Sunday, May 18, 2014

Out with the Old

I’ve kept a journal of one sort or another since I was about thirteen years old. I documented my first crush, the intricate social dynamics at the local skating rink, three or four boyfriends that I loved with lots of small hearts and capital letters, and leaving home for college. I wrote pages about the young man who would be my husband, documenting our first date and the subsequence angst of wedding proceedings. I told my journal about pregnancies, friendships, siblings, coworkers and parents. I wrote when I was mad or upset, late at night or early in the morning. I wrote a lot when my kids were teenagers. I named my fears and tried to untangle my past from my present. I vented frustration and pain; I celebrated joy and happiness.

Gathering all of these journals together, I opened a few to random pages and I was immediately drawn backwards into whatever state of mind I’d been in while writing. Occasionally I found some of the joy but for the most part my journals were a depository of struggle.  There were incidences recorded there that I couldn’t even remember – until I read about it again – which renewed the sensations of being hurt or frustrated. Oh hi, yeah, I remember you. Let's rehash that experience again, shall we?
Um, no thanks. Really.
Who needs to revisit angst, anger and pain from twenty years ago? Ten years ago?  Those feelings had stopped crowding out my other memories of laughter, tenderness and love – and here I was reaffirming the power of that angst.

I want to live forward, not backwards. I want to hold the story of my life as an ever-changing canvas that highlights love, light and joy – not despair, pain and anger. I don’t want to be defined by an outdated view point that doesn’t live in my experience now. There were years that I needed that journal to be the loving ears that could listen and hold my heart and soul. How amazing it is to realize that that isn’t true any longer.

I took thirty five years of journals and burned them on New Year’s Eve. Andy and my daughter were there to help pull off the bindings. I found a few things that were worth reading aloud – before I threw the pages on the roaring fire.

It was a cathartic release that also brought a stunning sense of relief. Those journals had gripped a particular story of life in a death hold. Watching the pages burn, I gave the past back to itself, releasing my vigilant need to grasp and hold on to a particular version of “truth.”  
I love writing, reflecting, and seeking the quietest voices within. I still have a journal, I always will.

Which means that in a couple of years I’ll pull them out and feed their stories to the fire too.

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