If you had 78 notebooks detailing twenty years of your life, would you preserve them or destroy them?
In 1996, I started journaling, not because I thought I was a writer, but because I was an aspiring actor in Columbus, Ohio and I needed a creative outlet. After reading Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way, I dutifully journaled every day for about twenty years. Then I had a baby and the daily journaling got spotty. But it did not stop.
I have said
And I still claim
That I will burn those journals.
A.) They take up too much space
B.) I imagine the content to be –I know it is– unflattering and valueless
C.) I don’t want anyone who survives me to feel responsible to
read them or
burn the pages themselves (herself. it will most likely be my daughter, my only child.)
The urgency to burn my journals just builds and builds. With my age. With my anxiety. With Covid-19. Death comes when you least expect it. Or sometimes when you are driven to the hospital with a virus for which you’d been warned for months and months, and so you might not expect it, but you could have expected it. You wouldn’t be considered paranoid if you’d expected it. In either scenario, I do not want these fucking books hanging around.
I thought I’d do the burnfest at the twenty-year mark, but I had a newborn and I was very very broke. Not that you need a lot of money for fire, but I’m thinking bonfire, beer, crowd, celebration, and for that you need land, and I live in Queens and no one has outdoor space. Except for parking lots where I couldn’t even afford to park for the “after two-hours rate” let alone get a fire permit (is that a thing? No. No way. I’ll look it up, but no. Can’t be. Not in New York.) Then, I thought, I’d try to plan the bonfire for the twenty-five year mark but that was Fall of '21 when we were still in the clutches of a global pandemic.
Now I'm thinking it'll be the best way to celebrate turning fifty.
That's twelve months away.
And the question becomes... do I read them before I burn them?
You’re not supposed to read your morning pages, as stipulated by Ms. Cameron in The Artist's Way. Over the years if something valuable emerged from the pages, I copied it and put it somewhere to evolve separately. What’s left is junk. A lot of wallowing, I suspect. He doesn’t love me and she doesn’t like me and I didn’t get the part and why me? why me me me? It will be a little gross. It will be a lot gross. It’ll be gross.
But I kinda want to look at The Gross.
And I have fifty or so notebooks that give me the option and resources to do so.
As a collection, they are a spectacle.
For a while some of the journals were in duffel bags at my parents’ house in Columbus, Ohio. (They were so annoyed.) I retrieved them just before they moved. I sorted the books and put them in chronological order. I labeled them by year. Now they are arranged in boxes taking up precious space in the small closet I share with my husband in our Queens apartment.
In twelve months, the books will burn.
Between now and then, they can continue to overwhelm my closet
Or they can spill their –ahem– beans.
I give myself a year.
I'll need to average about five or six books a month to get through them all.
Anything I find there that is worth remembering I'll put here.
I'll spare you the rest.
The rest I ignite!
This blog will be all that's left of all those pages.