Thoughts on Journaling

With the turn of the New Year so recently behind me & so many good intentions struggling to reach the top of my to-do list, there is something cathartic in writing the following: This time, I’ll be worse.  I’ll be late; I’ll be unorganized; I’ll be intemperate & I’ll be selfish.  After punishing myself for the last few days for being stuck in my old habits, it’s nice to have a temper tantrum, even if it is a written one.

I’ve noticed recently that I’m keeping two different types of journals.  One–a black plastic-covered volume with a succubus on the front–has all of my fond regrets, thoughtful frustrations & deeply-felt unhappinesses written out in cursive in a more eloquent, formal style than how I normally speak.  The other is a bright orange, laminated paper book labelled My Dysfunctions & contains lists of why I’ve decided to hate myself or anything else in terse, caustic, self-pitying language.

This is not the first time I’ve split my attentions or my types of writing across multiple pages.  (Case in point: you are here reading this public performance I stage for strangers & friends.)  Part of my would like to think that I’d have learned my lesson in the 25 years between my first journal & now.  I have constantly vowed to myself, “Ok, once I fill this one up, I’ll start the new one right.  Creative works, interesting dreams & mundane thoughts all put together in one journal, side-by-side like a sketchbook.”  But I never hold myself to it.  Instead, I put my detailed reading dissections in a huge green tome that gathers dust on my craft shelf, my creative seeds in a small portable two-way journal that stays in my purse, my actual drafts & workings in a leather bound book that lives in my secretary desk, my dreams in a dollar-store blank book with shitty, nearly-kindergarten-grade handwriting paper, & of course, the self-indulgent thoughts that are laid out in the two journals I mentioned above.

I go back & forth on why I spread my words all over the place.  Part of me likes have certain places for certain things, even when it takes more effort to maintain the order.  But also, journals have never been just places to purge one’s deepest emotions–at least to me.  Raised in a culture that valued written records & personal research, journals were held up as priceless documents that connected someone to another person in the past. & honestly, that sort of reasoning has not been unlike being told, as a kid, that God is always watching & judging every action & choice.  Someone else might pick up my journals & see my fights with my sisters?!  Or even worse, my secret crushes?!?!?!  No no no, hide the evidence, bury the key, no one is seeing these.  Not even because what they might read is that damaging, but because you can’t control your words anymore once they are rattling around another reader’s brain.  And I want to feel like my words are mine, even for a little while.

Maybe I’ll learn to loosen up in the future, maybe one day I’ll drop the protective act & have that great large integrated journal that’ll hold a more complete look into my perspective.  But I will say that I’ve held Nathaniel Hawthorne’s example of burning his own letters (& the copies he sent to his friends) throughout his life as a secret ambition.  I’ll be worse–I’ll be intemperate & selfish & no one will have any proof.