What We Keep


Earlier this week, I wrote about burning my journals in a what I’ll call a ‘letting go’ ceremony and I received a wide array of responses.

A friend shared that when she told a group of writers that she let go of hers, there was a collective gasp.

Another tells me he understands, but wonders where I found the strength.

Another writes that she is inspired to let go of hers, but that she would keep the one where she meets and falls in love with her husband.

Tears streamed down my daughter’s face when she heard about it. She just couldn’t understand why I would do such a thing.

I spent the week reflecting on these reactions. It seems to me that some of my reasons for letting my diaries go are uniquely connected to writing personal narrative which is process-centered. Present tense oriented. Personal.

But there were other reasons and these were connected to what we keep and why. I found it an interesting exercise to think about what we hang onto and what we easily let go.

(For my writing students in search of a prompt, I urge you to try this one.)

It’s for the following reasons that I was moved to make such a permanent act:

They served their purpose and were taking up physical space in my home and psychic space in my life.

I’m not that girl anymore. (Thank you, Leslie, for the words.)

So much of the content was sullen, whiny or dull and it didn’t feel like good emotional feng shui to have that around.

They were locking me into one storyline.

Like paint palettes or mounds of clay, they weren’t fully formed. The pieces that came out of these found their way into finished work.

And finally, through this ritual, I’ve become aware that:

I’m more interested in writing words that remain true, that stand the test of time; the words that I will, consciously, leave behind.

Photo by Ellen Blum Barish.