keeping a record

I am an obsessive journal-keeper. Always have been. For most of my life, the record I kept was pretty banal: the minutia of daily life turned into faith promoting stories. There came a point several years ago when my journaling changed, I was working out serious life questions and no longer had what it took to write out nice safe faith promoting endings. It all became very raw. There were no answers (definitely none of the expected, prescribed answers one was supposed to find when ‘searching’). At a certain point, I realized my journals were… dangerous? Meaning, I was no longer safe if anyone happened to pick one one and snoop. Well, I never would have been too thrilled to know someone had snooped in my journal, but now it was full of deep dark secret questions that I felt I really wasn’t supposed to be asking, that I didn’t want anyone to know I was asking. Dangerous.

The typical Sunday School line about journal keeping is that it is for posterity’s sake, we are to keep records like Nephi kept records; faith, testimony, guidance for future generations blah blah blah…

I keep a journal as the last line of defense against insanity. I cringe at the thought of others reading these raw, misspelled, grammatically incorrect ravings of a mad woman, utterly un-prep-ed for public consumption.

Also I journal much more during my low times, therefore my book has very few puppies & rainbows kind of entries.  Mostly gloom and pain. Reminds me of a quote from The Hobbit:

“.. but things that are good to have and days that are good to spend are soon told about, and not much listened to; while things that are uncomfortable palpitating, and even gruesome, may make a good tale and take a good deal of telling anyways.”

I joke about having these dark dangerous ramblings all burned when I die. But truth be told, I love these books so much, I don’t think I’d have the heart to. It’s all part of the weird narcissism that urges me to record these things in the first place. Which reminds me of another quote, one by Simone DeBeauvoir which I scribbled on the first page of my journal as a sort of warning/reality check to myself:

“Her Memories become fixed, her behavior stereotyped; she reiterates words, she repeats histrionics that have gradually lost all context, hence, the poverty of many diaries and autobiographies written by women; wholly occupied in burning incense to herself.”

Anyhoo…. that’s me. Do you keep a journal? What purpose does it serve in your life?

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12 Responses

  1. Two of Three says:

    I now hide my journal for the first time in my life. I was never very faithful to it until I started having doubts about the religion I adopted 20 years ago. I started writing more when I told my (non LDS) sister about these doubts and my secret desire to explore other faiths. She asked “Will your children ever know who you truly are?” It started me on the path of journal writing. For my posterity. So they, someday, will know who I truly am.

  2. Caroline says:

    G, don’t count your journal out. 🙂 Nothing was more inspiring to me to find out about Mother Teresa’s doubts. That she persisted in doing awesome good, practicing radical love, and inspiring the world in spite of her feelings of being totally cut off from God. That’s heroism.

    I imagine there’s a good chance that your descendants will likewise appreciate the complex, generous, and thoughtful person that your life and your writings show you to be.

    Personally, i don’t keep a journal. But I do blog at Exponent. I figure these writings will give my posterity an interesting snapshot of who I am at this point in my life.

  3. Journals are a great defense against insanity. And mahybe that’s their chief value. Our chidlren will be too busy or too uninterested to read our journals. Possibily a grandchild or great-grandchild with an unusual interest in history will read our journals someday–provided they don’t get thrown out in a move.

  4. Angie says:

    I’ve kept a journal since I was 11 years old, as far as I can remember. I still write down my ideas, experiences, thoughts, etc. But I’ve found that I’m all scattered because of technology!! In the last five years, here are all the places I’ve kept records of my life:

    -scrapbooks
    -traditional journals/blank books
    -myspace
    -facebook
    -a short-lived family blog
    -comments on other people’s blogs
    -a book that I use for recording funny things my kids say
    -a file on my computer that I call “Lessons Learned” where I record things I’ve learned about life at different stages (high school, college, dating, early marriage, early career, children, etc.)
    -a file where I record the dreams that my kids report in the morning
    -a file where I record events in the kids’ lives
    -a book I bought that guides you through a book of remembrance
    -iPhoto

    and on, and on, and on

    Sorry to list so many, but do you get the idea? Do any of you feel like little pieces of your life are recorded in all different places? If anybody ever does read about my life after it’s over, it will be a major research project!!!

  5. Angie says:

    Oh, and I am COMPLETELY HONEST in my journals – all my feelings, doubts, triumphs, worries, testimony – EVERYTHING. It’s partly on principle. I absolutely believe that it’s better to be honest and to deal with the truth instead of wasting energy on trying to hide stuff. But also, it’s because “something” in me tells me that my life is interesting the way it really is. Is that “something” a healthy ego, or just plain ego?!?!?!? 🙂

  6. MJK says:

    I have kept paper journals on and off since I was 8. I never did particularly well at keeping it for more than a few months at a time.

    Online journals, for me, Livejournal, were the best thing that ever happened to my journal-ing. I started in 2001. There are programs that will log and convert it all to text for you to save in another format. Not trying to promote that particular site – there are dozens of other free online blogs out there with different features and things. Since I know that I have people who want me to post regularly it keeps me writing more than I ever do on paper.

  7. jks says:

    I just went to the Tate Britain Gallery and they have a bunch of Turner paintings. Some of them are his “unfinished” works or sketches that he wanted destroyed at his death. There is beauty there in the unfinished work.

  8. CatherineWO says:

    I have written in journals of various forms (paper, computer, online) since I was very young. When my mother died nine years ago I inherited her journals (many volumes, all hand-written). She was achingly honest and some of it is not pretty, but I have such a respect for her willingness to put it all down. About a year or so ago I went back and read through much of what I have written in my own journals and realized that I glossed over most of the tough stuff. I prettied it up without even realizing I was doing it. So now I’m really trying to be more honest. I have to admit that it feels sooooo good to get all the emotion into words.
    However, my question is what to do with it all. What do I want people to think when I am gone? Or do I really care? Maybe reaching the point that I don’t care how people judge me, but I just want them to see the real me, is most important anyway. Too many questions. But thank you for the encouragement. It’s good to hear how others approach journaling. I will continue to write more honestly, just because it feels so much better.

  9. Hammie says:

    I always journal with posterity in mind. Because of that, I do tend to censor things a little bit.

    For example, I am feeling the urge to go journal right now because I’ve been feeling really glum the last few days (yep, no puppies and rainbows here either). I’m feeling all glum because of something really, really stupid my husband did. But I don’t want my posterity to know what that was, so I’m planning on phrasing it in my journal exactly how I phrased it here. But, I am usually perfectly honest about my feelings.

    I’m also a historian, and I’ve seen/done a few research projects based on reconstructing someone’s journal. I want my journal to be a great primary source one day, so I try to record stuff about major news items. Do you ever wonder how your grandparents felt about the Social Security Act in the 30s? Yeah. I want my kids to know that kind of stuff. 🙂

  10. ruby smith says:

    am grandmother is is raiseing her grandkids an haveing the best of my life .i hope that one day will learn and the value of life and will be respectful to throughs around.so am writing this because one day they will be able to read this and share with each others.please understand.as wewill be albe approve this letter and one day will thank me once again.i love my grand kids and family with love grand mom mama and papa

  11. ruby smith says:

    teijah is one bad sister and we dont no what to do with her …………..her mouth please can you please give me a break and wish us well …teijah can you please …bring the noise down some

  1. August 8, 2010

    […] of time…. I’m not sure. But it IS for my sanity, that’s for certain; a place to store the dangerous stuff, a way to bleed out the […]

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