Do you keep naughty lists?
July 31, 2019

“The mind stores information in negative form.”

I heard that in a workshop once. Does it ring as true to you as it does to me?

It’s most relatable, unfortunately (for me), when I’m storing information about myself. I tend to cast myself in a less flattering light as time goes by, and tend to cast the other players in a more forgiving light.

Which means that as friendships and jobs and so on wind down, I’m forever blaming myself for much more than my share.

Unless I remember to check the journal, that is. A quick check of the notes, and there it is -- the evidence. What actually happened.

“Yeah, yeah, yeah,” I can almost hear you saying. “What’s in the journal is subjective.” You have a point, but it may not be as strong as you think. That’s because I approach my journal as a “real” journalist. It’s more of a lab notebook than anything. I record what happened, and I record it right away. Later I’ll go back and add my reflections about those facts, which are of course subjective. But the facts themselves? Not as much!

It amounts to a smattering of naughty lists at times. Not often. I’m much more likely to make note of the fun, the funny, the sweet. But once in a while I’m honest about what isn’t fun, because that’s the only way the story makes sense. I don’t owe my character transformation to the things that came easy. It’s what’s difficult that’s interesting, and that includes people.

Some of it is just recording what people say or do. It comes in handy years later when I find myself asking something like, “Is it my imagination, or is this person impossible to please?” A quick check of my notes, and there it is. The pattern.

Like I said, a journal can be a lab notebook. “Then I tried doing this.” And, “Here’s what happened.” After a while? “Okay. This experiment’s going nowhere.” Or, “I think I’ve learned everything this person came to teach.” And then, “Let’s start another experiment.”

Are you as wary as I am about the whole “forgive and forget” thing? Forgive if you want, sure -- but if you forget you’re just signing up for more problems!