Emphasizing the good and the hopeful

Many years ago, I made  the embarrassing and shocking discovery that someone very close to me had been reading my journals. I discovered this when I heard her, belive it or not, laughing about my spelling with a friend (which certainly was/is laughable at times, but that wasn’t the point!). In a fury, I burned all of my journals; years of thoughts, musings, experiences, and observations that I thought might someday end up in a book, were gone in one fell swoop. About 5 years after this incident, I found one journal (that somehow escaped my book-burning frenzy). I had always felt some regret, about getting rid of all of that personal history, and now one piece remained.

As I opened the journal and started to read, I was shocked by what I had written; pages of grievances, anger and frustration pouring out on the pages, judgements of friends, family, society, women’s place in it…..the writing was explosive and raw as I was at the time. There were also good entries, hopeful stories, some fun adventures but mostly not. I closed the journal, waked to the trash can in the kitchen, and threw it out.

Those pages were written back in the days when I thought that all negative thoughts must be “vented” and talked about….ad nauseam. There was a big push for this in therapy, (1970’s?) I seem to recall. It was believed that if you could “get it all out”, you could get rid of it (write, yell, confront people, label your parents, ex’s, as “toxic”, etc.). But that never worked. I didn’t understand (nor did the therapists that I saw), that like energy attracts like energy….negative, harsh, critical thoughts and actions just “invite” more of the same and that putting them down in writing, magnifies the energy even more. As Einstein said, “You cannot solve a problem with the same mind that created it.”

I was suddenly so grateful for those little “journal thieves”, so grateful that this stuff didn’t end up in a book. It might have been interesting reading, but so what? I was searching for solutions at that time, but had not found many. The writing was not hopeful, uplifting or inspiring.  And the two girls that had “insulted me, and invaded my privacy” all those years ago, turned out to be messengers from God, angels in disguise, keeping me from doing more harm to myself (and others) when I didn’t know better….I only feel gratitude for them now and for this universe that is always conspiring to bless us, help us to grow and expand into a better, fuller and richer life, when we are ready.


I had forgotten about this incident until the other day when a friend sent me a link to a wonderful interview with the Pulitzer Prize winning poet, Mary Oliver, (by Maria Shriver). Maria was asking Mary about her work, the fact that she had touched so many people. Mary said,

“Well, we went through a whole period of confessional poets. And I think a lot of people—certainly Sylvia Plath and Anne Sexton—got therapy mixed up with the work they were doing, and that’s a shame. I may be wrong, but it seems like they felt they could heal themselves through writing, and it didn’t work. I don’t usually mess around with what makes me unhappy when I’m writing. I want to write poems that will comfort, maybe amuse, enliven other people. I don’t mean that the world is all great and wonderful. But I’m careful to—I try to keep the emphasis on the good and the hopeful”.

The link to the full interview is below.

Read more: http://www.oprah.com/entertainment/Maria-Shriver-Interviews-Poet-Mary-Oliver/3#ixzz1ZwCzmERU

20 thoughts on “Emphasizing the good and the hopeful”

  1. The book that we need is the one that details how you got from that angry place to the peaceful balanced place that you appear to be now.
    That Einstein quote is priceless. Thanks for this.

  2. I used to keep journals too Mary – for years – scrawling away – trying to get at the “root of things” – and though I am sure at times it did help to clarify issues for me, I noticed after about 10 years that I was still writing the about same things – and that it was boring – blah, blah blah! I spent the better part of a morning burning those journals in my wood stove, realizing that I needed to change the subject in my life – Maybe that in itself the lesson… oxo

    1. Wow…such a common experience Lynne…I too, came to understand a lot about my “issues” but that never got rid of them…I love your words, “I needed to change the subject in my life”

  3. Good Morning, Thank you for another great post. I love the way you take a negative experience and turn it around into something positive. I’m learning so much from your helpful musings. Instead of playing the negative drama in my mind over and over, I’m starting to catch myself and say what can I learn from this, what is the message here? It really does gives a better perspective on everything.

  4. Several times in my life I have tried to journal. Found that I was mostly “bitching” . At one point I declared that I was not going to “bitch” in my journal any more and if it laid empty for a time so be it. I keep to that promise to my self and love to read what I have written because it is joyful, hopeful and uplifting.
    Not that my life is always joyful, hopeful and uplifting (although I feel more and more that it is) but I have already lived the “bad” stuff and don’t need to retell it, but rather to move on.

  5. Years ago Oprah suggested keeping a gratitude journal – writing down five things a day for which you found yourself grateful – something as simple as the adoring gaze of your pet, a sunrise, warm toast, a friend’s phone call. I really like that idea, keeping it short and sweet and positive. But be easy on your ’70’s’ self, 1970’s that is – think, we were thirty years younger, times were a changing, therapy was different. Today’s Abraham message ended with a very appropriate quote, especially for all those recently celebrating their birthdays – for us all really. “Rather than determining what the perfect age is, why not decide what the perfect state of being is—and then discover that you can find the perfect state of being at any age.” Encouraging each other to capture that perfect state of being is what I think this flock does best! Love and courage to all. And, have another wild day with time carved out to play!

  6. I, too, find that I keep repeating over and over my same mantras. When I read back, I find it enlightening. Herein are some basic truths about me, usually ones that hurt me over and over. But I also find that the healthiest thing I can do is write them out, not to bitch and gripe or wallow, but to grapple my way to insight that gives me relief.
    Each of us Journal in a different manner for a different reason. Once I grapple, I am in a better place–my whole reason for the compulsion to Journal.
    You make me think Mary.

  7. Janet is right, you make us think Mary! Bravo! I do recall the days in the late 60’s, early 70’s when the mantra was, blame your parents, teachers, anyone but yourself — vent that anger — keep it going! Wow, it didn’t work did it? I always felt that taking responsibility was the answer to one’s mental health, the power is within us not without us! Thanks again Mary for sharing your experience. I do love reading all these contributions.

  8. Wow…have I ever been down this road! I journaled forever during the late 60’s and the 70’s. I mean, I really spit out the venom on those pages, ridding myself, I thought, of all the bad influences on my life. So guess what? I still didn’t stop thinking about them or getting all worked up over them anyway. In the 90’s, when my husband walked, I went to a very clued-in therapist who not only helped me realize some things I didn’t know, but taught me how to examine the memory for the lesson, integrate it and move on. My journals now are filled with honest searching and have a more positive slant. What a relief to move on in a more enlightened way. Thanks, Mary, for another post, showing us all here how very much we have in common, and how much we are all “Everywoman.” How fortunate I feel to know all of you!

    1. I love this: examine each memory for the lesson, integrate it, and move on. A great plan for all life experiences!

      Cynthia R

    2. Yes, yes Suzanne! (I keep thinking, “see it, then release it, …)

  9. another saying i learned from oprah years back: when we know better, we do better. i no longer journal my wretched life; it has become, instead, a life of gratitude and grace, both for myself and the other. the players in my life are mostly the same as they were, but i’m choosing more forgiveness instead of blame. more contentment instead of fault-finding.
    wow, mary, i love your post. i often say that when i respond, but today i totally get it and love reading the contributions of all you. thanks everyone

    1. Thank you Virginia,…I love that “when we know better, we do better.”…(I also have to say that a laughed when I read your words, “I no longer journal my wretched life”…) wonderful words to live by.

  10. So many great quotes today for me from all of you…I’m so glad I checked in ‘late’!

    The universe that is always conspiring to bless us.
    I needed to change the subject in my life.
    I have already lived the bad stuff and don’t need to retell it.
    Decide what the perfect state of being is then find it at any age.
    Examine the memory for the lesson.
    See it, then release it.
    When we know better, we do better.

    Wow…just…Wow! Thank you all for sharing these wonderful gifts! You are all helping me to “know better”.

    1. I have been thinking about the word journal for quite some time today, – White Feather Farm has to be my before bedtime check in point!, re-reading all the posts. The French say “Bon Jour”, Good Day!,” – we write in our ‘journals’ -, Dear Diary!, we talk about our jour-ney in life all the time. . . It is all about the day. Being in the day. So a good night to all too, and tomorrow for those of you who love Simon’s Bray, may you have a very good Day! as well! Bon Jour and Buenas Noches from Arizona

  11. Not only do you make me think, Mary, you’ve been the catalyst in bringing this community together where knowing better and doing better is a daily experience. Thanks and blessings to all.

  12. Morning,
    Another timely reminder and an affirmation for me on this one. About ten years ago (seems like a different lifetime), I was able to extricate myself from a very bad marriage with scary domestic violence involved. I began to keep a journal. I actually needed it to be able to see what was happening. Somehow I wasn’t able to understand things as they happened but by reading the journal, I was validated. (I was very angry and thought, “some day I will write a book about this mess just to show what we had gone through.”) Thankfully after a pretty rough time, I was able to get myself and my sons away from it all and created a new life for us. I kept the journal for a couple years, every so often re-reading all of it or parts of it. Then after a few more years a funny thing happened. At first I needed to read that journal to see where I came from, then I began to get angry at myself for letting this happen to me, then I actually was able to “let go” of him for all that he had done wrong to us. I no longer wanted to write a book about it at all. Then out of the blue one day, I just quickly tossed it into the garbage never wanting to “go back” there again. I’m thrilled to say that my sons and I have thrived and are all going great. Mary, you are so right on this one….it’s so much better to move on.

    1. Lynn, I’m so glad I checked yesterday’s posts so I could offer you a cyber hug! You were so candid in your sharing – and it also showed to me at least, that there can be great value in getting it all out, all the hurt, the pain, and as you experienced, it helped you to actually see in black and white that what you had experienced was in fact true, – it helped you to move on, and then when you were in a better place, you no longer needed to read it anymore – so into the trash it went. And yet at the time you wrote it, it was vital for your extricating yourself from the toxic place you found yourself in. Bless you for having the courage and for making that huge step which freed you and your boys. May your days be happy ones dear Lynn, Love to you!

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