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FEATURE - June 2015 - Kansas City
Journal Through Life’s Transitions: From Wife to Widow; Unhealthy to Healthy; Directionless to Focused
by Nancy Oglesby
My husband dropped dead in front of me. That was March 3, 2003, just two months after our 12th wedding anniversary. In the space of time it takes between one breath and the next, life as I knew it was gone. Totally gone.
Jim’s death occurred on my first day of full-time employment at FedEx. After a month, I returned to work with a vengeance: 10 and 12- hour days? No problem! In 12 months I was promoted to Operations Lead, then Manager. I never stopped moving … and then my mother died.
The day after her funeral it was so quiet. The chaos was stilled and I couldn’t stop crying. It kept on for days. I took medical leave, sought therapy and got better. Well, at least better enough to hold it together.
Work continued at a hectic pace, but I was becoming more aware of my unhappiness. It was difficult wanting to move on without knowing how. My mantra was “just put one foot in front of the other.” I knew that something had to change.
In the summer of 2005 I picked up the book Change Your Life in 30 Days by Rhonda Britten. I did every single exercise in that book! The result? I left my job, sold my house and moved to Kansas City. My two dogs and I arrived in a Penske truck on May 18, 2006.
I was still just happy to get through the day without feeling melancholy, and was always on the lookout for something that would help me move forward. Shortly after settling into my new home, I found Jeffrey Gitomer’s book, The Little Gold Book of YES! Attitude, How to Find, Build, and Keep a YES! Attitude for a Lifetime of Success. One of his steps is to “Start your morning with some positive exposure, wisdom, or expressions.
First thing. Even if your ass falls off. Fifteen minutes, every day.” I started the next day!
There is no way that I can sit and read motivational material without making notes and reflecting on how what I’m reading relates to my life. So, in following Mr. Gitomer’s step, my journaling habit was born. I was on the way to renovating my life, building a new life, but I didn’t know it. Because I hadn’t defined it as journaling, it started in an inexpensive spiral notebook and continues that way today. (Less than 50 cents at the beginning of the school year!)
By writing about what Norman Vincent Peale had written, I began to reflect on my life, including how my husband and mother’s deaths had impacted my life. I graduated to reflections on how their lives had impacted my life … A huge step after loss is when you can see the gifts that your loved ones brought into your life. Journaling did that for me. It carried me from one place to another.
Gordon MacDonald writes in Ordering Your Private World, “If there was a first step for me in my life-renovation process, it began with a simple, spiral-bound notebook that I came to call a journal.” That is exactly how it was for me! When this book found me, I had been journaling for at least a year. It challenged me to go deeper and step into the process of rebuilding. I am eternally grateful.
A totally different type of shock occurred in 2009 when I lost my health insurance. Rather than freak out totally, I wrote in my journal. It was through journaling about how nervous it made me and going through an arduous series of what if’s that I decided to look for the lesson in the situation, and realized that my best defense, at the age of 58, was to get healthy.
I totally revamped my diet, added in an exercise program, revamped the diet, kept exercising, and revamped the diet again. It was a two-year process that continues today. As my body’s requirements change, so does my diet and exercise. I lost 35 pounds, and I no longer suffer from asthma or arthritis. I feel great!
None of this occurred in a vacuum. I was reading and writing about what I learned, how I felt about it, what it was like to cook after so many years of eating the Standard American Diet, questioning everything I read and reading and writing some more. This is how journaling can be valuable, as a tool to work through changes and challenges.
It was at this time that I, like so many women in their 50s, began to think about my career: What did I enjoy about my current and past positions? What was I doing when time got away from me? Who did I want to be when I grew up? All of these things were answered in my journal and my career as a Certified Wellness Coach and Educator was born. I returned to school and here I am … Thanks to journaling!
Journaling isn’t about what you begin writing, it’s about building the habit of writing that matters most. It doesn’t matter if it’s a grocery or to-do list, a gratitude journal or, like me, reflections on what you’re reading.
Over time you will begin to find patterns; you will explore your choices, and things will unwittingly surface from your subconscious to your conscious mind.
Steps to Build a Journaling Habit
Find a time that works for you. I prefer morning, but I don’t have to leave my house by 6 a.m., nor do I have children who need my help getting ready. I know people who journal in the evening and others who journal in their car and/or coffee shops between soccer practice. Make it consistent.
Create a ritual. Mine includes the same quiet space, a cup of coffee, a pen I love and quiet dogs. Have some reading nearby. When I need a nudge I go back to the practice of reading something uplifting.
Keep it private. A journal is a place to vent when necessary, so if you’re concerned about someone reading it, find a notebook that you can carry with you. I know people who have a safety deposit box and put them there when they’re full, others destroy them.
Have a plan for destruction should something happen to you. Your children will dwell on the criticisms and waltz right over the praise without a second glance. I have a designated person who knows where they’re kept and will destroy them. DO NOT leave behind temporary thoughts that will damage your loved ones.
Definitely use a fancy journal, but rather than write everything in it, I encourage you to copy into it meaningful entries from your spiral-bound notebook. The beautiful covers, paper and bindings are a perfect place for your legacy.
Don’t stress about what to write! The purpose of your journal isn’t to write the great American novel, it’s to help you move through life easier. In my life it serves as a tool that keeps me focused as I move through challenges; helps me process information to find what is relevant for my situation, a safe place to vent, and as a daily record.
As the owner of HealthWorksKC, Nancy Oglesby,CHHC wears many hats: Blogger, Public Speaker, Educator and Coach! After graduating from the Institute for Integrative Nutrition in 2011, she had a mission to inspire as many people as possible to create a lifestyle that nourishes their body, mind and spirit and supports them in their efforts to incorporate healthy choices into their daily lives. Nancy is also a Juice Plus+ Representative who believes in their whole, real food nourishment! More info is available at www.HealthWorksKC.com