I believe in the power of the written word.
When I was in the third grade my mother and father mandated that I keep a journal. Every day I was required to write down something that was on my nine year old mind. I wasn’t terribly enthusiastic about the idea. I had far more important things to do than scribble a bunch of words in a notebook.
At one point Mom and Dad decided to reward me for a month’s worth of decent entries by buying me a book. The one they selected was Pro Quarterback: My Own Story, by Johnny Unitas. The day I got that book the Baltimore Colts became my favorite football team and Johnny U. my favorite player.
Some years later I was in Guatemala training for a stint in the Peace Corps. I decided to formally keep a journal of my experiences, which I faithfully wrote in each night. On more than one occasion the subject of my jottings was a young woman to whom I had become very close. I was attracted to her for the same reason I had been attracted to other women previously. She was sensitive, thoughtful, witty, and attractive, and she appreciated me for who I was, warts and all. The two of us were constant companions during our Central American stay. We spent at least one quality hour together daily. One night she approached me with a somber expression on her face which I hadn’t seen previously.
“We have to talk,” she said.
“Okay,” I responded, trying to stay cool even though I just knew that she was going to tell me that she had a boyfriend at home. That always seemed to happen to me when I found the woman of my dreams.
I was wrong about the subject of our chat. My friend did not tell me about her boyfriend at home. She told me about her girlfriend at home. She told me that she’d be disappointed if my knowing of her status would affect our friendship, but if I couldn’t handle it she’d try to understand.
I wrote extensively in my journal that night. Then I paused to read what I had written. That’s when I realized that nothing of importance had changed. While my friend had put a finite limit on where our relationship could go, nothing about what had initially attracted me to her was different. She was still a good listener. She was still funny. She was still athletic. Nothing which had initially attracted me to her had changed. As obvious as that seems today, I’m not sure how quickly I would have figured that out, or if I would have grasped it at all, had it not been for my journal.
A fulltime job, three preschool-aged children, and a loving and supportive wife who deserves quality time are just three of the reasons that I currently don’t keep a daily journal. However, in lieu of writing I try to read a bit before retiring each night. There’s a small shelf located next to my bed where I keep books that I one day hope to read, or in some cases re-read. Foremost among them is the copy of Pro Quarterback: My Own Story which my parents lovingly inscribed to me 40 years ago. It is often the last thing I see before closing my eyes for the night.
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