The day I threw away my journals

When you’re in the throes of a drought and a rainy day is but a far off promise the meteorologists continue to dangle in front of you, you have to take matters into your own hands. This past weekend, I gave myself a rain day.

A couple of stay-indoors-and-focus kind of projects had been gnawing at me for quite some time. They were never in the way, but they managed to push their way to the front of my mental line. These were purge-y kind of endeavors, but they were far from urgent. In fact, they’d been out of sight for years, contained in bankers boxes on a shelf in the back of the closet. It was decision and action day. My initial targets: a series of journals.

To any writer or nostalgic being, this may seem like sacrilege, but here’s the deal: at one time, these books seemed important. They were journals for goodness sake. I filled them by hand from cover to cover. They could contain insightful wisdom and profound reflections on being. And then again, maybe, and probably, not. They were documents of a time and a place in my life. These particular volumes contained religiously practiced “morning pages” – a la Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way – scribed by my fifteen-plus-years-ago self over the course of several years. My attachment to them had been about all the time I invested in creating them. They were part of a process. They were a vehicle.

I had no desire to ever go back to read them. Why would I want to? Heck, I wouldn’t want anyone else to read them. How could anyone read them? Flipping through the pages nearly gave me vertigo. Why on earth did I ever think it was a good idea to write in all caps? Ironically, the musings didn’t scream at me, but my gosh, the visual vibe kept them at a generous arms length. That was hardly distance enough. I wanted them to go away. It was time.

IMG_3799Being thorough and careful, I culled nine volumes from the collection of many journals. I tore off their covers and added the innards to a pile of papers that had been triaged from the filing cabinet earlier in the day. Wow. That felt good. And strange. And empowering.

Glancing inside the box from which they came, I breathed a sigh of relief. What remained were my most memorable journals, those that were carried in my bag to and from work or in my backpack when I traveled. These were filled with clippings, notes, sketches and inspirations. They were collections of random moments. These had meaning to me. They had been companions and not just repositories of morning brain dumps. These pages made me happy, and they inspired me…even now. My eyes danced from page to page. Two little pudgy diaries from childhood contained very  sporadic entries, the likes of which might read, “Nothing happened today.” These were the treasures. These were volumes I’d enjoy looking at on an actual rainy day.

After the journey through the journals, I joyously deposited three out of four high school yearbooks directly in the recycling bin in the garage. Those things weighed a ton. My load was lightened…literally. I flipped through a couple of boxes of photographs and disposed of prints of people I could not name and snapshots of places and moments that made me say, “huh?”

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I bagged up the outbound papers and journals and readied the bundle for my visit to the shredding-while-you-watch facility in Berkeley. Three days later, the guy I’ve dubbed “the happy destroyer of things” turned up the music before activating the conveyor belt and machine that would obliterate the journals in an instant. I stood and watched as each book was splayed open on the belt before disappearing from view. When the last one was gone, I literally jumped up and down and clapped. True elation, relief, and liberation. I paid the cashier and drove home.

The clouds overhead all that morning looked promising in every direction. I drove across the bridge under a darkening sky. Rain was in for the forecast for the following day, but maybe we’d get an early surprise. Alas, it was all just a tease. I’m ready for when it does rain. There are a couple of books on the bedside table I’ve been wanting to read.

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