Two Journals: On Pain, Fun, Boundaries and Battles

I'm only in my mid-40s but my kids say I'm already a bit old fashioned. I've kept a journal since my 20s. Born and raised in the pre-digital age but matured in the post digital age, I've kept track of thoughts and to-do lists with both paper and digital devices. Mostly, I still like to scratch notes in a paper journal.

Notebook Collection by Dvortygirl  under CC BY

Notebook Collection by Dvortygirl  under CC BY

The funny thing is that I have two journals  one for thoughts and musings about life, and one for work notes and tracking projects. It always seemed natural to me, if maybe a bit nerdy. Finding all your notes and action items in one place is helpful without a reflective journal entry from a forest walk distracting you. You might not want sketching interrupted by a reminder to pay your utility bill either.

But I realized there was more to it than that. I actually wanted there to be a separation between what I consider work and what I consider pleasure. Don't get me wrong, I love my work but I don't exactly consider it pleasure. I haven't wanted fun and big thoughts to be cross contaminated with work and getting things done. So I created a boundary with two journals.

But this is a bit artificial. Are there any real boundaries — two journals in life? Does it unnecessarily consume energy when we erect walls (symbolic or real) between parts of our life? Perhaps we could better use that energy elsewhere. Philosopher Ken Wilbur thinks so:

The simple fact is that we live in a world of conflict and opposites because we live in a world of boundaries. Since every boundary line is also a battle line, here is the human predicament: the firmer one’s boundaries, the more entrenched are one’s battles. The more I hold onto pleasure, the more I necessarily fear pain. The more I pursue goodness, the more I am obsessed with evil. The more I seek success, the more I must dread failure. The harder I cling to life, the more terrifying death becomes. The more I value anything, the more obsessed I become with its loss. Most of our problems, in other words, are problems of boundaries and the opposites they create.
— Ken Wilber, No Boundary: Eastern and Western Approaches to Personal Growth

How many of us do this with our pain by separating it from other parts of life? You have probably created distinct times and spaces where pain is allowed and where it is not. I have too.

I'm not saying to change this practice. The purpose of drawing attention to the boundaries we have created is to shine a light on the unconscious decision. Why have I drawn this boundary here? It might be about pain, but as Ken Wilbur reminds us could be about any number of things. Look around, you'll see all kinds of boundaries you've drawn. Ask if it serves a purpose. If so, keep it. If not, experiment with breaking it down. Consider it may be an unnecessary battle line. If you have pain, perhaps walling it off is costing you something.

Why have I drawn this boundary here?

The two notebook approach might be practical but is also symbolic of a boundary I drew that says 'serious work' can't also be 'fun life'. Hmm, really? Why did I decide that? What am I defending? Maybe seeing a sketch from the weekend beside my calendar would be nice.

Boundary by Joshua Hilgart-Roy under CC BY-NC

Boundary by Joshua Hilgart-Roy under CC BY-NC

I encourage you to ask similar questions with any boundaries about pain, or other things, you've drawn.



Do you have any answers you can share in the comments?