Since this week is all about Spring Cleaning—and as Deb Joanne so aptly put it yesterday, we’re not talkin’ the kind you need Pledge or Scrubbing Bubbles for—I thought I’d share a post I did a while back on my own blog on this subject of cleaning out. In my case, I threw away some of my most treasured written materials: my journals.
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Recently, I boldly went where no one has gone before (well, not in 2 years, at least): the back of our closet. There I uncovered the bin (I use the singular to make myself feel better, but trust me, there are other such bins buried in there) where I imagine everything I haven’t been able to find since we moved in has been carefully archived, but upon opening (which had all the pomp and circumstances of Indiana Jones opening one of his franchise’s many tombs), I find it is merely a catch-all for pieces of my past that I can’t decide what to do with.
Today, I decided. After moving old journals for almost 20 years, the diaries of my high school and college years, and a few later, I decided to throw them away. Will I regret it? I don’t think so. By my nature, I’m not someone who lives in the past, or hangs on to it. And frankly, when I cracked open one of the journals, I was met with such a surge of discomfort, I couldn’t close it fast enough.
Now, please understand: This is not about denial or coating the past in a hard candy shell. I GO there. Ask anyone who knows me and they’ll tell you I process experiences the way the IRS likely processed Al Capone’s receipts. And maybe that’s why it pains me to read those passages. Knowing how deeply felt they were at the time I wrote them.
I know why I kept them so long. Because I truly believed one day I would be able to read them with detachment, with a new perspective, with a smile. But I’ve tried to revisit them for 20 years now, and I’ve come to the conclusion that I can’t.
Then it occurs to me that I DO revisit my past when I write. How can we not as writers? We may write about people doing things we’ve never done, but chances are they feel what we’ve felt. And maybe that’s a sort of memoir in itself.
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It’s been over a year now since I parted ways with my journals, and I haven’t regretted it which is in itself a peaceful thing. What I find more
disturbing telling is that I can’t seem to part with a single line of my manuscript cuts. I have slush files that are easily as many pages as the finished manuscript. Er–we’ll save that for another post.
But of course I want to know what you all think. So tell me, friends: Could you part with your journals? Have you? And if you couldn’t, do you think you could ever re-read them again?