Trash Your Journals
At least the depressing ones
Two weeks ago, I had dozens of unfinished journals. I threw out many of them. It was cathartic-like I finally tossed the elephant, who laughed like a hyena, off of my chest. I felt lighter, like Noom worked.
When I had opened my journals up, looking for wisdom, there wasn’t any. They were boring, whiny, and incomplete. I kept a few to prove adolescence wasn’t a hallucination, but most of them live in a landfill now.
I also kept a couple that looked like they might contain a sliver of insight, but they are also on the plank. I’m not sure they’ll survive the next purging.
Journals are crazy. They’re like photographs. They’re like selfies. They’re like selfies with filters. The filter is a janky defensive teenager who is so mad at her mother. Talk about an unreliable narrator. Talk about tunnel vision.
Like everyone else on the planet, I wrote about love, hate, disappointment, jealousy. Even summarizing what I wrote about is like taking a bottle of Ambien. Nobody else gets to talk in the journal but the writer. That’s the problem. The writer goes on and on, and nobody interrupts her.
Reading them felt like sitting next to the world’s most boring person at a dinner party. I carry around fake therapist cards for just that reason.
If someone gets too drunk at a party and uses me as a confessional, I hand them my fake therapist card. I say, “Listen. Your problems are real. Your pain is genuine. But I do this for a living. I can’t listen for free. It’s unethical. Call me if you need a referral.”
And, I’m not lying. I’ve had tons of therapy. All of my friends and family have had their brains probed. I have dozens of referrals. I’m like a therapy referral drug dealer.
I got a referral for everything. You can’t sleep? I got a guy for that. You have trouble calming down? Yup. Scared of aliens? I got a CBT therapist for that. There’s someone for everyone. It’s better than love. It’s better than drinking and yoga and pot. Need therapy. I got someone for you.
Where was I? Right. Journalling. Don’t get me wrong. Journaling is clarity, catharsis, and revelation. It’s the motherland of acceptance. It’s your own little pocket reality check.
However, how many journals are too many journals? It’s like when you have a drinking problem. There’s no such thing as one drink. Same with journals.
I talked to an artist friend of mine yesterday. She’s my oldest friend and, therefore, my longest life witness. I confessed that I had sacrificed my journals to the dumpster gods. I told her because I’m not Catholic so I don’t have a priest. But, I’m very guilty.
I needed absolution. “I threw out dozens of my journals,” I told her.
“Wow,” she said. “That’s incredible. Purging. Beautiful.”
“Really?” I said. “I’m feeling guilty, dirty, dark.”
“Oh God, no,” she said. “I’ve started getting rid of art people gave me.”
“Wow,” I said. “What inspired that?”
“Well, honestly,” she said. “Artist friends have given me their discarded art over the years. Stuff they didn’t want. Why am I keeping it?”
I wondered why I had kept all these partially written in journals for decades. Did I think there was money in them? What did I expect to find later? Wisdom? Clarity? Epiphany? From a teenager? From a 20-year-old? From me? Was I mad?
What if the journal’s job was done as soon as I wrote in them? What if the act of writing was the entire journey? Not the act of saving.
The scribbly scrabbly, self-pitying, papyrus artifacts were my witnesses, yes. But did I need to keep lugging them around indefinitely? They were weighty and boring and embarrassing. Couldn’t I relocate them to a witness protection program in the trash?
“I burned my journals,” my artist friend finally told me. She said it quickly, like slapping a mosquito off of her arm or admitting a sin. Like, “I’m cheating,” or “I steal lipstick from Walgreens.”
“Wow,” I said. “Biblical.”
“There’s nothing anyone needs to read in them,” she said. “It’s all so damn repetitive.”
“I only tossed mine,” I said, realizing her journals met a more violent end than mine had. I didn’t care if someone pulled them out of my dumpster and read them. Maybe that’s because I’m a writer, and wanting to get read trumps humiliation.
I still have several journals, and I’ll probably keep a couple to prove I lived on Earth. I think I’ll keep the ones where I was happy. Oy. If only I could find those.