Sunday, October 24, 2010

Keeping a Journal

The life-long journal I began as a thirteen-year-old (my diary, named “Henri”) probably came about as an effort to sort out and mollify my own feelings.  I found that, when experiencing internal turmoil or depression or heartache or despair, if I simply sat down and wrote about it (or even about something else), I felt better afterwards.  I term the process “writing it out.”  It has probably saved my sanity on more than one occasion.  Still, anyone reading my journals might think I had been depressed much of my life, which is not the case.  I have lived many happy years.  In fact most of my life has been good; I have loved often and well; and I have fulfilled most of the dreams and aspirations I’ve ever had.  Perhaps one year out of five was clouded by grief, but I learned to endure and to seek solace from friends.  And new sources of joy, meaning and pleasure always came, eventually, to cancel out the grief.  Moreover, I’ve had no episodes of depression in the past twenty years.
Nonetheless, I have sought professional help from psychologists on more than one occasion, earlier in my life, because of intermittent suicidal thoughts.  I probably suffered from a form of periodic, unipolar depression that sent me into despair at roughly four or five year intervals during my adult life.  Those periods of grief usually seemed to come when I was in the midst of difficult relationships, although one of the episodes occurred while I was living in a ghetto in Philadelphia, a gray and unpleasant city.  The depressions were probably at least partly hormonally conditioned.  I have not suffered from depression since the end of menopause, some twenty years ago.  I have also been a lax journal writer since then, except for journal entries written during trips when the newness and mystery of unfamiliar scenes and cultures (and the absence of distractions from family, friends, and household duties) fostered the urge to analyze and paint word pictures of those experiences.  I’ve also been living alone during most of that time. 
Here starts the effort to organize and articulate the meaning of this life lived broadly and, I believe, largely well.  I have taken many risks in my life but have usually been a cautious risk-taker.  I lived abroad for five years – three of them in Europe and two in Asia.  I’ve also done many conventional things:  been married, had children, had a stable professional life of 27 years, and have several friendships that have continued for decades. 
This blog, which I intend to update once or twice a week, is intended for family and friends who might be curious about what I have to say, as well as for others who wish to share this journey. 

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