Saturday, March 20, 2010

Dear Journal

The subject of journals came up at our book club meeting a few weeks ago. We had been discussing the book, “Sing Them Home” by Stephanie Kallos. A very long story about a dysfunctional family from Nebraska, that takes them from present, back through the past, and back up to the present again in some 600+ pages, paperback.

The story focuses on three children who watched as their mother was felled by MS, and who on the day of her planned suicide is swept up along with their home and the youngest child (a daughter) in a tornado. The mother’s body is never found but the child survives, having landed in the roots of an upturned tree. The mother’s story is told by way of her journal, pages of which somehow survived after being thrown in a fire the day of the suicide attempt (and retrieved by her daughter) and then swept up in the tornado.

A lively dialog took place about whether people should destroy their journal before their death (assuming one's timing is good), keep a journal after someone’s death, share one’s journal, or whether a survivor should share the stories found in a deceased relative’s journal. One of our members was adamant that she wanted no one to see her journal as she wrote it in times of great personal strife. She felt it wasn’t necessary for anyone to know these intimacies, but also feared them being taken out of context since the stories didn’t really reflect who she was today – but who she was during one specific period in her life.

Another told the story of a person she knew who died at a fairly young age, and excerpts of her journal were read by her children at her memorial service – something my friend thought was too intimate (I think) to be shared. Another member of our group has been journaling for years and has about six volumes completed. She is hoping her children will read it when she passes, thinking that maybe they will get some insight into who she really was.

I have only sporadically journaled. All during my catholic schools days we were encouraged to keep a journal. It was said that journaling would help with our writing and grammar. I never had the desire, and later never made the time.

After Doug passed and I cleaned out his stuff, I came across some old letters and drafts of letters he had written to his two ex-wives. I was quite shocked to see that these letters discussed marital issues they were having – the same issues with both wives – and the same issues he and I had been arguing over for years! Needless to say it left me in quite a state as we had been through counseling (he with his feet dragging), and then you learn that you had been trying to deal with things that would never be resolved. Maybe the lesson is, clean out anything you don’t want your surviving wife/partner to find!

At any rate, I started to journal then to get my head around what had transpired the last few years of our marriage, and how I was going to deal with my new found realization. I probably have that journal somewhere. Would I want someone to find it? I don’t think I care. During some of our trips, I have journaled – noting places we visited, restaurants where we dined, etc. I don’t think these would really interest anyone, nor would I be embarrassed for someone to find them. My blog is my journal, and I am happy to share what’s on my mind with anyone. I am amazed that people are interested. It is my release. I hope my daughter reads it and gets a little more insight into who her mother is. That is really what it is for. Oh, and maybe someday for the grandchildren that I may never know.

Do you journal? What do you want to happen with it, with your stories? Do you ever go back and reread what you wrote years ago? Maybe it would be a good exercise to go back and see where you’ve come from and how you’ve grown – or not.  Maybe it’s a good time to check to see if we continue to make the same mistakes.

Today is a beautiful day. Temperatures in the 70’s. I walked across the Ben Franklin Bridge this morning with our friend Susie. We then piled into C-Minor and took a lovely boat ride on the Delaware River. Tonight we have dinner at our friend Ann’s, a concert on Sunday and dinner with the family. It’s going to be another wonderful weekend.

Pictures taken today, courtesy of Susie - a marvelous photographer!


Lisa Ruff said...

I used to journal in high school and college, then stopped doing it regularly--I don't really know why. I do have a sketch-book/journal that I write in occasionally--mostly when I travel--more of an idea book, I suppose.

Now that I write all the time, I think I work out my 'issues' in a different way. I put those questions and concerns into a character's life and use others to work through the situation. Sort of like group therapy, lol.

Juan said...

I just finished ranting on your blog and read your latest post. I have never been into journaling. Didn't they call that keeping a diary in the old days?

I did set up a blog with the intent of retracing my life. Why? I spent a good portion of my life doing some very 'different' things and I have never taken the time to tell my family what exactly I was up to all those years. The blog is my way of telling them.

Mary B said...

Juan, I have asked myself why I blog... is it ego, narcissistic (sp?)? But I think it gives me purpose, helps me clear out my thoughts, forces to to look at things that I normally ignored or thought about and didn't verbalize, gives me a voice, and helps me focus on something other than cancer. I also love the dialog. Now that I am not working as much or networking, I fear I am becoming insular and miss the conversations.

Jennifer said...

Loved your post, Mary. I used to keep journals for trips and such. Now that most of my life is one long trip, the blog is the closest I get to journalling.

Barbara Gruenwald said...

Hi Mary and thanks for another interesting blog. I'm with you also on the last one. Hurray for passing of healthcare..too bad for all the ugliness.
I had a diary as a child (with a lock), but I was so afraid someone would read it, I tore it up. Now I can't even remember who I was back then!
I started a journal when I was pregnant with Lucas, but don't write in it as often as I should. Hopefully he'll enjoy it someday.
Your blog made me realize that no one really knows who we are in total - our friends and family know pieces. Would be nice to have a full journal of our lives as we evolve. I love reading biographies and always wondered how they remember so many detail of their past.
Can't wait to hear what's next!
Love, Barbara