by Ruby Mora (she/they) | Edited by Janine Samuels (she/her)
Image via norevisions
There’s no denying that I’ll forever be that person that tells everyone to journal with no hesitation.
Journaling has been part of my routine since I was in high school, from the stereotypical composition notebooks to my Moleskine phase, to the Leuchtturm 1917 notebook that I currently use… I kept a mostly consistent practice of letting out a lot — if not all — of the feelings I was discovering and feeling too much of at the time. Within the comfort of the sanctuary that was my bedroom, I wrote about all the abundant teen angst I felt at the time, all the things I loved dearly (Paramore, TV shows, mediocre high school boys, etc.), and my experiences navigating the 00’s as a teen and eventual college student, faced with what the world was at the time. Collages were also within these notebooks; clumsily cut-out photos from Teen Vogue (RIP print edition), Allure, Seventeen, and Vogue, all acquired via my mom’s old issues she didn’t want anymore, the free books bin at my local library, and/or just buying them myself.
Most of the time I would journal at home because I wouldn’t dare take my journals to school due to the risk of someone peeking as I was writing or taking them and reading them aloud. Like millions of teen girls, my bedroom was the first space I could call my own and had the privilege to be alone in, and it became the only place I could truly journal in peace at the time. Although I was a teen in the mid-to-late aughts where Blogger and Facebook were popular and MySpace was still in its heyday, I still relied on my journals to keep my innermost thoughts, even while using these platforms.
A few months into my sophomore year in college, I ended up not being able to journal as much due to the workload and mild socializing I did, but I still kept it up as much as I could given how sacred the practice is to me. There were so many new experiences that occupied my time that year, from living in a college dorm for the first time, getting to meet a plethora of people, beginning to take more courses within the field I was studying in, and dealing with the influx of the work these courses placed on me. Although I wasn’t regularly journaling, I always found a way back to writing a handful of entries a month. In my most pivotal years of growth, being able to have a space to vent and sift through my thoughts allowed me to keep going. In a time when I was heavily conscious of how I acted in social settings, having the forgiving space within the pages of my journals allowed me the means to not have to edit myself for anyone. These written documentations of my own making saved me.
Almost four years ago, I read All About Love: New Visions by author, professor, and social activist bell hooks. At the time I was really struggling to figure out who I was after a significant breakup. That book — which is her in-depth and layered response to what love is — allowed me to see and embrace different forms of love and how to implement them into my life, and with me being fresh out of a breakup, it showed me that there’s a whole life to live in love, not just when I’m in a romantic relationship. The amount of valuable knowledge and advice in this book was abundant, but one paragraph stuck with me the most:
When we begin to experience the sacred in our everyday lives we bring to mundane tasks a quality of concentration and engagement that lifts the spirit. We recognize divine spirit everywhere.
This inspired a practice I began to implement into my journals not long after I finished reading, which I named The Beautiful Mundane. I yearned to see the world the way hooks described: with gentleness and vigor. Writing these entries became a starting point to this outlook on life’s small yet majestic moments.
In each of these entries, I made a list of at least two items, details, or events from that day that I wanted to spotlight. Each item contained as many details as I could recall, and in the act of writing and remembering came the ability to find pleasure in the details I would often overlook because of the fast-paced, frenzied world that tries to keep those who are constantly working from slowing down. Small actions, events, moments, emotions, objects; there’s so much that surrounds us — even on the days where we don’t get to do much — that can bring pleasure. It’s just a matter of taking a few minutes each day or each time you journal (it doesn’t have to be every day) to sit and write out those divine details. This is how much time it takes for me to gather Some of the many questions I consider when writing The Beautiful mundane, particularly on the days where I find it hard to determine what to add to the list, are:
What is a seemingly minuscule moment that made me feel good?
What are the details of my day that I might normally overlook?
What are the reasons why I felt joy today, even if I didn’t do anything or go anywhere?
When did I feel pleasure — tiny or massive — that day?
These lists have naturally evolved over time, which parallels how different each day and year are to each other. I’ve added some examples below from the past few years:
Receiving the yearly 1:01 am birthday text from mom. 1:01 am being the time I
was born. [4/12/19]
Calling my abuelo (grandfather) to tell him happy father’s day and catching up with him and abuela (grandmother). Both my grandparents telling me how proud they are of me. [6/16/19]
Feeling like a more full version of myself now that I’m not stressing about dating and men. [1/12/20]
Looking through old photo albums with mom and her recalling the people and stories she remembers. [3/18/20]
After writing these lists, taking the time every evening I could to recall these treasured portions of my life, my perspective on life shifted in such a significant way that I honestly can’t recall how I viewed life prior. This practice can encompass an entire notebook instead of intermingling it into journal entries easily, and I’m considering doing this in the near future, but I’ve been comfortable integrating it into my journal. It’s also a little less intimidating for me — and could be for others — to dedicate a whole notebook to these lists, especially if someone is new to this practice. I’ve noticed over the years that it’s easiest to write these towards the end of each day so that I could rummage through the life I’ve experienced that day and gather the pieces of it that emanated a noticeable glow bright enough to want to remember. Due to life continuing to happen, there have been days where I forget to write these lists, but I still tend to write at least one entry each month, and it takes me around 20-30 minutes now to gather and write down these cherished details. No matter where I am — at home at my desk or away on vacation — I still make note of the details somewhere to then add to my journal.
Within the last two and a half years, there have been many days filled with
hopelessness — for the future, for society, for the well-being of the earth we walk upon. I would have drowned myself in sadness a lot more easily had I not been doing this practice, and although I still have those bouts of sadness here and there — especially in these extremely tumultuous times — writing out the beautiful and mundane moments in my life give me the gift of my brain’s equivalent of standing still. hooks’ words and influence instilled in me the ability to take pauses and take pleasure in them in a world that asks for us to be constantly rushed. It made me realize how crucial it is to do so, and that there is so much evidence of hope and joy in the details surrounding us.
Ruby Mora (she/they) is a writer, poet, and essayist whose work explores the topics of race, identity, social issues, culture, literature, and wellness, all with a Latinx lens and intersectional feminist approach. Her work has been published in Prism, Refinery 29 Somos, Remezcla, Teen Vogue, and elsewhere.