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sunshine cleaning

I’m very ambivalent about the books in this shelf. All the writing in them is mine. And what I’m about to say is going to make some of you explosively exclamatory, but I’m throwing them away.

Not right now. Right now I have too much to do, and the process will take time, for me. It doesn’t have to:

Even so, here I am, standing in front of the dumpster with four three-ring binders at my feet—one for every year of college. Each one guards reams of truly bad poetry. Angst-ridden musings. Unsent letters. One-sided assessments of wrong- and right-doings. All scrawled in illegible pencil. All peppered with “creative” spelling mistakes. The thought of my boys reading through these one day is too much to bear, memories be damned.

So I pitch the first one. I send it soaring through the air until it lands with a thump on the top of the heap. I launch the second, then pause before throwing the third and fourth ones. When I’m finished, I wipe my hands in a “that’s that” sort of motion before marching back into the house.

That’s just how it is sometimes. You have to force yourself to cut ties. All those dreams of writing…how I logged my experiences like a narcissist…the way I’m embarrassed by all of that now. Those journals just had to go. It was time.

—from Maura at 36x37.wordpress.com

For me, it will be a little bit of a process. A while ago I archived all the entries of the online journal I used from the time I lived in the house with the south parlor in New Mexico. I hit Delete on page after page. I had been slowing down in my writing there before my mom died, and then when I tried to write afterward, almost every comment made me upset in new and horrifying ways. I knew it was me and not the commenters, but I was too raw and there was too much that I couldn’t share with strangers. I reread a fair amount of that journal before I archived it, felt alternately pleased and horrified, and then let it go. If my hard drive crashed today I would have no copy of it anywhere. I know you can’t really hope to ever delete things from the internet—maybe someone copied something I wrote to their own hard drive, and if so I hope that they reread it later and realized that my middle name is Claptrap. 

Anyway, I will reread these journals before they go. And then I will burn up the paper shredder as I feed it my past. 

Today, I decided. After moving old journals for almost 20 years, the diaries of my high school and college years, and a few later, I decided to throw them away. Will I regret it? I don’t think so. By my nature, I’m not someone who lives in the past, or hangs on to it. And frankly, when I cracked open one of the journals, I was met with such a surge of discomfort, I couldn’t close it fast enough.

Now, please understand: This is not about denial or coating the past in a hard candy shell. I GO there. Ask anyone who knows me and they’ll tell you I process experiences the way the IRS likely processed Al Capone’s receipts. And maybe that’s why it pains me to read those passages. Knowing how deeply felt they were at the time I wrote them.

I know why I kept them so long. Because I truly believed one day I would be able to read them with detachment, with a new perspective, with a smile. But I’ve tried to revisit them for 20 years now, and I’ve come to the conclusion that I can’t.  

Then it occurs to me that I DO revisit my past when I write. How can we not as writers? We may write about people doing things we’ve never done, but chances are they feel what we’ve felt. And maybe that’s a sort of memoir in itself.

—From Erika Marks at erikamarks.wordpress.com, emphasis mine

I saw both of these posts many weeks ago, so many weeks ago that I no longer remember who pointed me in their direction. (If it was you, speak up!) And then I knew the time would come, once I wrote about them here and took this photo and picked a time. It feels like deciding which day the cat would have his last vet visit. June. With the curtains billowing and school done for a few months and the neighborhood noisy with life. I have my memories. It’s just the way I processed them, with all that anguish, that I don’t want to relive. And when you’re childfree you don’t pass things down to anyone else. The line stops with me.

One journal I will keep. Going from left to right, about three-quarters of the way across the image, you’ll see one with a peachy-coral spine. Myron bought me that journal when we were engaged, and I didn’t start writing in it until after the wedding. It’s beautiful, with lovely paper that takes ink like flowers take sunshine. I write in it only occasionally, as a sort of “state of the union” to document where things are with us. It’s got many, many pages left to fill, and I write in it differently than I did all those others. But the rest have served their purpose. I bled on their pages, and now I look away from the scene as I would any other bloody tragedy. Now they can go.