The meme above came through right when I was coming to terms with something. It’s a perfect message right now.
Today I was without purpose for writing. I simply had no idea what to write about. I have been out for a haircut, talked on the phone with a friend, did some journaling, and still have two key lime pies to make before going out to movie and dinner with a friend.
What do I have to say today? I decided to look for inspiration in my past journals.
Then, the epiphany.
I have been journaling pretty steadily since 1991. Well, not pretty steadily. It is a nearly every day occurrence. I credit journaling with much of my inner progress — and outer progress — in this life.
My journals, in turn, have meant the world to me. I began journaling because I was studying A Course in Miracles, and wanted to reflect on the teachings. That was in 1991-1992. But I kept it up. Then for Christmas 1994, Jim gave me the book The Artist’s Way. One of the basic tools is what Julia Cameron calls “morning pages,” which basically consists of dumping your brain onto three pages every morning as a way to clear the circuits for creativity. Having done this religiously, I can tell you it works. No doubt in my mind whatsoever.
Cameron says not to re-read the pages — just to write. Another writing guru of mine — Natalie Goldberg — says the same thing. Write just for the practice, to clear the channels, to find out what you’re thinking, then move on.
But I have never been willing to move on. I have treasured my journals — so much so, that when I moved to Florida, I wouldn’t even put them on the moving van. I packed the two large Rubbermaid containers into the back of my trunk. And I still remember that the containers were too heavy to carry, so my sister-in-law and me carried handfuls of them into the apartment, making a few trips each. I am sure she thought I was nuts — I kind of knew it at the time.
I have reasoned that my journals carry my past, and that perhaps sometime I will find my writings useful. I have had friends go back to their journals to help them write about various aspects of their lives. Recently, author Cheryl Strayed shared a couple of pages of her journal while hiking the Pacific Crest Trail that inspired the book and movie Wild. I loved reading her journal pages! They made her trip even more real to the observer.
But that was a specific time an place. The day-to-day everyday living is certainly not as exciting or meaningful, as I have found. I thought I had already learned this lesson last year when I embarked on this idea for a book that would be about all the visits we made to a very special mountain cabin on the New River in Ashe County, North Carolina. When I revisited my journals, expecting beautiful meditations on nature (what I think I wrote), what I found instead were long ramblings on irritants and stresses in my life, things that seemed so important at the time, but now? I don’t even know who most of the people I was complaining about are, and on top of that, ones I remember fondly were showing up badly. Who needs that?
Didn’t learn my lesson, though. Still thought the journals were worthy of so much space — both physically and mentally, if not emotionally — in my life. Until today.
Seeking some kind of inspiration, I thought, hmmm, pick up an old journal and see what I find. I picked up 2006. Bad year. Oh so bad year. Couldn’t find anything that didn’t just make me feel kind of sick. Put that away. Tried 2014. Too recent. Who cares? Then 1997. Are you kidding? Same crazy stuff I’d rather not remember.
That is when the epiphany finally arrived. I do not need to keep these. I am not going to read them. I am not going to use them in any meaningful way — ever.
Still, there is an emotional attachment and there are things stored in the pockets of the journals that I know I will want to keep. So a new project has shown up in my life, one I think I will really like. I will save some pages from my journals. I will pull out the pages where I keep the lists of books I’ve read. I will keep the special letters and programs and other items that are worth keeping. I can scrapbook these up, or at the very least, store in a binder or two. But these journals are going to go. I am going to be 60-years-old. How many musings from the age of 39 or 46 or even 58 do I really need?
Right. Probably none.
Every step of our journey is meaningful. And it is good to clear the channels so the good stuff can make its way through. I will never give up morning pages. I will, however, give up the idea that they contain some kind of record worth keeping. They don’t. The record is in how I live in the moment. How I treat others. How I create and appreciate the creativity of others. Experiences, not things.
And suddenly, I feel a whole lot lighter.