Journaling

In August or September of 2021, my brother asked me if I kept a copy of a letter we had both received identical copies of. I didn’t think I had, but know that, if I had, it would have been in the black box where I keep all important documents. I pulled said box down from its shelf high in the spare bedroom closet to look. I didn’t find the letter, but I did find things I’d forgotten I’d even stored in there. One was a notebook filled with page-protective sleeves that contained the poetry I’d written in the 70s and early 80s. The other was a journal I’d written in that dated back to 1992 and was specific to an event that had happened which caused me terrible heartbreak and guilt. I won’t go into those details now, because that’s a story – and a long one – of its own. I began journaling as an activity my therapist suggested so I’d have a safe place to share whatever my thoughts were in between our appointments.

The first journal entry was dated Friday, August 14, 1992. The last journal entry relevant to that event was dated Monday, August 2, 1993. I can only assume that, after a year, I was finally able to handle the sad emotions surrounding that event.

After that entry in 1993, there is an additional entry, dated Sunday, January 19, 2014. I’d located the journal in a box of memories as I was preparing to move and penned a bit about who that person was in 1992-1993 and how different a person I was in 2014. At the end of that entry, I wrote that I’d thought I’d read through the journal and then discard it but found I couldn’t read too many pages before I’d become familiar again with the pain attached to the event. I also found that I wasn’t ready to let the journal go. And that’s how it ended up in this black box.

Because I was looking for something else at the time, I just shuffled past its existence last year. But now, as I continue to simplify my life (honestly, more for my brother’s sake than mine), I decided that maybe it was time to revisit the journal and see if I still felt the need to keep it after 30 years. I thought on this over a few weeks and decided that the best thing I could do for myself was to cut those pages out, send the paper for recycling, and then cut out the blank pages that were left and use them for the many notes I make for myself. I didn’t read all of those old pages, mostly because I wasn’t sure that, even after all of that time, I wouldn’t feel some of that old pain. I did read the last entry – the one I wrote in 2014 – and it states that I kept the journal partly because I’d missed the opportunity to write whatever I was thinking or feeling at a moment. But…. now computers were a thing, and now I could store those thoughts and feelings in a way that was, if nothing else, easier to do with a keyboard than it was with a pen and paper. And obviously, by this blog’s existence, that’s exactly what I’ve done!

Although I didn’t read through the journal, I realized that all of those many pages were filled with “I” statements. For me, that was probably the first time where all of my focus was on me instead of others. And I’m guessing that is a part of the reason to journal, to focus on one’s own self. The irony is that I don’t feel comfortable being that self-focused, not because I don’t deserve it, but because it meant I was neglecting others and their needs! I’ve only learned how to balance my needs with other people’s needs in the past few years.

So, the pages are cut out, those written on and those still blank, and the journal covering and its binding have made it into the trash. There is a part of me that almost can’t believe that I’m going to throw all of these pages away, as though I’m throwing all of the emotions expressed in them away. But, I’m going to do it anyhow, if for no other reason than to prove to myself that I can let go of the emotions and thoughts in my past in order to make more room for my emotions and thoughts in the present. At least that’s the reason I’m telling myself…

And, it’s done. I took a page out of the pile here and there and put them through the shredder as rationale that I can never recapture everything from that time in my life. Well, more to keep myself from having second thoughts and taking them back out of the trash. Now I just need to be patient until I can feel the lifted weight off my shoulders from carrying that event around with me for over 30 years.

Boy, that quote is spot-on!