As we approach the two year anniversary of the pandemic, we're also approaching my two year anniversary with Word Balm Studio. It was in the earliest, darkest days of those long weeks confined at home that I knew I needed to do something to care for myself and others in this strange collective experience.
Almost immediately, I began having a vivid urge to write a set of pandemic-themed journal prompts. I was struggling to journal myself as my thoughts felt all tangled and my nerves felt frazzled, yet I was also more aware than ever that journaling was exactly what I needed to do to soothe myself, ground myself, and orient myself in these new surroundings. It seemed super likely to me that there were others out there, like you, who needed journaling, too.
As prompts began to tumble through my brain, I started jotting them down, and soon I had a whole set of 30 prompts I felt eager to share with anyone who wanted and needed them. I asked some friends for feedback, which they kindly gave, then I did a little editing, added a pretty picture, and put my journal prompts up on the world wide web.
From there, I kept taking the next step that felt needed by others and right for me, creating journaling resources, experiences, and community forums a day at a time. My sense of what the future held for myself and for Word Balm Studio kept shifting and evolving, but it was hard to see straight while the ground beneath me kept quaking with new disruptions and interruptions. I trusted myself enough to keep moving forward, even as I wasn't quite sure where I was going--that wasn't easy for me, but it was undeniably good for me.
As I look back on these two years of the pandemic and two years of Word Balm Studio, I see clearly how my journal held me steady in a time of great uncertainty and instability. My journal brought me into a deeper relationship with myself as many of my relationships with others shifted. My journal enhanced my ability to nurture myself within a sea of pressures to neglect my needs. My journal helped me make sense out of a dramatically different landscape and pointed in the directions I most needed to go.
And you, my fellow journalers--you held me steady, too. Creating for you gave me opportunities to paint in vivid color with my words in a time when the world looked decidedly dull. Connecting with you brought me warmth in a time where feelings of isolation loomed large. Caring for you helped me find compassion and kindness for myself in a time where I too often told myself I was falling short.
Through the work I have done in my own journal and with you through Word Balm Studio, I’ve found a more meaningful relationship with myself and a more enduring trust in my authentic voice. These surprising gifts have brought me to a place I once hoped to be but wasn’t sure how I would ever reach–and that place is one where I feel brave enough to dive headfirst into work and writing that intertwines with the most tender, vulnerable parts of who I am.
There will be more I’ll say about that as my next chapter unfolds, but for now I want to share with you that my new focus will be on neurodiverse relationships (where one person is on the autism spectrum and the other is not). I'm guessing that's a twist you didn't see coming!
While that may seem to be a very specific and even random leap from journaling, I assure you that the thread that binds it all together is self-relationship. To build bridges across the neurological divide invites everyone to know themselves and accept themselves so fully they can hold compassion for themselves and for someone very different simultaneously.
Journaling will always be my go-to tool for self-relationship and so I’ll carry it with me into this new space. I hope you’ll carry it with you, too, whatever leaps of your own you may take from here.
So goodbye for now, dear journaler, thank you so much for walking this stretch of road with me. I'm wishing you all the best in your journaling and your living--until we meet again.
There’s a big anniversary coming up in our lives, have you been thinking about it?
This month marks the two years since the pandemic came to visit, bringing shutdowns and zoom meetings and toilet paper shortages along with fear for the well-being of our bodies and our loved ones. Life changed abruptly practically overnight for most of us, and in the years that have followed we’ve all traveled our own pathways toward today’s “normal”.
I have often sensed in myself and in others a preference to just move on already, to contain the pandemic firmly in the past and to view our present as untouched by the deathly grip we once felt so acutely. But my work as a therapist and my lived experience both tell me there is hope and healing in allowing our past to speak to us in the present.
Reflecting on the past can orient us and teach us, it can show us compassion for ourselves and for others, and it can remind us to give ourselves credit for the hills we’ve climbed and the challenges we’ve overcome.
When I listen to myself, my clients, and my friends I hear that many of us are exhausted, numb, or stalled in survival mode. If this is how you feel right now–some days or most days–I want you to know that you are absolutely not alone. We have moved through something profound that has depleted us and disrupted us on many levels…all while the rest of life continued to bring changes and challenges, too.
It takes time to recover from trauma, especially when fresh waves of loss and uncertainty have continued to crest with each pandemic peak. We usually need to feel safety in the present before we can genuinely unpack and sort through the pain of our past.
Depending on where you live, what you do, and other circumstances of your life, you may have only started to feel safe physically, mentally, and emotionally quite recently. For others, maybe you’ve had a sense of safety for quite some time–or maybe safety still feels out of reach for you.
Wherever your pandemic journey has taken you, if you feel safe (enough) now, I hope you’ll take a moment this month to sit down somewhere quiet and take stock of where you’ve been. Look back over the long path you’ve traveled and really ask yourself: what happened?, who are you now?, and how the heck are you really doing?
I’ve created a set of journal prompts to help you do just that, you’ll find them below.
1) What was the most significant change or disruption the pandemic brought into your life? What have been the costs and benefits of this change or disruption?
2) The pandemic brought fear, loneliness, and grief in many ways–which one of these emotions has been most present for you? What has helped you to recognize and respond to this emotion?
3) What is one way you’ve grown as a person during the past two years? How did the pandemic context help or hinder this growth?
4) What lesson from the pandemic do you want to carry forward with you into the future? What makes this important to you?
Hi there, I'm Laurie, a private practice therapist and an avid journaler. I write about the intersection between journaling and therapy, helping you cultivate greater emotional and relational wellness via journaling pathways filled with self-compassion, self-nurture, self-discovery, & self-trust.