A New Kind of Journal

HATE CLOUDSMy friend called to tell me her poised, polished, polite husband was filled with hatred.

I couldn’t imagine it. “What does he hate?” I asked.

“Our van. He says it makes him seem like a suburban father of six.”

Apparently all that was missing was the golden retriever bounding up its rear lift gate.

“He says that after he works out, he hides in the gym till no one’s looking, then races to the car, ducks in, and drives away.”

We’ve all got these little hatreds. One of mine is the use of the seasons as verbs.

“This is the lake we used to summer beside,” or “We always wintered in Vale.” (What about the other seasons? Does anyone “Spring” or “Fall” anywhere?) It sounds pretentious to me, but it’s probably just petty jealousy. I’ve gone on short vacations in winter and in summer, but never managed to “winter” or “summer” anywhere since the summers I spent with my grandparents in Florida, when I was a kid.

I hate when politicians talk about all that families deserve. What about the singles piled up in tiny apartments with a couple of roommates and barely a cubby to call their own? Or older people, whose families have forgotten them? Don’t they need or deserve anything?

More of my hatreds? The voices in nature preserves echoing off rock formations and scaring away the birds and other wildlife as they holler into cell phones. Don’t we flee to such places to avoid those voices?

Chirp-Chirp
In the journaling class I lead, we’ve given energetic consideration to the question of whether personal journal entries should adhere to the upbeat (chirp-chirp) model, or be treated as safe places to vent. I come down on the side of releasing frustrations on the page. Where else can we safely spew out our petty irritations and long-standing resentments?

And then . . .

A different friend told me that when her daughter returned from an overseas trip to an orderly country, the noise and seeming chaos of her home country, the US of A, grated. I couldn’t stop laughing when I heard her antidote to the stress her reentry had ignited.

The Hate Journal
She went out and bought blank notebooks that became her hate journals. (If hate’s too strong a term for you, try “complaint” journal, or it could be your “Where I Whine” journal.)

A hate journal bears no resemblance to a hate crime. In the former, no one gets hurt. In fact, the venting might even prevent law-abiding individuals from committing a crime.

Fine, Fine, Fine
In the 18th century, idle members of the upper classes cultivated melancholy. It gave them something to sigh about on their perambulations around their country estates. But nowadays, we are expected to be unrelentingly “fine.” Unlike the 18th century melancholics, our age has no tolerance for a good, old-fashioned funk, or for anyone who admits to feeling just plain “low.”

Among my friends and myself, any complaint we utter is quickly followed by assuring our listeners that, at least it’s not as bad as losing a leg, or being paralyzed as a result of an auto accident—equivalents of the “knock on wood” reaction. I think we fear that complaining about the minor crap we experience will bring on the big stuff from the universe.

“Oh, you think that’s bad? Try this!”

And lo, everyone will blame us for the plague of locusts that descends.

But, we can fuss away privately in our hate journals, and no one will be the wiser.

More of my petty hatreds can be found in Life’s Little “Infuriations” and More of Life’s Little Infuriations.

Feel free to share yours in a comment.

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21 thoughts on “A New Kind of Journal

  1. I am a full supporter of days and weeks full of funk. Love the idea of a “complaint journal” but I am always afraid someone will find it when I die and think I am an eternal pessimist, which I am not!! (but I do have many complaints)….great post.

  2. I’m at the point, Terry, where I don’t much care what my survivors find out about my moods! Especially since as they rummage through my piles of other journals, they’ll find a few references to my good moods. 😉 Thanks for your comment.

  3. I think it’s a good idea. When I used to journal, I’d vent like crazy (pet peeves, depressing thoughts, etc.) in addition to writing about my dreams, goals, and aspirations as well as good or exciting news.

    If it’s strictly Pages for Pet Peeves or a Venue for Venting (yes, I was brought up when “hate” was a very strong word and only to be used sparingly), I might suggest ripping out the pages once a month, shredding and burning them (safely, make sure you have water handy!), so you can truly let go of all that negative energy.

    And so you don’t horrify your kids or spouse if they find it after you’re gone. lol Just a thought. 🙂

  4. Oh, you’ve caught me out! One of my private-ist of private wordpress journals is called “Bad, Bad Blogger,” with a tag line that says: “Even I Shouldn’t be Reading This.” When something’s just too hot to share, that’s where I get it off my chest. I’m pretty honest on my personal blog. I share the good and the bad, but I also realize that blog is for public consumption so I don’t push it with the uglier side of my rants. I rant a little bit, but about stuff that other readers can relate to.

  5. Love this article!
    I don’t have a hate journal, though I love the idea. Instead I write long emails that I never send full of venom and curse words. The advantage that my descendents won’t see them – unless they work for the NSA and can read the message cached in memory.
    What do I hate? People who say “flush out” when they mean “flesh out”. It’s not just wrong; it’s vulgar. People who condescend to me when actually, THEY don’t know what they’re talking about.
    Meanwhile, “I’m fine” is a way to protect my privacy. Most of the time, my funks aren’t anyone else’s business

  6. Oooh. I’ve gotta rush over and find your super-private blog, Margy!I actually have an anonymous blog, in addition to my journals, where I talk about the stuff that really gets on my nerves. Aren’t you just thrilled to have these outlets?

  7. So glad to know I’m not alone in this blurt-it-all-out in your journal idea, Lisa, and I love your titles! But maybe I’m not venting enough, or honestly enough, because I’d never dream of destroying what I’ve written. What can anyone do to me, after I’m gone?

    I AM careful not to include anyone else’s secrets in my journals. I don’t want others to be exposed after my demise.

  8. I like the idea of the emails, but I’m always afraid I’ll hit SEND accidentally and get myself in very hot water. I guess I could do it, without filling in an addressee though. Since I know you, Lesley, and how reserved and well-behaved you are, I’m laughing at the thought of your emails “full of venom and curse words.” It’s unimaginable.

  9. Funny post, Lynette. I feel for the guy with the van.
    I always used journals for venting–until I reread and discovered how deeply boring I could be. And for me, writing about things kind of feeds the flames of irritation, which burns along just fine without my help. Chirp, chirp? But sometimes writing is the only way to get to the core of some difficulty that’s eating at me.

  10. Great post, Lynette. Lots to think about in your article! I really like how you bring in historical eras. American blues music has always epitomized that funkified feeling that life can bring, and to me, is some of the greatest music there is, along with jazz and gospel. I think everybody needs to release and that is why writing, music, dance – all of it-helps. My journals are filled with b-sessions. Then I go back and see what really mattered and what didn’t. I try to keep it contained, not always successfully. I’m searching for balance….

  11. Sue, I love your reference to blues, a quintessential expression of sadness and sheer funk! And I’m glad to know you have your own journal to complain into. I should adopt your idea of rereading those passages where I’m fussing about someone or something and see how I feel about them today.

  12. I probably haven’t evolved enough, Mary. I”m still fascinated by most of the things that once irritated me. In fact, I write essays and memoirs about them! But like you, I definitely use my journal to work out my feelings about things, and even to find paths to freedom from those same annoyances. Thanks for weighing in.

  13. I love, love, love this idea! As a SAHM/writer, I try to be upbeat for my family…have to be the good mommy. But, I’m introverted and don’t have a lot of friends-or sounding board. I need something like this to blow off steam. I guess this idea has occurred to me, but it felt so, I don’t know-self-indulgent. I supposed it just took some other people voicing a need for one to validate the idea for me. Thanks, Lynette and other commentators.

  14. Trina: So glad you found this post helpful. I’m convinced that using a journal like this helps keep us sane so that we can, in fact, be upbeat. I’m an introvert, too; it’s not easy for me to be candid about what’s bothering me. This kind of journal is a safe way to get our irritations out.

    Thank you for commenting.

  15. A hate journal, hmmm. Putting down all the people, places and things that drive me crazy, would probably take up all my writing time. But that’s another excuse. Actually I do write, to get things off my chest and all these journal entries tend to release me of the hate buildup inside. Most of the time, i will write things down so that I wont explode at someone. One of the things i am starting to hate the most is when people expect you to always ( I know you hate that word) but always, drop what you are doing to attend an event of their second cousin, twice removed, whom you have never met and will never ever see again. Uggghhh!!!!

  16. If anyone ever reads my journals, they will think I should have been on constant suicide watch. That is the only place I feel comfortable sharing the darkest parts of my life, and believe me, I let it all out. There are some great things, especially regarding my kids, but mostly it’s my rants, anger, sadness, complaints, etc. After I write, I can rejoin the family and be a better mom.

  17. I am interested in hearing where people who write their “whole truth” in journals actually PUT these journals? Do they lock it in a safety deposit box at the bank? Keep it in the glove compartment of their car? In the attic under an old mattress? Where??

  18. Hi Terry:

    This is from Lynette. I’m going to write a post here on that very topic—about telling our whole truth in our writing. It’s a tough subject many writers struggle with, and I won’t have all the answers. But I *will* have suggestions and examples! – L

  19. Pingback: Keeping Your Journal Private Might Be Easier Than You Think

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