I live a very privileged, comfortable life. Yet sometimes, I feel things are getting on top of me.
I’m too fat. I drink too much. Work is hard. I’ve got an MBA paper to write. I’ve got an MBA dissertation to write. My wife’s got a cold. My dog’s sick. My to-do list is a long as my arm. I’m lazy. I’m not getting anything done. I’m way too steep on my wedges. My toe hurts.
I could, and frequently do, go on for hours. There have been a couple of days this week where I’ve been almost paralysed. Getting dressed has been a struggle. In part, this is because Charlie has been in the wars. On Wednesday night he came in from the garden with a scratch or bite on his hind flank. From what? Who knows? It didn’t look like a snake bite, and importantly, he seemed entirely unbothered by it. It was only the next morning that he went from his normal bouncy self to lacklustre and forlorn. When he turned down a treat, I paid attention. Charlie turns down a treat as often as I decline another drink. Long story short, he’s still mopey and not well, but hopefully the antibiotics will kick in and defeat whatever infection is in his flank.
Still, a poorly dog wouldn’t normally be enough to make me so glum and unproductive. I’ve been feeling a malaise for a while. Perhaps I’m wallowing in my own personal pity party. Buggered if I know.
In the way of these things, I found myself focusing on the tools that I use to support my mental health. Surely my journals and notebooks might give me a clue as to how I’m feeling.
It seems I’ve not been journaling, and barely using a notebook. Sure, I’ve been getting stuff done for work, but much of it by autopilot.
I’m typically not vocally expressive about my worries or feelings. Writing them down is how I get them out. Although drowning them is a favoured approach too. Could the fact that I’m not writing them down be contributing to a definite uptick in my attempts to drown them? Could more drinking and less journaling be contributing to more glumness, to feeling less prepared to take on the ups and downs of life?
It’s not the discovery of gravity, but it’s definitely a hypothesis.
I started looking for a suitable book to journal in. Given the time of year, I’m always drawn to planners and diaries. “New Year, New Journal! A planner to rule my life.” Standard behaviour is to order something expensive from Smythson, Hobonichi or even an Economist Diary. However, as I was browsing, the voice of reason whispered to me. “You don’t use a planner - digital has too many advantages. You need somewhere to journal.” Damned voice of reason. Still, I rallied and started searching the web for journals, both structured and unstructured. “How many notebooks can one man need?” Frankly, the voice of reason was getting on my nerves.
I started going through my extensive collection of notebooks, and fell upon my William Hannahs. (Note the plural!) Gorgeous, refillable, and paper that my fountain pens love. Might that be an idea? The voice of reason nodded, somewhat smugly.
William Hannah is the passion of a chap called David Round, whom I’ve known since 2017. Put simply, he’s a bloody nice bloke. On top of that, he produces stunningly beautiful leather notebook covers. Seriously, he does. To see one is to want one, so click on the link duly forewarned.
Naturally, I was soon drooling over an A5 Whiskey & Kingfisher Notebook. “Ahem!” Seriously, that voice of reason needs to jog on.
Given that I already own two A5 covers and one A6, VOR may have had a point. I was here for refills. 50 Day Intention Pack? What’s that?
Pretty much perfect. That’s what it is. The page is intended to promote a short morning intentions session and a reflective end of day session. The exact structure that I prefer. David measures four things. Today’s Happiness Level - which he grades 1-10 and three tick boxes. Meditation, Exercise, Read & Learn. I intend to measure those precise things too, with one addition, that I will note a start of day Happiness Level and an end of day Happiness level.
There follows several prompts - around gratitude, positives and intentions. On the reverse of the page there are spaces for random thoughts, learning points and tick boxes for measuring success against the intentions.
This refill is just enough structure for me, and focuses on the things upon which I wish to focus. I put in an order immediately.
Not wanting to have an arm-wrestle with customs, I’m having the refills delivered to the UK and I’ll collect them when I’m back next. So, for the moment, I’m writing the prompts myself into a plain notebook. David even has a video talking through how he uses the pages to guide me.
Whether you want to invest in a beautiful journal (or planner - William Hannah has a myriad of refills) or just want to read David’s excellent daily thoughts, swing by the site.
As for me, is it working? Well, it’s nearly lunchtime on a Saturday, the washing’s out, the dishwasher cycle’s just finished and I’ve written a long post, so yeah, I guess maybe it is.
My writing is supported by people like you. You can become a member of the site here. Members access the serialisation of my first novel draft, and chat with me in a member's Slack. They also get a free electronic copy of anything that I publish during their membership. Sign up - help me move writing from a side-project to a main project.