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The Midlife Sage Says: Tell Your Story In A December Journal

Put down your peppermint schnapps and find a quiet place so you can write about the past year.

Summarize all the fun and fabulous, the rotten and wretched, and the clever and comedic parts of 2012. Then hide your journal, go back to the party, and promise to write again next December. Your future older woman will thank you.

I’ve written in a personal journal every December for the past 35 years. I began writing soon after the invention of electricity but just before the advent of the personal computer. My earlier entries written with a pen are more personal than the electronic version, but now I’m hooked on word processing so I print my yearend musings and insert them into my journal. Besides, I can never find a pen that works.

Before I write, I meander through past years to find poignant reminders that life has kicked me in the gut a few times, but the splendid days far outnumber the crappy ones. My ultimate goal is for that trend to continue.

I laugh when I read about how miserable I was about my weight after the birth of my second baby more than thirty years ago.

I would LOVE to weigh that now! It’s touching to reread details about my children’s first words, their growth charts, and their early bowel movements…things only a mother could document.

My journals also tell the story of essential parts of my life that have been damaged, lost, and reclaimed: love, family, friends, jobs, homes, health, and money. I’ve made huge mistakes in real estate and financial investments, mostly because I relied upon the advice of (former) friends, but I’ve claimed success because of the strong relationships with my husband and children and with satisfying achievements in my career. Now I know what matters, and it’s not the volatile dividends from my once-glorious but currently worthless Nasdaq stocks.

You can find journals in every style and shape, from a simple spiral notebook to a leather-bound book trimmed in gold leaf.

Add favorite items that symbolize each year: a pressed flower, a published poem, old photos, theatre tickets, a favorite wine label. Arrange a private space where you can write and keep it uncluttered so your precious journals won’t be thrown out if you’re featured on an episode of “Hoarders.”

Professionals with fancy degrees will tell you that it’s important to write in journals so you can get in touch with your inner self and explore ways to communicate your true feelings. I say just write your story because no one else has one like yours. Maybe your journal won’t ever be read, or maybe it will become a published memoir or documentary or a treasure for future grandchildren. But do it now, and remember that it’s waiting for you every December, just like an old friend. The journal is your own private therapy session, complete with a front row seat to “This is Your Life.”

Elaine Ambrose is a contributing blogger for JenningsWire, a blogging community created by Annie Jennings.