The undocumented life


I have a lot to share with you. I want to tell you about the book I finished this morning and the new one I just started. I want to show you what I wore to Mass and what I ate for lunch and tell you about the dear friends I Skyped with and how many miles I ran and and and.

The unexamined life is not worth living, says Socrates. How about the undocumented one? How about a life devoid of Facebook feeds, Instagram posts, snapchats, and tweets? One in which I don’t share all those intricacies of my daily life with my friends across states, time zones, countries? I’ve gotten to thinking about the way I choose to document my life lately. The wheels in my head began turning one morning as I sat looking at my particularly delicious breakfast on the kitchen table, illuminated by soft dawning light pouring through my tall kitchen windows. This is beautiful, I thought. Totally worth a picture. Totally meant to be shared.


There is a danger in over-documentation. I fear that we can destroy our chance at abundant life by trying so often and so earnestly to capture the life that we are supposedly living. That desire to share isn’t necessarily misguided, of course. I so appreciate seeing the small moments of my friend’s lives, moments of quiet beauty that I certainly wouldn’t be able to see otherwise. And with an intent to share my own day to day life, I find myself more attentive to those seemingly inconsequential treasures that can so easily go unnoticed. But I notice the danger, too. I notice the potential to close myself off from those who are actually around me when I want to document what I’m experiencing. The potential to find my worth in likes and comments, in passing, surface-level affirmations. The potential to actually experience less due to the work of documenting what I am experiencing, or to experience it less fully.


But there is a form of documentation that truly does help me to live an abundant life. It’s refreshingly free from the world of social media, confined to the precious last minutes of each day, meant only for me. It’s how I’ve ended every day for the past six months, and I’ve found that it makes all the difference. All it takes is a pen and a journal (an unlined purple Moleskine, to be exact) and a small dose of self-discipline. As I climb into bed each night, longing for another night’s sleep after another day’s end, I take stock of that day. I briefly trace the ways I spent my time and reflect in three ways: How did I fail today? What was one triumph of today? What do I hope for tomorrow? Failure, triumph, and hope. It’s a time of intimacy when I invite God in, doing my best to give the day to Him, and asking Him to bless the one to come.


So, no—I did not take a picture of my beautiful scrambled eggs the other morning. But I did crawl back into bed after breakfast for a spell, having extracted an old journal from its dust-gathering spot, craving some time to reflect on the past few months of my life, with all its transitions (and failures and triumph and hope). Those are the moments I am so grateful to have captured. Those moments of quiet beauty, the seemingly inconsequential treasures, the twists and turns in the story of my life, with God as my author. I can assure you: The documented life? It is so worth living.




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