Monday, November 23, 2015

Muddling Memoir: Journals

"Is there anything you'd like to include?" the attorney asks.

"I'm wondering if there's any way to ensure my journals are never read after my death," I say.

My husband and I have finally met with a professional to create a will. She adds a  note, but I'm certain it is insufficient. I know I need to destroy my own journals when the time is right. But when is right?

My first journal was a sister's gift as I departed on a solo Greyhound trip to California and flight to Mexico. The first entry reads 7-2-74. I was nineteen. I hold this journal here beside me as I scribble these words.
 I also have an overflowing storage bin crammed with others. These journals hold decades of secret thoughts, experiences, and emotions as well as the early scribbles of scenes for every book I've written. They are private and without them I could never have written those books.

Over the past months I transcribed the journals from the five years and five months I lived in Mexico City in the early 1980s. In the process, I discovered something interesting: a coming-of-age metaphor in a foreign city, the most populous city in the world at the time, a city that spoke a language I was only just learning.

My early entries are in English. As months passed, English mixed with Spanish, a word here, a sentence there. Toward the end of my life in Mexico, Spanish dominated my pages. Now I struggle not only to understand that younger me but also the language she mastered.

Without my journals, the thoughts and experiences of that girl would be lost. I'd venture to say that without those journals this woman would be lost as well, and this writer, certainly this memoirist, would not exist.

I live an examined life, but I do not want my unfiltered journals read by others. My rants and rages, my whining and whimpering, my gloating and bragging are private. But I am not yet ready to burn them. I need them. They are my memory, my path, my connection to a world, a language, a culture, a me, long forgotten. So, I ask they be destroyed when I die. Morbid? Perhaps. A viable safeguard? Probably not. Better than nothing? Maybe. In a perfect world, I will finish mining these journals before my time comes, and I will celebrate with a glorious backyard bonfire.

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mary rowen said...

I can totally relate, Arleen! Not that I've journaled anyway near the amount you have, but I also consider everything I've written privately to be private. I hope you're able to include such a clause in your will. And speaking of that, my hubby and I need to meet with an attorney to write our will too.

Danika Dinsmore said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Danika Dinsmore said...

I'm so glad I'm not the only one who thinks about this. I've thought of having them cremated with me, but how would I know that would happen? I don't think it's morbid at all. My journal writing is a way to "exorcise" my thoughts in a private space.

arleen said...

Thank you for reading and commenting Mary and Danika. It's great to know I'm not alone in these thoughts!