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Sunday, January 05, 2014


I loved reading these comments. Looks like we all thru a youthful angsty period. You are motivating me to toss some of mine. But I did find one Diary I kept when I was in the 7th grade. Apparently, I ripped out the 'best' pages, after I caught my mother reading my diary. Recently, I showed the book to my teenage grand-daughters. I really enjoyed watching them read what a silly dork their gramma was/is.

Oh, yes.... I totally get this revisiting old journals stuff! I started keeping a diary when I was about 9. That diary is filled with important things..... helped my sister and I figure out when certain things happened... now that our parents are gone. It has great value. I threw out the diary/journal from my 20's....too much angst for sure. I kept my journals in the form of calendars for many years in my 40's. Finally started art journaling in my 50's and I'm always aware that what I write may be read by a grandchild one day. I'm quite sure my children would throw them out.... I'm planning to cultivate a journaling grandchild along the way! ha I'm 64 now and greatly value my journals.... but I'm careful to protect my children's privacy as well... because it will be their children that read them if anyone does.

I was led to this blog by a google search result for "reading my old journals". I just happen to be doing that these days and wanted to see what someone else had written about the subject.

Why am I reading old journals? Because -- in my 60th year -- I am still working on a good answer to the question "Who am I?"

I'd been searching my memory for answers to what I really used to like to do, for paths not taken, for interests set on the shelf for possibly poor reasons. And then I got to wondering whether my memory was being selective, whether I was really remembering things the way they were. Or was I just pulling supposed interests out of thin air, when I hadn't really been all that interested in them (maybe they had been passing fancies, for example). Maybe I was just inventing old passions. Maybe I was taking an idea and injecting it into my memories of the past to justify a new direction, when at this point I'd rather be finally trying out some old thing that I'd always regretted not attempting.

Fortunately, I still have my journals. And, yes, a lot of them are filled with crap. The earlier ones, especially, from middle and high school are mostly "hey, this kid talked to me in the hall" or "oh, that kid looked at me when I got on the bus; I think I'm in love!" And later ones have pages of anxiety about jobs and bosses gone wrong, or about a marriage that died suddenly.

Yet here and there are promises to myself to start doing some particular thing; lists of stuff I'd like to try before I die; detailed descriptions of projects I'd sketched out in my mind but didn't have to time or funds to undertake at that moment in my life. By reading my old journals -- actually, I confess, by transcribing them into my laptop! -- I am starting to see patterns, recurring themes, old wishes that kept coming back too the surface again and again and again. These are things I want to focus on starting now. Yes, these are the things I always wanted to do, but had forgotten while busy with family and career.

Believing that the oldest truths are the truest ones, I think I am finding my personal oldest truths in the pages of my old journals. These truths tell me who I am. I'm glad I haven't thrown them out.

Oh, and thank you Mary Ann for the blog; thank you commenters for your insightful reactions.

Oh, I can't help responding to this. I've been keeping a journal since 4th grade. I would never throw one away, but I also don't think of them as art. I think of them as time travel. If I ever want to take a trip back to, say, my first year in college, I read one. I always recognize myself there, even if the experience is painful. So I don't do it very often, but I have actually learned a lot about myself by doing this. Most recently I have learned that I need to love those earlier versions of myself, with all their insecurities and self-absorptions. That is the real, human me. Embarassingly like all the other sometimes insecure, sometimes self-absorbed humans in the world.

What a wonderfully provoking thought exercise this is for anyone who keeps a journal! Thanks for making me jump out of my seat to yell out an answer.

My two cents..... For a number of years my pages consisted of a lot of whining, self-absorbed, self-pity, blah, blah, blah... because that's what I needed at that time in my life. And those pages of words and art probably saved my life. Now I've moved on to be able to see beauty all around me and appreciate the gifts I've been given. And those things are now what's reflected in my journals. And some day my kids will see my journals and know that my life wasn't perfect and I wasn't perfect, but I figured out how to work through it and have a good life.

I actually started out as a scrapbooker, and one of the things you quickly notice is that all the pages look like the Cleaver family holidays! Meanwhile my marriage was horrible, I had kids with special needs, I was terribly depressed and I lived in utter chaos. If those scrapbooks were the only legacy I left for my children they would never have known the real me. As everyone has said, it's totally a personal choice, but I want my boys to know who I really am, warts and all (okay, I might rip out A FEW pages! haha) MOSTLY uncensored.

The journals I will keep forever started out as one egg journal when I first (and last) raised chickens in the late 1970's and early 1980's. There were only about 5 lines per day and these journals turned into a hilarious read about city-girl in the country. When I did the morning pages thing, I never intended to re-read, but thought (and still think) that I will use the pages for the inside cover of homemade journals and fly-leafs...guess I don't need 10 years worth of that though . I just recently looked through the first 2 or 3 art journals I made in 2006 - NOT keepers...although I will keep some pages and guess I won't get around to culling those for a while. The problem is that we won't know until we get there what will amuse us when we languish in old age. Oh that explains everything - who is going to languish? thanks for this post

A few years ago I burned the pages from a number of old journals, trying to do so with gratitude, to honor the ever-evolving voice which is mine. I saved a handful and started making them into altered books... gessoing, painting, collaging, stitching. What started as sometimes angst-filled pages and other times words of affirmation and reflection morphed into a little family of very different entities which I find quite meaningful. It's an ongoing process to which I return from time to time, an exploration if you will, and a regeneration.
I appreciate all who have commented here. In particular I respect your consistent and sustained commitment, Mary Ann, in sharing your life, thoughts, art in such a way and stimulating the conversation. As for your response to Kate's comment of 7 Jan 1:46pm, I feel we are often a profound mystery to ourselves as well which can be scary or incredibly magical, with moments of luminous shimmering insight or perhaps simple profound appreciation of the mystery. I have come to realize that I don't need to know all the answers or even all the questions.

Oh, and Happy birthday!

I've kept a journal since I was 11 and I am three weeks older than you. After a while the whiney journals get really old (teenage years and 20's). I destroyed them. I've kept all of the journals that I have created since my son was born--(He's 14). They are full of him and my experience of the world around me, creative ideas, pics of things I've made, passages from things I'm reading. I don't know if a future self will get rid of them. I'll have to live into that.

we had a flood several years ago and most of my journals got very wet. still, i could not throw them out. the ink has washed from many of the pages. but i could not throw them out. one is even moldy. all are dirty because i laid them on the lawn to dry and left them there too long. i reread mine all the time and find them really valuable. if anyone should throw out a journal it should be me and my moldy ones, but i just can't part with them.

never re-read my old completed written journals, started in 4th grade as spy notebooks a la Harriet the Spy ... never looked back through the visual journals I started keeping 8 years ago. Realized it's the process - whether in writing or paint/messes - just letting it go in whatever form. I threw away all my early journals up to/including those written through age 30, then again at 40, then again at 50, and now I just keep the current one and one 'back issue' at a time, whether written or visual. My sons have pretty much declared they aren't interested whatsoever in READING old journals, though they 'might look through the painted ones' ... feh, I'm just using these books and pages to figure myself out as I go, not for posterity or any sort of 'legacy' (which admittedly I thought the journals would be, for years) ... I feel so much lighter and at ease just shredding or burning the old ones, like shedding skins, nothing holding me in any mental periods/places.

hi....I kept some journals off-on in the late 90's and early into this century....some I thought were good reflections, but where I was angry at someone....and wrote some seriously critical things....I made the decision to toss those journals. After experiencing the times around a parents'/partner's/dear friend's death.....when its the end....those thoughts are not helpful. I am not buying into the saying "time heals all wounds" totally, but I do believe re-discover of thoughts often are too painful. So, to say if I found my mother's journal about a time when she was mad at me when I was 16 (and today I am 57).... I would be sad.....but since I didn't find any of those journals, I can reflect back on my youth & mother with good, loving memories. Journal writing about myself & how to approach/improve situations, those are good ones to keep....because life is always a learning process. Holly

By the way, my own journals serve as a tool for showing me exactly where I let myself down. I like my heart, but my follow through sucks.

I love reading about the girl my mum once was. As a child she was so sweet and just precious, her mind fluttering about with an imagination lost on adults. As a teen she was terribly cool for being so g-rated, a wonderful glimpse of the lady she would become. Now as a mum her wisdom is vast, her manner perfect, and her love for those around her intense. I wouldn't throw out a thing.

Hold on... I think Hoarders is at my door.

If I really am in a masochistic mood, I will re-read my painstakingly written journals from junior high school - and high school - and college. They are a chronicle of shallow angst and boy angst, and are just so...awful. But I cannot quite bring myself to just pitch them yet...perhaps i still need reminding just how far I've come. But yet, how far I still have yet to go. Glad I'm not that person anymore!

My dear Mary Ann. this post was very important to me. When I moved from Detroit to Henderson, NV 6 years ago, I destroyed all journals I had kept for years. As I read through them, they all sounded the same and like an old blues song. Since I was moving to a new location to have a new lease on life, I did not want to carry this needless baggage with me. I have done a lot of work to heal my spirit so I needed a fresh start. For the past 6 years, I have journaled as I travel and during Lent as I work through 40 day journals. The words in these books are more in line with where my life and spirit is today.

I have started learning the art of art journalling. It is a slow process, but one that I truly enjoy. I have to silence the negative speak in my head so that I will not judge the art I create and just enjoy what I produce. Thanks for opening my eyes with this post.

Dear Mary Ann, this blog post has been on my mind for days. I have enjoyed the variety of comments. I kept a few diaries
starting in my teens and into my forties. My entries were sporadic,ranging from life events to daily trivialities. But without fail,when
I would go back and read them they were just words. The memories never sprang to life. Here is where it gets all 'twilight zone'......
the occasions I recorded my dreams would instantly play back like a movie!!!
I work in the medical field and had a conversation with a neurologist about this and was informed that memory is very,very
complex. The doc said it is still a huge mystery and that just as each human is unique,brain function is highly individualized.
So, I quit trying to journal and have devoted myself to my sketchbooks. I record my dreams in and around my drawings. As you say,
we are all a mystery to each other and ourselves!!
Missy from the bayou

Wow, that was a great post and I'm also loving reading the comments from everyone as well. I have a collection of old journals from before I started making art journals. I have some old daytimers from my early 20's as well. Wish I knew what happened to the diary I kept in junior high, would love to read those (mostly puppy love angst) entries. Love the idea of labelling them with start dates, MA, as I need to gather mine all together in one spot and see what I've got, have a read through. My grandmother kept diaries and made my mother swear she would throw them out without reading them once Grandma died, which as far as I know, Mom did but I'm secretly hoping she might have kept them and that I will find them one day! I have a little diary written in Portugese that I picked up at a flea market once, need to find someone to translate it for me. I have found old letters at antique shops etc., love having those little peeks into other people's lives!

I love the idea of graphic journals filled with all sorts of things, and I love the idea of keeping such journals throughout one's life - I haven't, sad to say. I wish I had kept my childhood diaries. I'm very glad I chucked my teenage ones.

Retaining or tossing out our journals is a very personal thing, as many have pointed out. Evidence indicates Anne Frank expected her diary to be read, but she couldn't know that her everyday writings would put a face to a hideous event so unimaginable in scope our minds can hardly grasp it. But we met her in those pages and therefore were touched to the heart by her loss, and by extension, the loss of so many others. White males have largely written our histories, so the everyday journals of women often tell a truer story of life in a given time. Who knows what our journals will reveal in 500 years to their readers? The other side of the equation is the painful stuff that's read by those who weren't intended to see it (or maybe they were).

Journaling can be healing, a wonderful means of self-expression and discovery. Too much wallowing in "poop storms", not so good. You want to float the ship, not sink it.

Words are powerful. When we speak them or write them, they leave the safety of our minds and fly out into the world. How much control do we want to retain over our written words?

Happy Birthday, Mary Ann! I wish you life's joys and many happy, creative adventures, with some wild dreams thrown in. You're a gift to us!

wow, that lots of writing! I applaud you for writing all those years. I've never been able to write honestly- I just can't do it with the thought that someone else will get there hands on it. Maybe that's why the whole visual journaling with limited wording has such an appeal to me. Just don't want negative or private stuff leading a paper trail! Especially after having a child! My adventures are grand and many, but nothing I need to leave for her to read! lol. I envy those who don't censor themselves but I just can't do it. Maybe that's why I'm addicted to very honest, raw memoir reading...love the openness. Wishing you a most fabulous 51st Mary Ann!

Nevermind what's in a journal, sometimes I just kind of get off on journals themselves with all their shapes, sizes, textures, colors - all stacked up in cool stacky stacks!

I am impressed that you culled your journal stash. I've not had the balls (or time) to do that (yet). My journals start at about age 16, and those truly are awful, all words and teen shallow-ness. I started with images at about 22. I have no kids really who would want to read these books, and I have about half a dozen of them that are just me being snarky and pissed off at my husband. I guess I'll want to cull them all down at some point, but I am 56 this year, and it still doesn't feel quite the time yet. Perhaps there will be some college somewhere who will want my art quilts and journals, but perhaps they will all just get sold at a garage sale, who knows? Thanks for your post - I loved the class I took from you! Great blogging. Rose.

"There are a lot of ways to be truthful and not all of them involve gut wrenching psychological poop storms."

At least not all day every day.

:-) (lol................)

"I'm being deliberate about the kind of stories I want the next 20 years of journals to tell. When reading all of the old stuff I took mental notes of things that felt good to re-read. Things that felt inconsequential when I wrote them, but now I can see their value. And of course I paid attention to the sorts of things that I read with one eye shut. I'm writing a story for my future self after all. Too much existential angst and the whole thing turns into a dull repetitive read. Too much processing and analyzing and it becomes a self-help manual. Too much drivel and there's nothing to sink your teeth into. Too much ranting and it's a manifesto. Too much positive thinking and you've got yourself a toothache."

Amen, sister.

The older I get, the more convinced I am that one of the Great Truths is -- Balance is Everything............

I agree with getting rid of dreck. We have only so much room in our homes/minds/hearts............. No space (or time) for dreck, whenever we get to choose.

One last thought -- might I suggest a shredder? I shudder at the idea of anyone else reading some of what I've written in the past.......................

This post (and the comment section) is making me hyper-ventilate. Tossing journals out? Burning them? Argghhhhh!!! I'm not sentimental about stuff in general but it would never occur to me to get rid of any the journals I've been keeping since I was 12. Are they annoying, self-righteous and indulgent? Hell yes! But will I ever be 12 or 17 or 22 again? No. I don't find re-reading them depressing at all, they give perspective on a past internal life and help me realize how far I've come. What Jacki wrote in a comment above really resonated with me: "I am less judgmental and a bit kinder to the younger me, she tried".

But then again, I go to yard sales and buy other people's journals if I find them, so maybe I'm not the best one to assess the merits of keeping /destroying journals. Alright, maybe I'm a journal hoarder and have a wee bit of a problem. With the proper help, maybe I too can reach for the gas can and lighter and toss my rants into the fire.

Then again, maybe not.

Ah Kate I never imagined 10 years ago those visual journals would see the light of day. Not until they were published did I realize what I had done. It used to be a source of embarrassment but now a decade since they were written I dont care. There is a Charles dickens quote that I love and I cannot remember it perfectly but something like ...each human creature is a profound secret mystery to every other. I think of it often when I think I have gotten to know someone and even when I havent.

I was just reading the comments and had the urge to stick up for all of those whiny, sad, pessimistic, negative journal writings! That type of writing does have a purpose. I know winging on the paper had done me service in my life. And I feel for that sad, lost girl that I was (and rejoice that she's landed here, where I am now! ) But maybe those journals have a expiration date. Like flowers they turn into dusty seeds for another life? Or maybe like salad they grow moldy and stinky and you have to clean out the fridge? Dunno. Just thinking out loud....

I've never been able to keep a journal even tho' I have several that remain empty. At age 74 I don't think I'll be starting one either. I do enjoy leafing thru your art journals, travel journals though. Most of the postings are positive and about enjoying where you are and what you're doing/sharing at a particular time. It's uplifting to be able to see the world through your eyes and to read about your about your adventures. That's the stuff to savor. Bliss comes in smaller doses than trials and tribulations. We need the joyful moments to carry us through the difficult times.

MA, a while back, long after I'd become a big fan of yours, I saw some journal pages of yours in a book that collected up journal pages from a bunch of cool artists and creators....(can't remember the book name....1,000 Pages?) I strove, strove, strove to read the tiny print you'd actually written (after I'd admired the big picture, which was the main intent of the collection). Anyways, you expressed some longings and discontentedness. Since I was reading this little morsel long, long after you'd written it, I was thrilled to see that you'd achieved what, in this older journal, you'd been longing for. It was (and still is) a great motivator for me. You seem to be always moving forward, filled with new ideas and, most importantly, working hard to achieve your goals. Thanks for being so inspirational.

THIS is a great post!!! I am 67, after downsizing and tossing the "anger and disappointment" writings, I have focused more on the sketch or art side of journaling, with smaller expressions if needed in the anger or disappointed area, so as not to blow away someone who might read it later.....like my mother in law's letters who I really tried to please, but since I married her only son, seemed to have the need to write about her disappointment of me and her "poor son". Well, who had to clean her house after her death? Me...and my husband...so finding those writings were a shock since I tried so hard, even building her a house nearer to us etc....I was so angered I threw them at the wall and left the rest of the cleaning etc to her son...my hubby, who sweetly abliged! WELL, WITH THAT MEMORY....I decided to throw away all MY anger and disappointment writings.....because who needs them beyond the the time I wrote them to get them off my chest anyway? No one. I also liked what Gretchen wrote. I would occasionally read my old letters of hurt or whatever and it never lifted me to a better place...so they were left in the past and done with...and mostly healed anyway...and besides, if I counted how many letters (DRAWERS FULL) there were as to how many days of my life there are, they wouldn't represent a tiny percent of my life, just like my mother in law's letters and yet after reading them they stick with you soooo long. So I have unglued all of letters from my life and only kept drawings and color and fun....some valuable writings (like when my Mom was dying) others, and some hurt but in a more tolerable way for others to read in the future. They already know me anyway!! I still journal or write when I am mad or disappointed but they go in the trash right after....sometimes I paint OVER them to bury them and replace them with a better life on top, which I can choose inside for myself....we are each unique, not one single other person in the whole world exactly like us...not one, so celebrate the gift of who you are, quirky-ness and all and above all be honest to yourself and even be able to laugh at yourself more....that is what I am doing more today with journals! AND BESIDES...I talk too much and the drawings are much more interesting....even to me!!! Ha!

Hi :-)
This is a great post for journalers! Hope you don't mind my sharing it on my Christian Journaling Yahoo group! Ignore the restricted group part...Yahoo glitches we can't seem to fix yet

You've inspired me to go look in my garage for my old box of journals. I kept them on steno pads in my 20's, spirals notebooks in my 30's and nicer journals in my 40's. Now a days I just paint in them and only occasionally write some odd insight. I never thought about writing to my future self. You just are full of great ideas. Thanks!

One of the best journals I have ever seen is a little canvas-covered small book the says "Diary" on the front, written in my Father's hand. It is a daily journal written while he served on S.S. Santa Barbara for the Merchant Marine in World War II.
It lasts for 164 days and covers the travels they (the men) took on this ship to many, many islands and ports to drop off fuel and provisions to others. It is written in the form of a love letter to my mother and me. From this diary, I can see what he ate, what he thought and where he went. I also can see how much he missed my mother and myself. Every Sunday, he wrote that he wished he was at home, in bed, reading the funny papers with 'Mummy and Sandy'. The diary contains his day-to-day duties, some of them not glamourous, but it has given me information galore. I treasure it.
So maybe some diaries or journals don't look exciting at first glance, but boy, they sure are!
Thay are a picture of a journey-a place in time.

Rereading old journals was a life lesson for me, too. I saw that I focused way too much on the bad, the unchangeable past and not enough on the simple things, the day-to-day joyful things. Not the big, big events, just the stuff that makes a quiet day shine. The whole flock of evening grosbeaks that took a break in the lilac by the back gate and let me really get a good look at those amazing green beaks. The grandchild pointedly pointing out to me that the candy store at the end of the alley had "canny in there, gramma! Canny in there!" Those kinds of entries are the ones I enjoy reliving. And my travel journals, of course. I do love to reread my travel journals! I'm currently writing an entry for the cancelled flights today and the sad fact that I don't (now) leave for India until Wednesday afternoon. The lost two days I *was* going to spend on the beach in Chennai. But that's travel....be a willow---bend! I learned how to do that more easily and effectively through rereading my journals and realizing that huge expenditures of energy and angst over things you can't change are just stupid.

I have carved a rubber stamp for myself that reads "feckless whining." I use it with abandon when rereading journals....just stamp the heck out of whining and drivel. The next time I reread a particular journal and I come to pages with the stamped warning, I just skim over them and move on to richer reading. I heard the phrase on NPR years ago, used by a gentleman complaining about something. Such a good phrase. Too bad I still do too much "feckless whining."

Happy reading!


Every now and then one needs to do some weeding. Good on you for diving in and giving yourself the gift of clearing space for the next batch of journals. May you continue to grow, evolve, laugh and keep things fresh. Happy Birthday!!

One thing I've always liked about you MA, is your honesty. Isn't it wonderful to finally understand that you have the "ability to know when I was being neurotic or pathetic."

love this post! I'm with ya! Lots of angst in my younger years. And I did follow the trend of writing it down. Now, I don't care to relive it. Truth be told I read it now and think "Gawd, what a pile of horse hockey." I've been meaning to toss so family doesn't find it (hahaha) so thanks for the prod. Glad you found the Daniel LaPorte post. I'd read it and mostly agreed with her. I'm not real big at sharing my emotional workings any more. More at peace now. Husband gets to hear any "drama" that might crop up but he has to live with the emotional overflow. Not too good at small talk either. Sheesh. I sound boring. I do like to laugh. A lot! So I tend to write comedic stuff. Husband calls me eccentric. Sounds good to me!

People who Facebook can have similar experiences in housecleaning there. Often less thought is given to momentary blurting. It is a lovely exercise in humility.
When I first read your discarding plan, my immediate reaction (no thinking at all) was "Oh no!!", but then perhaps a leveler head intervened and I felt , "Why not?!"
Good for you.
Any time we are able to shake away some of our own preciousness, is a good one.

At 61, I have a lifetime of regrets but one of my biggest regrets is not keeping a journal especially when I was younger....something to prod the memory when it starts to fade. Perhaps, I can dig out my old photos and try to piece something together but it will already be tainted by fading memories.

I chucked all my journals in my late 30's for some of the some reasons as many here have shared-whiney, overwrought, psycho-babble. It felt so good and I have never been sorry. it was liberating. Now I keep lightly keep track of most days in a small calendar book- just a few words, or an event. It helps me keep track of my personal time line. I add a sketch or two, or paste in something, of a swipe of paint. Love it. In my writing journal I am jotting down certain enduring memories, some family history, funny stories from growing up, hoping my daughter will find them interesting and help her connect to my family as she is the youngest of all the cousins and my parents are gone. Like Mary Ann, I am a better editor now; what gets in is more carefully chosen.

Thank YOU so very much for sharing this...I did the same thing quite a few years ago, shortly after I'd re-married...my early journals were such a load of crap, truths yes, but of vital importance, that would be a big fat, nada, nothing to be gained other than the fact that they represented my love of documentation and of releasing stuff from the many corners and hiding places of my mind. I chucked them without a second glance. I kept only 2 journals from those years; journals kept from 2 summers of working at a horse riding camp in Michigan as a counselor. Those were worth keeping; the camp hired exchange students from around the world, I'd worked with folks from the UK, Netherlands, France and Australia. It was an awesome time. The writing in them is crappy, and pointless but some the memories they conjure up, I can't replicate. I'd like to revise them into something new but I've just not had the desire to dig into it but someday I might...or might just leave them as is, either way it is wonderful knowing others toss old journals too...that is comforting to know. The journals I've kept in the last 10 years or so are so much richer and full which is a testament to be older and wiser. Those will be the journals my daughters will have to find and discover. Those are the journals that hold the best of me in splashes of paint, ripped papers, words, quotes, and anything else I want to capture. Happy 51 Mary Ann, I share that day with ya and am going on 55 so you are still a youngun sweet woman of ink, pen, glue and paper.

I'm not a regular journaler. The ones I have kept are mostly during (yep) the angsty times in my life. They make me so nervous to reread that I've added a disclaimer to the first page in case I die and someone reads them without explanation! I know, I know, so weird! I know I'll have to rid myself and the world of these at some point. Keeping the visual journal is the way to go. I'm in an Art Journal group, but am not consistent enough about adding to the journals. New Year's Resolution! :)

A while back found my Grandfather's diary when he was a prisoner of war during WWII....very small with pencil writing , very concise, full of worries for his family ... Not an extraordinary literary little book but taken into context so poignant...I do keep diaries , now I know where it comes from...Never read them back as I am an old lady who came here as an immigrant,many many years ago.... I do want my family to know how it was trying to create a life for them all....Yes it has simple things but life is made of them...

Annie v.

When my Mother-in-law died, I found some diaries and thought I would learn more about her. All the interesting stuff was in short hand or "code" - but I did learn about the weather and how often she did laundry and other amazing stuff. I think she was afraid that someone would read them (like me).

After having gone through a rough time when both of my girls were out of the nest and providing my own therapy writing morning pages that were probable pathetic, I have given up journal writing.My blog is a journal of sorts. I write it and don't print it and usually don't read it again. I am too old to worry about the past; the present and the future keep me busy enough, I have decided. You must realize, however, that I am far older than you.

kelly THANK YOU for that fabulous link. http://www.daniellelaporte.com/why-i-burned-my-journals-celebrate-my-insignificance/
i could not agree more with every. single. word. she writes on this subject.
i have never found sherpa-ing around the past very useful.

naturally i only advocate for myself and what is best for me. each person has to do what is right for them.

MaryAnn...I loved reading about your journaling over the years. You have such clear insights about yourself over the years. Great post! You are a great writer. I very seldom wrote down my thoughts when I was younger. Now, I find that I like writing my thoughts and ideas down (blogging has helped me)...plus, I'm getting to the age that my memory isn't as good as it used to be...ha!

What a wonderful posting and growing collection of comments today. I kept both written journals and sketchbooks for decades. The 'written journal keeping' stopped for me when I hit around 40 ( I am 56 now ) while the sketchbooks not only continued but blossomed. It took me some time to realize that rereading the written journals only made me cringe with my negative thought patterns and self centered rants- I felt more depressed after reading them then when I actually wrote them, I think! I would die a hundred deaths to have someone find one and read it, for them to think that I was that shallow, sad, boring and completely unable to see the beauty in the world. They served their purpose at one time but now I know that happiness is a choice; and so I burned them all in the fireplace one New Year's eve and never looked back- such a cleansing of the soul; such relief; such lightness! My sketchbooks however, even those ironically kept during those same "journaling" years, have all been kept and are filled with the things I really want to remember in this one short life we have been blessed with . I delight in rereading them and the joy I found and still find in making/keeping them seems to translate to every page spread ( whether my talents have enabled me to produce a winning page or not! ). I want my sketchbooks to call to me (and they do) - to come relive what moved my heart so at the time that I needed to record it- whether my artistic talents were up to the task or not. My written journals were merely purges- not meant to kept or reread by me or anyone else ( I see that now ); but my sketchbooks? Ah... upon their pages I see what a beautiful life I have, wonky perspective and all; and that is what I wish to keep.
My sketchbooks are like an external hardrive for my heart- if it ever crashes, I can go back and reinstall the heartware.
~ gretchen

From a different angle: I’m re-reading Terry Tempest Williams’ "When Women Were Birds: 54 variations on voice"… After her mother’s death, the author sits down to read the many journals that her mother bequeathed to her as she was dying…finding them all empty, blank. I find it fascinating as the author tries to fill in the blank spaces. It sparks my imagination as I consider my own mother’s unwritten thoughts. I don't know what to do with my own journals--so I appreciate your post and the comments.

I've kept a journal for over 40 years. I've had two major "tosses" over the years, usually when packing for a move. I've never missed those tossed. Currently I have a large plastic bin in my closet where I toss my morning pages journals. Last week I glanced through 2013 journals, pulling ideas I want to take into 2014. I doubt I'll re-read any of these again ... but for now all those thoughts, feelings and ideas are safely stored away. I have considered starting with the oldest and gesso-ing the pages for art purposes. Happy early birthday to a fellow Capricorn!

Oh, and for all the commenters who are deliberating throwing away their old journals, I really enjoyed Danielle LaPorte's post on this topic:

I consider myself a historian so I would never toss mine, but this post helped me understand why people do -- and it's great for giving yourself permission to pitch!

I love seeing all these! I'm currently working on journal 49. I started when I was 13 and have never stopped.

About a year ago I created an Excel file so I could keep all the books straight. I'm working on a memoir, so the spreadsheet has helped me quickly reference journal entries from certain time periods in my life. I loved the video you posted about the man who spends each New Year's creating an index of his journaling, but I've never figured out how to make that work for me.

I have old journals early twenties years and part of me feels like I should pitch them but I feel like it would be 'bad' somehow if I did. I really don't want anyone reading them except me - not my kids for sure...I think knowing that you think it would be best for all the reasons you mentioned has made me think too that pitching them would be best...they are certainly not the legacy i want my kids to read since it gives them a very incomplete and slightly lost picture of me...and sharing what you are experiencing with your mom, I would like to be able to have stories that I can re-read perhaps of who I was...Patti Digh 37 days, does so lovely story telling you might enjoy - she encourages folks to tell their stories for different reasons than perhaps your own, but nontheless...I am finding the draw to write more stories for my family so they don't get lost.

I have kept a journal since my kids were young..My life has been filled with both good times and bad to the point of drama, I have developed cancer while pregnant with my first child fortunately a simple surgery took care of it shortly after birth. Had Carbon Monoxide poisoning from a faulty generator and if my daughter did not wake and faint none of us would be alive today. A tornado hit our home spent the next year rebuilding. Along with all of this the trivial aspects of daily life that are much appreciated, the drama of opinionated family, and cute antics or milestones in my children's lives have been recorded. These journals have not been edited or censored. I am sure there are misspelled words and fragments. They are located in a hidden drawer and occasionally revisited. My prayer is that when I pass my children discover them. The journals will be read and they will understand mom for the first time. Know how strong my love for them is. It will generate memories that may have my children appreciate the life they will still have and where they came from. I know some of you want all of those memories that seem trivial gone but if you wrote them once they were important to you then. If the temptation to throw an old journal away is there think about what I have said. Once it is gone it is gone forever.

I keep them all: the good the bad and the ugly. Perhaps I'll need them as a memory aid? In recent years I have been "Mining" them for quotes and passages to include in current journals. I am working on a casual "timeline" of my life, and old journals help with forgotten events. Sometimes on a random day I'll search old volumes for entries of that date. I have found this about myself: no matter the year, the place, the world's workings: I have personal recurring cycles, and checking old journals reassures me even if the current cycle is not great. I WOULD SUGGEST that--if you must destroy them---you consider using them as the basis for current art journals. Gesso the pages, paste stuff over the words, rip pages and paste them on current journal pages. Do not hurry to destroy them: you are too young--in years and artistic achievements--to abandon such a rich vein.

Mine are buried in the attic so next time to go up there I should take them out and check them out. I never thought about rereading them and tossing them, but I suppose there's a few burning would be better. Or maybe that means its better to get rid of them before someone in in the future reads them. A few secrets are better buried. Or at least some of the entries.Not sure I want to get rid of them all though-there is something good to be said for most of those old posts- look how far you've come.

I'm doing the same thing. I've thrown out old sketchbooks especially, but only after tearing out a few "keepers", most were not. Journals are a bit harder to let go? A good feeling to let go. I feel the same about levels of writing. A very few were almost too good to be me and so surprising.
At 72, I am less judgmental and a bit kinder to the younger me, she tried. Love you blog Mary Ann.

Ah dear Mary Ann, this post comes at the perfect time for me and really hits the spot. I've been doing a journal/morning pages for about 15 years and recently started rereading them for the same date 10 years ago to see what lessons/information were useful/interesting now. I discovered that there was, in fact, very little of interest and it's made me rethink what I write about now that might be good to read in 10 years time. Your ideas in the last paragraph are therefore extremely useful!
As for throwing them away well I just couldn't. But then I find it hard to throw away the inside of a roll of toilet paper just in case I need it for a puppet theatre/magic trick/construction site.

When I do come across an old journal, I can hardly make out what I am writing about… often I do not remember the people I am mentioning or events. Luckily, I do not have many because they either get recycled or thrown out. These days, I use my written journals for collage in my visual journals. The reason I continue to journal is that writing is a part of how I process my experience and integrate it into who I am becoming. I write as honestly and sincerely as I can - this is part of my on-going contemplation of how to live a human life.

I love this post. I hate reading journals from when I was a teenager. Maybe I'm too critical of my younger self. Nowadays it's so easy to turn my journal entries into all about my kids. There's something in me that believes I have to document everything in their lives because they're growing up so fast, but I get lost. It's easy to lose myself there. You've put into motion wheels in my head, Mary Ann. I'll definitely be giving this more thought. Thank you!

I've gained such wonderful insight from all of your words. It seems that many people gained something from the process of writing but didn't need to actually hang onto the physical journal in many instances. What a perfect way of letting go. The only journal I have is from my early teens, and it gives my 13 yr old daughter great pleasure (me too) with the talk of crushes, etc.(can't let go of that prize). Sometimes I've regretted not recording the daily amazements of my now 13 and 15 yr olds when they were babes. But I have (what's left!) of my memory for those. That said, I do believe 2014 is the "Year of the Art Journal" for me. The possibilities are endless!

Happy Birthday Soon Mary Ann! xo

Happy (early) Birthday!
I've kept a journal since I was seven years old and not until I was in my mid 30's did I start keeping them. That's right, all those lovely notes to self and everyday stuff carefully taped and pasted-in were torn to pieces once the book was finished. It just always felt right to do it. To keep to myself forever what had been written and precious and saved for a time. When I was in my mid 30's it started to feel right to keep them and so I have. I'm not always sure the journals I keep now are as transparent as the ones that came before but I am very happy with them and this well-being informs every entry, photo, poem, and quote. In fact, the first journal I kept has a printed paragraph from your blog from a very long time ago - it's one where you were recounting a story you made up for the school monkeys about the mice that live on the roof tops of buildings in LA and how they use your cats for transportation sometimes and I printed it out because when the children ask you if it's true you say, "the hard to believe parts are the truest." and this phrase has been magical to me and applied in a 1,000 different circumstances in my life since, thank you xox

Several years ago I threw out 30+ years of journals, with no regrets -- except that now that I make books, I sure wish I'd had the foresight to keep those 8" square hardback covers! For years, on New Year's Eve, I would read the entire year's writings...until it became such a downer than I finally stopped doing that insane ritual. We do finally grow up and assimilate all that we need to and get on with it, and it becomes no longer important to read about our years of difficulties, which is what most of mine contained. So I say, good for you! You don't need to schlep that heavy baggage around with you any longer!

I pretty much loathe reading my old journals because they are full of complaint and sadness and blame. Now that I keep art journals, I enjoy going back and looking at years past. I am thinking of burning the whole lot when I turn 80. I have no children, so who in their right mind will want to see and read them?

Thank you MAM for a thoughtful and endearing post.

But I just thought of something. Recently I came across the journal I was keeping the year after my first young husband died suddenly shortly after our wedding. Yes, it was awful. To this day, when I read it, the rawest of emotions hits me like a brick. But I'm very glad I kept it. Milestones in one's life should be recorded, glorious or tragic. I wonder what it would have looked like had it been visual....something not being done much back then, and I certainly didn't think of it. (Not much of a scrapbooker in the traditional or newer sense.) I make this point only to say that maybe to be a good writer (memoir, anyone?) or diarist, one really either has to have real sadness or drama or the excellent writing skills to make them up. Otherwise it becomes "a today I did this" page after page. I remember a friend telling me how excited she was when she first heard she could look at the collection of diaries of newly-deceased aunt found in an attic. And how disappointed she was when it was nothing but many words of boring weather, grocery lists, and uneventful recordings of each day. ...(and yet, visually...I suppose that could be a description of mine - but visual! How fun.)

For all you above reasons that is why I do pictures only!

I was never able to be a good journaler when it was mostly words. For one thing, I tended to write only when I was pissed at something or someone, probably my husband most times. I was always bored with diaries; my life seemed to lack the drama of a good diary. It was only when I started recording things visually that I stuck with it. Still to this day I use many fewer words and depend on images - mine or others - to tell the story or express an emotion. As I look back into my visual journals going back to the late 90s, I find them very interesting, even though mostly they contained mundane news and snooze. I like to think I'm recording not only my life but The Life and Times Around Me and I like including events, comments, quotes, and sketches. It's fun. So fun. And, I think, Keepers.

I threw out 20 or so journals of angst and self pitying/psycho-babble drivel years ago and have never regretted it. So much energy spent in going over and over the same patterns and mistakes I always blamed on others.I don't know that it could have been different, maturity comes on it's own after mucking through so much shite, it just gets too much to continue. Art saved me, the image, the true picture, uncolored by words driven by shoulds and coulds and if only's. I still find it difficult to attach words to my art journals.
Thanks for posting this, your honesty always amazes me.

I long ago started tossing the angsty journals. They were soooo boring to revisit. I'm hoping the journals from the last 15 years or so are more interesting. I've noticed, when I started keeping journals I shared, I quit writing. I think it's time to keep a separate journal primarily for writing again. I love looking back at those. The little notes of how days were spent, small sketches, and bits pasted in are my favorite to see again.

I had a similar experience a few months ago. While cleaning out an armoire to transition it from fabric and art supplies to clothing, I cleaned out two shelves of old journals. I spent an evening leafing through most of them and chucked just about everything from college except one and then most of the ones from my mid 30's. I also ripped out some passages that were just about our children and experiences raising them as youngsters. But all of the socio economic drivel about women's roles and money and marital issues went in the shredder. I feel much lighter!

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