I recently burned 18 years worth of journals.
These were all books I’ve been saving from high school through 2012. I once drove them cross country, with them taking up more space in my small car than almost all my other possessions combined.
I burned all except two or three out of the nearly two decades’ worth of personal writing, most of it done daily as journalling, sketching/collaging or morning pages. The decision to burn my journals came as a surprise, even to me. Writing as a form of self-expression, creativity and life-processing has always been important to me, and I had a bunch of moving boxes full of journals as proof of my commitment. But all that’s gone now, all by choice.
A few months ago I went to my monthly meditation circle and the topic of the evening was letting go of the past. The facilitator talked about how important it is to let go of anything — physical or energetic — that ties us needlessly to the past, and how we need to let go if we ever hope to live in the present, or step untethered into our futures. When she suggested burning journals, I was horrified, but by the end of the session, I knew it was what I needed to do.
The process, which I did shortly after the start of the new year, was a lengthy one. It took two nights, using two different friends’ fireplaces/fire pits. And it was surprisingly easier than I expected.
I never really spent that much time re-reading my journals over the years, and often when I did, it wasn’t a fun-filled experience. I perused a few of the old journals as I prepared to let them all go, and can honestly say that I didn’t need to carry them around with me anymore. I realized that for me, journalling is a lot about processing the present moment, and that once a particular issue or experience is passed, I don’t need to hang on to my written processing of it anymore. Not to mention the enormous weight off my shoulders of fearing that someone would read them without my permission (and no one was getting permission). Years ago I dealt with the awful pain of that very specific betrayal — and now without the books, no more fear of trespassers. By liberating the pages, I liberated myself.
It was an arduous task to hand-disassemble each book, removing wire spiral bindings and bookcovers that wouldn’t burn cleanly. In a beautifully ironic twist of fate, I was able to give all the empty bookcovers to a friend who was going to be teaching a bookmaking and journalling class to a bunch of teen girls at her local Boys & Girls Club. I love the idea of those covers that have held my stories continuing to hold the precious chronicles of other girls’ lives.
Watching the pages turn into ashes in the flames, I realized that I was letting go of a lot of old stories, old identities, old habits, old patterns, and old MEs that I used to be. It was a thrilling, exciting experience to realize how far I’ve come since the days I wrote all those words, and I was filled with curiosity and wonder as I guessed at what the future will hold. It was very fortuitous timing to do this upon entering a New Year, but any special day will do: a full moon, birthday, Independence Day, or Journal-Liberation Day (you’ve got a calendar… make it up!)
I’m not sure that I’ll ever save that many journals ever again. They take up a ton of space! It’s likely that I will continue journaling throughout my life, but I bet it’ll be a lot easier moving forward to let each day live and pass away, as I give thanks for the experience and then gratefully let it go.Advertisements