Samara O'Shea

Archive for the ‘Journal Writing’ Category

Grey Gardens: Brought to you by Letters and Journals

Tuesday, April 28th, 2009

Earlier this month, Jezebel posted a fun clip about the HBO movie Grey Gardens and how Little Edie’s letters and journals played a big role in the research for the film.

Double Trouble

Tuesday, March 31st, 2009

I somehow ended up in this wonderful crossfire of book reviews. Check out: The Bluestocking Society and Care’s Online Book Club . Two bloggers teamed up to review the same book and delineate the subject matter. Thank you ladies for making Note to Self your guinea pig book. I look forward to your insights on many other books.

A Side of Doubt

Tuesday, March 24th, 2009

I usually don’t post journal entries so soon after I write them, but I re-read this one this morning and decided to go for it. The fellowship that I’m applying for has posted documentary-style profiles of the 2008 recipients on their Web site. I wrote this entry after watching a few of the reels.


Doubt is good. It’s humbling. It makes you wonder, “Have I done enough?” And the answer is always no. There is always more to do. I’ll take a side of doubt with my hope. Hope is still the main course though. It’s hot and savory. I’ll wash them both down with a glass of full-bodied purpose and have sweet passion for dessert.

25 Random Things About Me

Wednesday, February 25th, 2009

I can’t believe I forgot to post this! I had my first reader suggestion sent to me earlier this month. One very kind visitor to this blog wrote to me and suggested a journal-writing technique that I now gladly share with all the other very kind visitors to this blog. There is a bit of back story though. . .

Do you remember the 25 Random Things Facebook phenomena of a few weeks ago? Maybe this will jog your memory if you don’t. If you haven’t heard of it, it’s explained below.

Anyway, that’s what this technique is based on. And here it is:

So there is this “chain letter” type of thing going around on facebook right now. People are writing notes entitled “25 Random Things About Me” where they list 25 statements about themselves and then have to tag 25 of their friends to do that same. It’s actually a lot of fun. I have found out a lot of interesting stuff about my friends that I never knew. So I wrote one of these notes too, but first I wrote it down in my notebook. It was actually a kind of enlightening exercise for myself. Not everything I wrote in the notebook ended up on facebook. It kind of revealed to me what I thought was most interesting about myself, and what I was comfortable sharing with others.

Sounds simple and effective. Thank you wonderful reader for sharing!

Dear Amish Diary

Friday, February 6th, 2009

Surprise: The Amish keep diaries. Who knew?

What’s not surprising, however, is that these diaries are void of any emotional insight. It’s straightforward talk of quilt making and cow milking. Whatever makes you happy!

Sporadic Journaling

Thursday, January 29th, 2009

I came across this year-old journal entry while looking for someone’s phone number. Normally, I journal in my journal (as is appropriate), but there are times when my journal is not handy and I have to make due with the nearest piece of paper. In this case it was my notebook. My notebook is a small spiral-bound book I carry with me to write down phone numbers, Web sites, to-do lists, addresses, and sometimes actual journal entries. It’s a book of all trades. It’s much lighter than my journal and stays in my purse.

The problem is I’m never prepared to re-read my notebook the way I re-read my journal. If and when I re-read my journal, I mentally get ready to be embarrassed, shocked, and—on a good day—enlightened by what I once wrote. There is no such prep for my notebook because I always flip through it carelessly looking for something else. Finding a journal entry in there is like a finding a book in the fridge. It’s well . . . strange. So this is what I got when looking for a simple phone number the other day:

January 15, 2008

It’s so quiet here. So quiet that I wonder if I’ll ever again be surrounded by noise. I want to sleep but I can’t—it’ll ruin my actual sleep. I want to go into my room but its messy and I’d rather not deal with it.

Bob invited me out this evening. I lied and told him I was still in Boston. I want to go out but I don’t want to risk arriving then wanting to go right away—wishing I had stayed home in the first place.

The Pursuit of Happiness

Thursday, January 22nd, 2009

There is an excellent article in this month’s Psychology Today about happiness. It’s not as simple as just feeling good—but we all knew that.

For my second book, Note to Self, I wrote a section called “Let it (Loneliness) Be.” It didn’t make it into the book but I held onto it and posted it on my page a while back. I’m going to post it again here side by side with (or just above) a short section from the Happiness article. This is a little bit of a shameless juxtaposition because what I wrote is mirrored by the Psychology Today excerpt. Anne Lamott says that the soul rejoices when it sees the truth, and that’s what I’m doing. I’m seeing a truth that I discovered on my own written across someone else’s pages. It’s validating! And the rest of the article is superb. Do read.

Let it (Loneliness) Be (written by me)

As I mentioned earlier, I tend to be an in-clement weather diarist. Sorrow and uncertainty will get me writing like nobody’s business. As far as keeping a life’s record, this can be dangerous as it may someday appear that I was more miserable than not. However, as far as therapy is concerned, this is a great way to deal with pain. Writing has saved my sanity on multiple occasions. I’ve concluded in recent years that it does no good to fight off any emotion. We need them all. It’s the seemingly bad, counter-emotions that enable us to appreciate the positive emotions. Without sadness, happiness is taking out the trash. Without loss, gain is turning your right blinker on.

As we get older, we can ideally start to anticipate our reactions to certain situations and create an emotional equilibrium. Our emotions are on rotate and they all need playing time. In other words, you can never rid yourself of sadness, anger, disappointment, and hurt. You can, however, know that they will be back at some point and prepare yourself. This will sound strange, but I’ve made a point of feeling—really feeling—my negative emotions. Loneliness, for example: if I feel a bought of it coming on, I don’t push it away or tell myself I’m not feeling it. Rather I let it bring me down. I spend the afternoon with it. I write in my journal and listen to music that reinforces the emotion. I give myself deadlines when doing this—such as, You have until tomorrow morning to feel this way (longer depending on the situation)—so as not to run the risk of being a perpetual sourpuss. Here’s the upside: I’ve discovered that when I dig into my mushy emotions the same way I dig my hands into the belly of a pumpkin, I am granted the good stuff for extended periods of time. When I allow sadness to run a full course through me, then my days of happiness last much longer.

Journaling played a large role in my being able to endure each emotion, as writing about anything makes it more real. Once the emotion solidifies then you can see it, touch it, and experience it fully. Our emotions have minds of their own, but we can learn to work with them and, in doing so, have them work for us. In the middle of a distressing period, unforeseen or not, I like to remind myself that the heart is a muscle and, like all muscles, it needs a good workout.

Pain Is a Part of Happiness (from Psychology Today)

Happiness is not your reward for escaping pain. It demands that you confront negative feelings head-on, without letting them overwhelm you. Russ Harris, a medical doctor-cum-counselor and author of The Happiness Trap, calls popular conceptions of happiness dangerous because they set people up for a “struggle against reality.” They don’t acknowledge that real life is full of disappointments, loss, and inconveniences. “If you’re going to live a rich and meaningful life,” Harris says, “you’re going to feel a full range of emotions.”

The point isn’t to limit that palette of feelings. After all, negative states cue us into what we value and what we need to change: Grief for a loved one proves how much we cherish our relationships. Frustration with several jobs in a row is a sign we’re in the wrong career. Happiness would be meaningless if not for sadness: Without the contrast of darkness, there is no light.