by Arwen Faulkner
One of the best birthday gifts I’ve ever received was a diary with a lock and key.
It wasn’t much to look at, really, just a simple white plastic-covered notebook with the word DIARY embossed in gold-coloured script across the front. But I loved that little book so very much. I think it was the key that got me. At seven years old, I’d just begun to collect secrets – thoughts that mattered to me, but I didn’t want to share – and the idea of having a place that was all mine to put these thoughts seemed extraordinary. I remember the solemnity of my mother’s voice as she explained, in no uncertain terms, that she would NEVER invade my privacy by reading it, and how that was somehow enough to make me feel as though maybe I did have something important to say.
“Every girl needs a place—a room—of her own,” Mom told me.
I didn’t understand the reference to Virginia Wolf at the time or even, in all honesty, the real gift I’d been given. I had no way to know the impact it would have on my life until many years later. But one lazy summer afternoon, while packing up my few belongings to move away from home for the very first time, I discovered this little white DIARY tucked away at the bottom of a box in Mom’s basement. Curious, I pulled it out and chose a page at random—August 7, no year. In childish scrawl, it read:
I don’t think Mark likes me anymore. He likes Carly.
And if you’re wondering how I know, it’s my womanly instinct.
My womanly instinct? Mom and I couldn’t stop laughing after I read it aloud at dinner that evening. When I went back to my bedroom that night, it was with a sense of reverence that I packed that tiny notebook into my duffel bag and tucked it safely beside my new leather-bound grown-up journal. I still have that DIARY around here somewhere. I’ve kept many journals over the course of my life so far. Yes, as I grew, the name of the book changed but the content rarely did. Even today, lined up neatly in a row on my bookshelf, are more than a dozen colourful notebooks full of my thoughts, my heart, my life.
I’ve carted these journals around with me everywhere—from Ottawa to Vancouver to the Okanagan Valley; from Miami and the Caribbean to Alaska and Glacier Bay; from England to Ontario to Nova Scotia, and then back to Ontario again. All of my thoughts, hopes, dreams and fears have found their way inside a journal at some point. Over the years, they’ve provided a safe space to work out my impressions, to play out my fantasies, to explore the depths of my own consciousness, to discover what I need to change, what I’m most grateful for. Like a best friend, a journal can be the perfect companion to almost any endeavor, no criticisms or judgements. And honestly, a quiet table-for-one in a busy restaurant doesn’t seem half as intimidating with a pen and paper at hand.
Beyond that, it’s safe to say that there have been times in my life when the only friend I had was the notebook in front of me. Eight years ago, my son and I entered a shelter for abused women and children in Ottawa with little more than the clothes on our backs. Maybe a few toys. After we got settled, a small journal was one of the first purchases I made. In fact, I bought eight notebooks that day at the dollar store, one for each resident of the home. I needed a place to put my shattered dreams so I could look at them objectively and try to make sense out of the changes in my life, and I suppose I imagined everyone else felt the same way, too. My journal was a safe haven; I wanted to offer that gift to the other women. Most of them cried; every single one was immensely grateful. The seed was sown. And now, eight years and a lifetime’s worth of changes later, I’m thrilled to introduce you to: The Journal Project.
The Journal Project
The Journal Project is a non-profit organization that provides free journals to the residents of various community organizations, maternity homes and domestic violence shelters.
Since its inception in January 2014, The Journal Project has already received 27 new journals. Our first donation drop-off will be in May 2014 during a Mother’s Day banquet at Fresh Starts Maternity Support in St. Thomas, Ontario. FSMS has a special place in my heart because I spent most of my first pregnancy receiving immense love and support at their facility. I felt it would be a great place to kick-off the birth of this important and exciting project.
Countless studies have shown that writing is healing. My own personal experience has shown this to be true. But writing is also inspiring. Empowering. By giving voice to our greatest fears, our biggest secrets, our deepest feelings of shame and fear and inadequacy, we soon discover that we’re not alone at all. We start to find ourselves, piece by piece—right there, on those pages, amidst the dirt and grit and rubble and ruins—there. And, if we’re lucky, we start to figure out a way to put all our broken pieces back together.
The Journal Project seeks to assist other women on the beginning of their journey towards empowerment, inspiration, healing.
The Journal Project is always accepting donations. In addition to new journals, bound notebooks and hardcover sketchbooks, we’re also open to receiving copies of your favourite inspirational books or CD’s which can be added to our drop-off packages. Please feel free to add a personal message, dedication, poem or favourite quote on the inside cover for the beneficiary of your donation. For more information, check out our web site or look us up on Facebook.
Arwen Faulkner is a wife and mom-of-four, a first-year university student and an aspiring writer, as well as the founder and director of The Journal Project. Currently residing in Ottawa, Canada, Arwen focuses most of her time and energy on the people and things that matter most to her. As a survivor of childhood sexual abuse, adolescent date rape and domestic violence, Arwen has made the decision to break the silence and hopes to inspire others to find their own voice. When she’s not reading, writing or studying, Arwen loves to spend time with her family and their two family pets, Alaska and Story.
Read samples of Arwen’s writing on her blog and in these publications:
Globe & Mail- Facts & Arguments – “Changing My Brain” (Nonfiction) – 9/2013
CBC Defining Moments Contest – “A Relative Stranger” (Nonfiction – Finalist) – 2/2014
BareBack Lit Magazine – “Fresh Paint” (Short Story Fiction) – 3/2014
Cadigan Creative Proudly Supports The Journal Project
I am so honored and proud to support Arwen Faulkner and her efforts with The Journal Project. I had the pleasure of “meeting” Arwen on the Facebook page of another writer who has been featured on this blog, Glennon Doyle Melton. I am thankful to Glennon for introducing me to Arwen, and for inspiring all of us to do our best to put some good in the world. I am grateful to Arwen for the privilege of helping her spread the word about The Journal Project. Consequently, Glennon’s book, Carry On, Warrior, also makes a lovely donation toward the efforts of The Journal Project, so I hope readers here will share this essay and consider supporting both of these women, as well as the other featured artists, organizations and online shops who have shared their stories and their great work here.