I threw out 10 years of journals
I threw out 10 years of journals. Threw them in the blue bin. THey’d been sitting in two carboard boxes in my garage for 16 years and so without even looking, I tipped them out. Then I took a picture and posted it on instagram and FB. People went bananas. “10 years of journals!!!!!!!!!!!???” someone wrote. I’m guessing this person hardly ever uses exclamation marks in their regular life.
Most of my friends on these sites are writers and artists and it seemed to hit a nerve. There were teary faces and love hearts. Were they sad for me? Or did they love the idea? When I wrote there was grief too, one person suggested digitizing. I got alarmed by their alarm.
So I went outside and pulled half of them out and decided to do a more serious cull. The first notebook had what seemed like a complete essay written called “My Five Mothers.” And I thought — better keep that. But the more I went on the more bored I got. How many stomach aches could I read? How much anger, distress, loneliness? Whatever poetry there was had already been mined. So what was the point? I had wondered if someone might want this for an archive. This idea faded. Realistically I’m not that famous and that’s just fine. I could leave them to my “estate.” But if even my own poetry sometimes feels like adding to the landfill of words and images, why would I do this to anyone?
Then I asked myself why I was doing this anyway. And the answer is it’s too heavy. To carry the weight, the paper and books and the furniture that contains, the old feelings and worn ideas, it is like a carrying a museum on my back for the rest of my life. I look at a book I consider giving away and put it back on the shelf because a) a friend wrote it b) i read it and liked it c) I should read it. But in the night I’m irritated. “Get off my back!” I want to say to the objects I’m carrying. And so I posted a little drawing a found of a stick figure floating away on a balloon. “Look how light that stick figure is, I wrote!” I want that.
When I travel I stay in one or two rooms i bring a few books and there are always more there. What is all this for? I began to tear out the inscription pages in the books written by friends. (Gasp.) I decided the people were more important than the books. Even the people I struggled with. And I piled their best wishes and signatures together.
After I packed the boxes and put them in the garage, I went out a week later and opened them up and decided every two would become one. If I didn’t get excited opening the box, if there was the slightest whiff of weight, goodbye. There are still too many. I’m down from 13 boxes to 9. But there’s a cost.
I wrote this post on FB: “Many years ago, I took a workshop with a woman named Judy Weiser, who developed a kind of therapy called "PhotoTherapy." It was new then and the workshop was essentially me and her. She told me to bring the 20 most cherished or significant photographs of my life. That was hard. Then she went through a series of exercises where I had to choose fewer and fewer until finally I was to imagine going somewhere where I could only take two. I remember being so angry. That's what grief does. That's what I'm choosing to do now as I winnow. What does a person need for memory, for love, for the next place? I don't know. It's a process and everyone is doing it on some level. Or will be.”
My meditation teacher told me it felt like taking the garbage out and then grieving the garbage. She’s hard core. It doesn’t feel like garbage. The sadness means that it means something. I just don’t want to keep it. I don’t mean to be cavalier. It’s just done for me.
I realize too the responses to my posts have come mainly from people in their 50’s and up. We are the winnowers. We are being winnowed. And to do it by choice is a whole other thing than to have it done. The younger folks are just gathering. It is right to gather in the time of gathering. I’m not ill or immediately dying as far as I know, but something is, and I can’t let it go fast enough.
I’m leaving the large house I somehow got to live in for 16 years and am renting a coach house. It is beautiful and foolishly small. I might not like what I have done. Someone asked how I felt upon seeing my journals in the blue bin and I answered, “ask me after garbage day.”