Journaling Pinocchio

I’ve tried many ways to be faithful to this idea. That is, the idea of “morning pages” that so many friends have engaged in for some time. Since 1985 I’ve been an avid journaller, earlier if you consider my voracious note-taking at any opportunity. They are now in stacks on various book cases throughout my home and act as reminders that life was even as life is. What was before may well come again. But, if journalled, it comes with warning signs. “Caution”, one’s history calls out, “you’ve seen this before, and didn’t do so well then. Let’s do better and learn from this.”

Now, unfortunately, life is anything but this cut and dried. I can count on one…finger the number of times I’ve actually gone back to dig, mine, learn, hell, even read old journals let alone allow them to guide my present course.

That is, until this year. Some particularly challenging summer events and subsequent darkness have forced me back to those journals. In fact, in a Herculean effort toward self-knowledge and understanding I have now finished reading my second book on the Enneagram. Am I a FOUR? A NINE? A TWO? A combination of these? How am I moving toward or away from integration?

Secondly, I am seeking to organize and codify these journals to help me reconstruct a cogent timeline of my life complete with possible patterns, trajectories, ideas, mistakes, etc. I’ve affixed post-it notes to the front of each journal indicating the start and end dates and then giving them an overall number: 1, 2, 3…all the way to 14. It seems I, like most, get easily stuck. Ruts like those left behind by Oregon Trail wagon wheels have made their indelible marks in my life and insistently make their reappearance at every turn.

But, I suppose, as frustrating as that is, to see one’s “ruts” is at least to become more self-aware. And, to see more is to have the smallest chance at changing more. We must see before we can move. As a recovering alcoholic this is a foundational truth. Step one is to admit to God and others that we were powerless over alcohol and that our lives had become unmanageable. Many never make it to step one. Subsequent steps never happen without the first.

Therefore, as I sit writing in yet another forum for such self-discovery, I’m left to consider: will this be the magic place that sees actual transformation take place? Or, will this be just one more futile attempt at writing away my sins? Broken places have a way of remaining broken unless outside forces come to bear upon them. That’s God’s job.

My life task is to see; to look and recognize where those broken places might be and then, write them out. Pray them out. Cry them out. Scream them out. Swear them out. Whatever it takes to find that place of epiphany, of breakthrough when the compassionate hand of God, with one simple touch, makes all things new again. This is annoyingly easy for God, impossibly difficult for us. For me. To follow the path of self-contractor in matters of the soul is a sure recipe for disaster; for madness.

Nope, for me just to read these old journals is a breath of stale air that is becoming fresh and invigorating in the workshop of God’s grace. There it is that God is taking this spiritual Pinocchio and fashioning flesh from wood; bone, sinew, blood and skin – what I am becoming – from splinters of old trees spun and pressed into something I am not. That was Pinocchio’s single desire, to be a “real boy.”

Then, with this Disney picture firmly in mind, seated beside the recurring pictures gleaned from many old journals, this becomes my prayer:

“Gracious God, who fashions something out of nothing, life out of death, real out of unreal, take this wooden boy, made in love but inanimate, solid, unmoving and give the abundant life that is you. Grant your fluidity for my immovability. Grant your warm-blooded passion for my wooden heart, cold and hard. Grant your joie de vivre for my dour, sad, self-directed life. Cut the strings that pull and manipulate and make me dance a dance I am familiar with but hate. Replace them with the unction of your life-giving spirit that draws instead of pulls, leads instead of manipulates and loves where before there was only death. Lord, make me into a real boy. To your glory.”

6 thoughts on “Journaling Pinocchio

  1. Love this, Rob.

    I’ve been revisiting some of my old journals this morning, too, it just so happens — those having to do with my nonviolence journey that began in 2009.

    Question: You mentioned that you give the old journals an overall number, anywhere from 1 to 14. What do the numbers represent? Are they some kind of grading or coding system?

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    1. Robert Rife

      Christianne, they’re simply chronological. My first “official” journal was in 1985. It’s of course #1, etc. I’ve received journals as Christmas and birthday gifts for years. I have about 5 right now that have yet to be cracked open!

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  2. One year I celebrated my birthday by spending 3 days reading all my journals. Like you, I was sad to see the same ruts appear in every book, but subtle change. Layers un-peeled. Your prayer at the end is wonderful! I think I’ll go put it in my journal…

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  3. Hampgal

    Yeah, I think I’m regressing. My only hope is that the more foolish, weak, self-absorbed, and impure I find myself, more repentance follows. Maybe the inner (wo)man is strengthening?

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    1. Robert Rife

      Journalling my way along the Way has helped me find patterns, both good and bad, in my life; wakes behind the boat as it were that keep me from steering correctly or always heading back to the same, damn, choppy waters. Going back to them has been profoundly helpful.

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