Wednesday, February 1, 2023

I Made a Story Journal

I like to watch YouTube videos in which people do things I like to do - woodworking, photography, crochet - so I can learn. Lately I've noticed an interesting trend. People keep giving their videos titles that are condensed stories, like "I Built a Cabin" or "That Rescue Turned Out Differently than I Expected" or "I Created a Wildlife Pond." Interesting, huh? Says something about society and stories.

So anyway, one morning several months ago I was starting on my usual morning yoga, and one part of me said to another part of me, "I don't wanna do yoga." The second part said, "You know we always do yoga. It's self-care." And the first part said, "Self-care means not doing things I don't wanna do." "No it doesn't," said the second part, "it means doing things we need to do to take care of ourselves."

That got me thinking. What is self-care? Is it self-discipline? Is it self-indulgence? These thoughts continued (usually during yoga) until I had created a 24-part fill-in-the-blank daily journal that could help a person (like myself) explore aspects of self-care in their everyday life. I tried using it for a while, and it was fun - a sort of game to play at the end of the day - and then other end-of-day things crowded it out, as they do.

At some point I showed part of this journal to a work colleague, and they said, um, that looks like a personal thing. And I thought, well, yes, yes it is, but with a few tweaks it could be a community thing or an organization thing. In fact, in fact! it could be a ritualistic device that helps a group of people keep their fingers on the pulse of their collective social health by sharing stories on a regular basis.

So the idea rattled around in my brain for a few more months, and then I thought, how about I do what I always do with little ideas: release it into the world and let it swim away. 

journal clip art
Yeah, it's clip art, and it's trite, but it's true.
So here it is. This could be a self-help journal for individuals, groups, families, communities, or organizations. You could use it as a check-in game during a weekly or monthly meeting (pick a question and answer it). You could use it as a something-just-happened story collection device that powers a years-long community-wide sensemaking effort. Or you could just have it around as an aid to discussion in a place where people meet.

Here's the group version. To get to the individual version, change the plural pronouns to singular ones. The questions are in three sets of four, each with a less-intense pair surrounded by a more-intense pair. Each of the 12 questions has an optional embedded counter-question that expands its exploration.

  • Joy - What happened lately that was happy for us? What lifted us up? (And what small sadnesses were hidden inside our times of joy?)
    • Satisfaction - What did we do lately that was easy for us? What was effortless? (And what small difficulties were hidden inside our ease?)
    • Frustration - What did we do lately that was hard for us? What was a struggle? (And what small moments of ease were hidden inside our struggles?)
  • Sorrow - What happened lately that was sad for us? What brought us down? (And what small happinesses were hidden inside our sorrows?)
  •  Control - What happened that was in our hands lately? What were we able to do, make happen, or make stop? (And in what small ways was our control incomplete?)
    • Certainty - In what moments lately were we sure of what was going on? What was rock solid for us? (And in what small ways was our certainty incomplete?)
    • Uncertainty - In what moments lately were we unsure of what was going on? What was unknown or unclear to us? (And within our uncertainty, in what small ways did we have some certainty?)
  • Powerlessness - What happened to us lately that was out of our hands? What were we unable to do, make happen, or make stop? (And within our powerlessness, in what small ways did we have some power?)

  • Self-discipline - In what moments lately did we set out goals we hoped to achieve? What plans did we attempt to carry out? (And in what small ways did we give ourselves the permission to partially achieve our goals and the freedom to partially depart from our plans?)
    • Self-care - What did we do lately to take care of our future selves? When and how did we attempt to support the people we will become? (And within our support, in what small ways did we leave some things for our future selves to handle?)
    • Self-indulgence - In what moments lately did we give ourselves gifts? When and how did we indulge ourselves? (And in what small ways did we deny ourselves gifts in order to support our future selves?)
  •  Self-compassion - In what moments lately did we forgive ourselves for our limitations, failures, or mistakes? When and how did we let ourselves off the hook? (And in what small ways did we place limits on our forgiveness?)


So that's the little idea. I tried drawing these questions in a variety of graphical shapes, but I didn't arrive at anything that seemed more useful than just the words themselves.

If anybody wants to pick up this little idea and use it or improve it, go ahead. Also, if anybody would like to talk about the idea, send me a note.