The COVID Journal

Consider the simple power, and pleasure, of keeping a journal

By Maggie Doherty

As the days take on a blurred, surreal effect and so much unknown rests upon the horizon, there is one thing I know for certain: keep a record of this. While so much of our life, especially now that we’re mostly confined to our homes, takes place on virtual stage, there is great value in physically recording what’s happening during the COVID-19 pandemic. Keep a journal, if you haven’t already started. You’re moving through history, and your thoughts and recollections are important. Don’t rely on what you post on social media to endure. Think of what we know of our collective past, especially during the time of a crisis and how much better we know of hard times through letters and diaries.

I’ve long been a keeper of a journal. I don’t write daily, but I try to empty my thoughts onto the page at least weekly. OK, more like monthly after I had my son. However, during deeply profound moments in my life, I heed the urge to take up pen and paper and write. During both of my pregnancies I kept a journal. And this March, I found a spiral notebook in my office and started my COVID-19 diary. I record my thoughts, which bounce between panic and boredom. I try to jot down what I did each day, as they often meld into one, the bizarre result of a new baby and this crisis. My notebook is a space where I list the books I’ve read, knowing that what I’ve read during this uneasy time is likely something I’ll long want to remember. Quotes from the books I read mix with my thoughts, asking myself big questions of parenting, leadership, and spirituality. Or I list off the number of diaper changes, the times I was woken up in the night to nurse, and how much I miss my mom, my dad, my brother. I vent. I rage. I dream. And I wish. Simply, I write.

I also have a folder, keeping letters I’ve received and printing emails from my son’s teachers and from friends who have sent poems. Stuffed in the folder are my attempts at teaching my son to write and his big-hearted drawings. I want a physical representation of the courage displayed in the small moments of this very big part of life.

A diary isn’t a perfect piece of writing. But life, especially right now, isn’t perfect either. I believe we need a tangible space to place our musings, our worries. Even our shared joys, like my son finally warming up to his sister, his gentle kisses on her forehead. Or how the highlight of my week is the Friday night social distant neighborhood happy hour, chairs perched in lawns, conversation lofted across the divide of a sidewalk. I’ll want to keep these memories, hold on to these feelings of uncertainty, and see how I responded. I’ll want to look back through these notes to see how I felt and what I thought during this unprecedented time. My children might also, someday in the future, want to know what we did when we were at home all these days. They might want to read about the mother I was, the person expressed upon the page.

You’re likely already doing a lot right now. We’re all doing a lot. But perhaps consider the simple power, and pleasure, of keeping a journal.

Maggie Doherty is the owner of Kalispell Brewing Company on Main Street.

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