After I posted this image on my most recent Sensual Sunday post, I got a few comments on Facebook and Instagram about the image. Then one person really liked what the image was pulled from, so I decided it might be worth it to be a bit open and vulnerable here and talk about it.
This image is from a “couple’s journal” I share with my husband, Will.
The Sensual Sunday post I am referring to was inspired by the night we met. Parts of it are total fiction, but the fireflies were real. The kiss was real. So, since that night in July almost thirteen years ago, fireflies have been sort of a symbol for us.
In the summer of 2011 I was having extreme depression and was beside myself with sadness and grief. During a particularly bad meltdown of tears and feeling disconnected from the world and my partner, I was crying in the court out in front of our house, just feeling the world beneath me and trying to convince myself that reality had not disintegrated. This was a time when the fireflies should have been gone and one came to me as I stood there crying. It was like some kind of magical scene in a movie. I could barely believe it. A single firefly so late in the season, as if to comfort me.
Being a fan and writer of fairy tales, I saw this as some kind of magical beacon. A signal that I needed to have hope. There were times that hope actually felt like it was strangling me. Hope can make you its slave, if you let it. Sometimes it’s best to let go and keep your sanity. But Will came out to the street and held me and we watched the firefly together as it drifted off.
Then two summers ago, at the end of the healing process, we happened across a magical scene of a thicket where the tall trees were just sparkling like glitter and stars beneath the branches. We sat at the park and watched them for a little while. We stood and kissed and marveled at them. So, when we got home he drew the trees and I painted and we thought of what we wanted to say and he penned it.
We went to that same spot last night to watch the early fireflies. Will pushed me on the swing and then we sat on the picnic table and watched as the sun faded and they sparkled a bit. It’s still early for them, so even a few is nice.
This all started because I had been teaching visual journaling at a local craft store where I was also an employee and craft designer. Which, by the way, I loved. Working there was good for me and I also met two wonderful women there who I am now lucky to call my friends. They were really there for me when I needed somebody to lean on. Anyway, as I was teaching people how to make visual art and smash journals, I ruminated on how healing journaling is. I’d been journaling for many years, but not like this. Not a journal I could draw and paint in and also use as kind of a scrapbook. The idea had so much appeal to me. And I realized, that maybe doing a visual smash journal together, as a couple, might be healing and even fun. So, I made one out of a spiral bound watercolor paper pad. The paper is good for marker and watercolors, as well as ink and glue.
Since I first made the journal, we’ve filled it about a third of the way. With poems and thoughts and drawings. With ticket stubs, cut outs from magazines and books. Any thought we had that we believed would help us come together again, we jotted it down and pasted it into the book. When we shared bonding experiences, we recorded them. It’s important to meditate on the positive things. That’s a lot healthier than meditating on the negativity.
After a couple years of journaling and therapy, we finally felt strong enough to stop looking at the journal as a way to repair the bond that snapped apart. The weaving of these threads had strengthened us and we started recording things that made us feel connected or experiences that felt bonding.
There may be more difficult times ahead, but we are so much better equipped to handle them now. Journaling, individually and as a couple, lets you ruminate on your successes and when you have something difficult, you can look back and see how far you’ve come. It also reminds you of all of the good parts of each other.
It’s not a cure-all, of course. Some people will meditate on misery and nurture the darkest parts of themselves, growing them like weeds that choke out everything beautiful. But you can choose to remember the best parts of each other and forgive the things that hurt you. You can choose to use the grief and pain as a rich soil to grow from. I choose that.
Here are some images from our couple’s journal I feel comfortable enough to share.
I keep my journals in two vintage suitcases. One was in bad shape and I covered it with decorative Duck tape. The other is covered in travel stickers. I keep the things I want to put into my smash art journals into the suitcases and when I have time, I compose the pages of my own, or Will and I work on the couple’s one together.
The frist pages are below. The cards are cards that Will gave me when we were first going out. The painting on the left is surrounded by affirmations about letting go and finding ways to walk forward. I think it’s important when dealing with a relationship, that reminders of particularly good times, connecting moments and artifacts should be included. It sets a nice tone. Also, it sort of helps you see where you are as a couple, I think. If one of the two of you isn’t about doing something together that’s healing, it might be an important red flag. Maybe not journaling, exactly – but if you both aren’t willing to put forth an effort of 100% “in” this together, then there might be cause for concern that this kind of thing will become more of a centerpiece for resentment and a chore than a fun, connecting process of healing and connecting.
Here are some more pages from the journal – you can see I use envelopes, glue washi tape, tape, paint, markers, pens. There is no end of things you can stick in, smash in, draw or tie onto the journal. It’s meant to be tactile and interactive. Kinda like love!
On an outing to some gardens last year we saw a wonderful display of bonsai at the National Arboretum. We both love them and hope to have a nice one some day. But we started talking about them, in detail. And Will’s thoughts really struck me. He doodled this bonsai on the back of a piece of mail. I loved it so I glued it into the journal and he wrote down some of his thoughts, which came out like a nice little poem.
but more likely,
will bend it
or twist it–
all but break it
So we tend it
with great patience
Until it seems
was always meant to be