences from the past decade!

  30. julia

    really wonderful post. so many of the things you write here ring so true with me. also- i find that “coach-y technique” you describe really interesting–when i first started seeing a homeopath for some health issues a few years ago- the first session (Which lasted about 2.5 hours!) was dedicated entirely to talking about how i FELT about my health issues. and whenever i would finish talking, she’d just repeat the question “how do you really feel about that?”. what i told her was the information she used to determine the proper remedy for my health stuff. huh.

  31. Andrew Lightheart

    ‘What I really want to say…’ is such a great question.
    So often when I’m working with speakers, that’s the question that gets them talking like real people, gets to the heart of what they want to say.
    Thanks for the reminder – I need to use it more in my own writing!

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