On the Valiance of Labor

(JOURNAL Keeping) No, this isn't the one I actually keep. I'm too shy to show that one.

(JOURNAL Keeping) No, this isn’t the one I actually keep. I’m too shy to show that one.

I’ve been keeping a tiny journal since 2015 began. Not a diary (this blog practically serves that self-chronicling purpose), but a journal. In it, I jot down my intention for the day; track my meditation practice, yoga practice and writing practice; monitor what I eat; observe how I feel; and write down the three things for which I’m grateful by the end of the day.

As far as checklists go, it’s nowhere near as impressive as the Outlook-based tools of my younger and profoundly more over-achieving self. There are no priority flags, color-based legends, tickler alarms and predetermined schedules. It’s just a random planner (with an absurdly pink cover) in which I scrawl in my neat and spindly script.

It has, despite its crude and embarrassing simplicity, managed to do more for my sanity in the last two weeks than all my sophisticated tools combined, and it’s served as both the inspiration for and the record of all the daily practices that help keep me out in the world and not in my head (where all manner of strange and fearsome creatures lie).

And yes, for sure, there are days when it really just devolves into a checklist: when the blankness of the page reprimands me with its purity, when it becomes yet another thing I have to do when there are so, so many things clamoring to be done.

But I fill the pages nevertheless, with whatever clumsy, plodding grace I can muster, because there is power in ritual, power in repetition, power in the faithful adherence to a practice (or set of practices) of any kind. Even if there are days when I don’t feel anything, and even more days when I can’t see any results, some thing is happening (obscure, sure enough, to remain beyond articulation; but distinct enough to appear on the horizon of perception).

Perhaps one day (sooner rather than later), I’ll know what it is that’s happening. But for now, all there is for me is the work.

I have to do the work.

And I have to let the work do (or redo) me.


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