I used to keep journals. I kept them lovingly, faithfully and well. Journalling was an important and cherished part of my life. I discovered so much of myself through my journals. Or at least that’s how I remember it.
Because my journals were so important to me, I’d keep them every time I edited my possessions in order to move house. By the time I turned 30 I’d collected a big, heavy pile of journals. It might not look so big to some – I’ve often read writers’ accounts of having piles of old journals stacked from floor to ceiling in their attics or cellars. I’m guessing that these are mostly the kinds of people who have houses with attics and cellars and get to stay put in them for long periods of time. But me, every fucking time I moved house or even re-organised the one I was living in, I’d have to pack the fucking things up, lug them about from here to fucking there, and find somewhere to bloody well store them again. You can tell how frustrated I’ve become by this by all the fucks.
|Baggage - extremely literally|
It was around this time that I pretty much stopped journalling. I was just too daunted by the thought of more fucking heavy books to carry around with me when next it would come time to pack. I couldn’t bear it. And so I stopped writing. Yep, that’s pretty sad.
I first started thinking about (shock, horror) getting rid of at least some of my journals a few years ago when I was packing up to move up from Victoria. I thought long and hard and deeply. I even googled ‘should I get rid of my old journals?’. Most of the pages that Google offered me were blog posts written by people wondering the same thing as me. The verdict was pretty clear. Nearly everyone who commented on any of these pages said no, no-one should ever dispose of one’s journals, because one day at some point in the future there just might be someone who would benefit from reading those journals or some part thereof, and it would be a terrible disservice to the future of the human race for one to willfully prevent such a thing from happening. So I packed the fucking things up again. And still didn’t produce any more.
And now, I want to keep a journal again. The dread of the pile of accumulated journals growing heavier hasn’t lessened, so I had to ask myself again, well, how about if I got rid of at least some of them? And so, of course, I had to ask Google as well. Google has certainly changed its mind on the subject.
This time I found people considering the content of their journals more closely when questioning the proposition of getting rid of their own journals. Many confessed that they discovered that their early journals, at least, were full of a lot of stuff that they didn’t really have any interest in holding onto any more. This post here by Erin Kurup is a great example. I love how she came to this realisation - "They were negative, whiny, obnoxious, phony. And you know what? I knew the words were fake as I was writing them. I remember deliberately choosing what to record based on what I believed the record I thought I was supposed to write would look like."
Many people told of sorting through their journals, throwing out the things that they didn’t need to keep a record of any longer, and keeping the things that were still important to them, now, at this time. They reported that they were glad they did it.
So I dug my suitcase full of old journals out from their dusty storage corner. I started at the beginning, with my earliest ‘serious’ journal. I started it when I was nineteen years old and embarking on a very intensive journey of psychotherapy. I’d been told that I could cure my depression by working with this psychotherapy, so I worked it very hard. And all these years later, well, yes, I’m glad I did it. It didn’t cure my depression but it gave me some decent tools for managing my emotions. The journal from this time is very much a therapy journal, very much a torturous exploration of why on earth I might be so fucking miserable – or scared, mostly. So many of the sentences in it start with “I’m scared.” It details the crappiest bits of my relationship with someone who has since passed away. There is really no need for there to be a record of all that stuff. I don’t need to keep it any more.
So I tore all those pages out. I kept some things, like the art therapy pieces that were the most special to me.
I also kept the pages on which I’d recorded my dreams. I’ve always found it a very powerful practice, to record and pay attention to my dreams. Reading them long after I’ve forgotten them, they are still speaking to me. Some of the smaller journals are dedicated entirely to dreams. It looks like I’m going to have to keep those ones for the time being.
By the time I got to the end I’d removed at least 90% of the pages from the journal. And as for the proper way to dispose of old journals, this was widely discussed in the blog posts I read. For me, it could only be by burning them. Fortunately I have a proper fireplace where I can do such a thing. And whoooosh, off they went, up in flames.
And then I picked up the next journal, in chronological order, and continued.