The Forgetful Frog #27: Writing is Good Medicine

The Forgetful Frog
By The Forgetful Frog October 27, 2016 15:48

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forgetful-frog-image3-300x2301-300x230-132By The Forgetful Frog

There once was a sad vegetarian
Who wanted to be a grammarian.
Prepositional phrases
Were among all her crazes.
She ate them like vultures eat carrion.

She was sad ’cause she missed pepperoni.
She missed hot dogs, steak, and baloney.
A good sentence could save her,
In fact, make her braver,
And keep her happy with just macaroni.

She decided to face up to her trouble
And not live inside a sad bubble.
But when she asked for advice,
People sent rice,
And her sadness, it threatened to double.

Words make grammarians happy,
Be they tragic, boring, or sappy.
A sentence well-written
Can make one become smitten,
And make life, in general, less crappy.

Why do people journal? Why do I? How did I begin?

Writing is medicinal. It can soothe anxiety. It can heal broken relationships. It can help sort out painful confusion. It can enable a person to let go of sorrow or fear.

I began writing for my own mental health, in the aftermath of a near-death experience. Many aspects of my personal history escaped from their boxes, during my recovery. I am sure I am far from the first person who has figured this out: life is a gift and mere survival puts it on a shelf. Only when we thrive, and work, do we truly appreciate and pass on the gift.

When I write, I keep myself from boxing up my appreciation of life. That is not to suggest that I was unhappy before I almost died. I was quite joyous, in fact. But I was, I think now, complacent. Taking far too much for granted. Leading the unexamined life. (Shades of college Philosophy and Ancient Greek classes …)

When I conceived of my idea for Dependent Claws, I was thinking of two ways I could hope to be helpful in the world. First, I had been trying for a long time to figure out a way I might raise donations for our local humane society. Second, I was hoping to accomplish that goal while helping other people find the solace and fun I have found in journaling. The project name aptly illustrates that I am a grammar nerd.

In the process of journaling, a person must figure out what they want to say. What is on their mind lately? And how best to explain it? For whom are they writing? Presumably, for themselves. But will they show it to others, perhaps? There is so much mental health in examining these notions.

I was raised Catholic, and I think I only now, many decades after leaving the church, begin to understand the point of prayer. I learned many canned prayers, as a child. At the time, I found it meaningless and a nuisance. However, at this very moment, for the first time, I wonder if those exercises helped me become a journaler. It would certainly be nice to think that all those childhood hours paid off, eventually!

When I was in college, I “learned” to meditate. It turned out to be a helpful practice. Indeed, it gave me new insight into prayer, which I had learned in the Christian tradition as a child. The quotation marks in the previous sentence are simply meant to indicate my belief that meditation is a natural exercise, and doesn’t really need to be taught. I think most people meditate every day, for at least a moment or two, often much longer. They just have different words for it, like reminiscing, reflecting, considering, or daydreaming. Anyway, I gave up formal meditation years ago. But I continue my lifelong habit of staring out the window, with my feet up, just thinking.

I first learned to make up my own mantras years ago, when I was learning to meditate. Of course, as a child, I learned all the Catholic prayers, which I recited dutifully, each night on my knees, before getting into bed. At some point in my teen years, I learned a song, the lyrics of which were the preamble to our Constitution. As a result, I can recite that preamble, without a moment’s hesitation. Although these examples are not mantras, they serve a similar purpose. They create a habit of calling something to mind, whenever one’s mind needs some occupation. My favorite is a Gregorian chant that my sister taught me, which I can still sing, in Latin. No idea what the words mean!

Anyway, the point of this essay is sharing my adaptations of these childhood habits. Months ago, I adopted this mantra: “Read, write, crochet. Walk, walk, walk.” When my mind is unoccupied, this mantra habitually appears in it now, because I trained it to go there. Today, I have decided to change my mantra.

“Be good company!”

I have spent far too many days evenings, weekends, and more, being lousy company for my amazingly devoted and patient husband. It is far too easy for me to feel sorry for myself. I wish I were a finer person, and this attitude did not come so naturally. When I cannot justify it based on recent years’ events, I will instinctively hearken back to my childhood time spent in wheelchairs and on crutches. I say to myself “no one can understand my difficulties. Being unable to walk now is extra insulting to me, because I spent so many years struggling with mobility as a child.”

It is all too easy, when one wishes, to justify bad actions. When I regain my composure following a fit of bad behavior, I remember this realization, with shame.

Fortunately, mantras are also easy. Be good company … be good company …

To be continued…

forgetful-frog-image3-300x2301-300x230-132Rose Oaks is a foothills resident in her 50s who writes with the help of a computer tablet and speech-recognition software. She hopes that her notes on coping with disability will help others facing difficult challenges know they are not alone. Read more Forgetful Frog blog posts at this link: Readers’ Journal.

The Forgetful Frog
By The Forgetful Frog October 27, 2016 15:48
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