I keep a variety of notes on a daily basis.

Every day I start with listing my most important goals for the day, the big ones. This is in addition to daily reminders I keep on my computer, which are not my most important goals but those regular activities I know I must do like biweekly checking of smoke. detectors and fire extinguishers.

There is another use for my journal that really uplifts me and I look forward to. It is the self-examination of my life, the reflections, and insights that I generate by reviewing my memories.

For example, today I wrote down my entire life (all 60 years) on two pages. There ended up being just 27 entries and they included all the major events, relationships, and turning points that I could list on the spur of the moment.

Since the past is constructed in the present (after all, there really is no past – it does not exist), I know that my present influences what I think of as my past, and not the other way around.

This means that I have a chance to redefine myself. I do this by recontextualizing what I recall. For example, perhaps there was a tumultuous set of memories about my mother’s mental illness during my teens and young adulthood. Now I can frame those as having taught me to be sensitive to mental illness, to have compassion for those who are dealing with this, and to recollect the nuances of my relationship with my mother, whom I love very much. This recontextualizing put the ordeal I went through in a constructive frame. The resulting insights and thoughts now lift me up instead of taking me down and provide helpful guidance for going forward instead of limiting thoughts for holding me back.

This time of social distancing is an excellent opportunity to do writing and reflection. Give it a try! See if you can put your entire life on a page or two. Then step back and ask what is begging to be recontextualized? And what insights might you find in there?

“Memories of our lives, of our works and our deeds will continue in others.” – Rosa Parks