What started out as an impromptu self care practice turned into a truly healing experience. And it all started with an image I saw on Facebook and Instagram. If you have found yourself not knowing how to process the past or plan for the future, I really would like to suggest that you try this journaling exercise. It has given me a stillness and acceptance that I didn’t have before. It has connected me back to my spiritual center by giving me a holistic view of the theme of each year of my life.
I never had a plan for myself growing up. Sure I wanted to be a veterinarian, an artist, and a singer. But I never had a plan for those things. I never felt like I could achieve my childhood dreams, there was always some sort of psychological or monetary barrier to those dreams of a little girl. I had no idea where I was going to go to college, what I would major in or what I would do for the rest of my life. I wasn’t lazy or pessimistic, I just honestly could not see the next day of my life let alone my future as an adult. I was living for that day, that moment, whatever need I had in that tiny speck of time. There was no long term for me in my mind.
I also had a few assumptions in my life. I figured I’d be barefoot with a baby on my hip and done having kids by 22, living in the same 1,000 person town I grew up in, married to a local farmer. We probably wouldn’t have much, but we’d have our children. Then that marker came and went. And I found myself in college living wild and free convinced that I would live fast, love hard, and die young.
Now I’m almost 33, very much alive and still very young, no children, live two states away married to a man who works in marketing. And have no idea what to do with the rest of my life. No plan for the future and no idea how to plan for the future. Then this image kept popping up in my social feeds. And it gave me an idea for a self care journaling prompt.
Not only did I write down the past three years, but I went backward in time and wrote about what each year of my life had given me or taught me so far. I wrote things like:
“1986 Created me & gave me Ginger (my first pet and best friend),”
“1992 Disrupted my world,”
“1999 Freaked me out,”
“2000 Gave me hope.”
But I also wrote descriptions of the years that weren’t the happiest:
“2002 Solidified my self Doubt,”
“2009 Scared me,”
“2017 Broke me and began rebuilding me.”
That alone was cathartic. I finally felt like I had a birds eye view of what my life had been so far. It wasn’t as horrible as I thought it was, yes there were stretches of truly hard experiences, but for the most part it was a normal life experience of family, beauty, life, let down, growth, and love. I could see that it truly was a beautiful ride.
With only a few lines left on my page I decided to write out the next few years in pen, and in pencil write out my age and what I thought I would learn in the next few years. The page was filled, but I felt the need to keep going. I got out two more sheets and penned in the years all the way to 101, where I penciled in that I would “finally let go.” Then I wrote completely in pen below it, “102, I will be growing into a tree.” Which is my end of life plan, to be cremated and planted with the seed of a tree, with a sapling, or at the roots of a tree.
Looking at these three sheets of paper I could see my life, past, present, and future. It wasn’t scary or looming. It gave me a sense of calm, because I could see that there is a future. I knew what advice my grandparents would have given me for their 70’s and 80’s. I could hear the quips of my parents about their 50’s and 60’s. So all I had to do was research pearls of wisdom for my 30’s and 40’s which was entirely doable, given the digital age we live in.
I wrote things like, “I will find understanding,” “I will have already found hope,” “I will have beautiful white hair,” “I will have a great sense of who I am,” “I will still be creating.” And probably one of the better reminders “You’ve still got the second half of your life.”
This journaling exercise connected me to my core, my spirit, and my soul. It may not be for everyone, but for me it was a truly, truly, uplifting spiritual experience that made me feel connected with myself, life as a human on this Earth, and the human experience. I felt an overwhelming sense of healing and calm after finishing. I may not make it all the way to 101, but based on my family I know that I will get close.