The Thrown Away Journals

I still remember getting my first journal. It was a gift from an aunt of mine, I think, and it had a little lock and key. There was something so exciting and special about having a secret place to write down some of my own thoughts. I remember finding a spot for it in my dresser drawer.

The night after I wrote my first entry, as my mom was putting me to bed, I found out she had opened my journal and read it. She was livid that I had written something bad about her and asked me why I hadn’t written about the good things she’d done for me that day. (Instead of writing about her reading me a story, I wrote about her yelling at me.)

I learned through this that I should not complain about my mother. I learned that my own thoughts were not welcome, and that I should be careful what I say, or write.

A couple of years later, when I as about 9 years old, I remember writing a Mother’s Day card to my mom. In it, I wrote, “Thanks for putting up with me.” Again, she was livid. Why would I say that, she wondered? I remember her fuming at me for writing it in the card and I remember running up the stairs, feeling ashamed, embarrassed, and confused.

These are such minor offenses, really, for a mother. I mean, of course she didn’t want me to complain about her in my first journal entry or write something guilt-provoking in a Mother’s Day card. What she was unable to see in both of those scenarios is that she was hurting me. Even as a little girl, I needed to process my mom’s anger in my locked diary. It was significant enough to me that it was the first thing I wanted to write about, instead of something about ponies, my friends or my dreams.

I started to hide my journals. I would hide them safely, take them with me where I went, and then throw them in trash cans or dumpsters when I was done with them. All evidence of my thoughts – erased. Once, I threw away my journal in a trash can which tipped over — and a neighbor found it and returned it to me!!! After marriage, I started to burn my journals in outdoor fires. I found it cathartic, healing… to know that my thoughts were truly private.

In these current times of CoVid-19, when everything is uncertain, I have wondered what would happen if I died. What traces would I leave that I wish maybe I had erased? Why am I writing things I wouldn’t really want to reveal, anyway? It is different now, now that I am older.

I’ve come to the conclusion that life, and love, are messy. I can hide the mess, if it makes me more comfortable, or let it be known. I’ve come to appreciate the natural falling out that occurs when I stop trying to control others’ views of me, and especially when I stop trying to control my own.

My self-hatred has sometimes led me to trash things I would now cherish: a cover shot on a ballet school’s brochure (I thought I looked fat/ugly), romantic letters from my first love. These were things I dismissed at the time, thinking they were either not good enough or outdated. Now I look back and see: this was my life. This was part of the beautiful portion I got to experience. What if I had considered it good enough at the time… flawed and unfinished, but still beautiful. Is that how the most successful or happy people approach their experiences? Who knows. It is how I plan to approach things moving forward.

I’m not sure yet if I will keep my journals or burn them like I used to. I am sure that the fear and shame that keeps us hiding from others also keeps us locked away from our potential – our chance to do all we can and enjoy all we can with our one, precious life.

What is your perspective on journaling? Do you fear that someone may read what you write? What would you say to yourself, the journaling one, if you could?

3 thoughts on “The Thrown Away Journals

  1. Dear Daughter, the more I read your words, the more I realize we have in common. I started writing from an early age as well. My father left was I was 12, and it was the first time I felt more pain than I knew what I do with. I remember sitting in my room by my little pink light, and writing my first poem: “Oh, How I Miss You So.” From there, my fire for writing only grew. I grew up in an abusive, unstable home and like you, my mother and step father would often read my journals, even going so far as to cross things out, rip out pages, and write words of their own. It was devastating. Over the years I filled many journals, and when it came time to move, I found myself carrying literal baggage through the airport. One day, I set that duffle bag full of my teenage hurt out by the curb, never to see it again. While it was cathartic in some way, some says I regretted it and would like to revisit them. As an adult, I journal less and blog more. I do keep a journal of letters for my son so that one day he may better understand me, but somehow going public has been more healing than anything else. Keep writing. ♡

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    1. Dear Deskraven,
      I agree that we seem to have much in common:) Did you keep your poems, or did you throw those away as well? I love that you were able to express your hurt through poetry. Although I threw away my journals, my mom kept a folder of my first poems which I wrote in middle school. One of my favorites ended with the same verb that my first blog post began… it felt very meaningful when I noticed this. I find something special about writing in a public space as well & I look forward to reading your posts. Thank you for the encouragement 🙂

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      1. Lara, you are most welcome! My poems are published on an online forum called AllPoetry.com where they sit unattended to. But I leave them there for when the day it overcomes me to finally edit and re-publish them. I admit, I have fallen away from poetry but I still enjoy it. Looking forward to you next post, as it seems plausible I could have very well written it myself. I wish you continued peace and healing in your journey!

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