Friday, July 22, 2016

Diaries burned to ashes

A Facebook friend and I had an online discussion about our old diaries a couple of months ago; we agreed that we'd be better off getting rid of the diaries.  It wasn't so much that I was ashamed of the contents of the books, it's just that I'm not that person any more, and reading some of the trite things I had put in those various-sized journals embarrassed me.  I decided I would burn my diaries on the next full moon, and I swore to myself I wouldn't save anything.  

On June 20 at 4 A.M., I took my portable Amazon Tap to the back yard and got it playing Native American music, flutes playing softly and drums beating.  I then carried my armload of written works out.  Oh, there were some valuable things memory-wise, stories of things the grandchildren said when they were small, letters and kind notes and letters from friends and relatives, back when I was more gregarious and actually interacted with people.  Some of my fancier journals had pictures, greeting cards, and all kinds of mementoes taped and pasted inside, but I was relentless.  Whole books don't always burn very well, so I tore handfuls of pages out at a time and tossed them on the fire, making sure they burned to ashes.  In the light of the full moon, and by the light of the fire, I saw a few things that made me want to stop and pull them out, but I resisted temptation for the most part.  My daughter, for instance, had obviously spent lots of time and considerable money buying the most appropriate birthday and Mother's Day cards you can imagine.  At my age, it seems useless to keep stuff that people will have to sort through when I'm gone.  But seeing all those cards in the light of the moon as I burned them reminded me of a daughter's thoughtfulness.   

I burned until I was sick of sitting in the smoke coughing and then burned some more, but as the sun was coming up, I still had four diaries left.  I resolved to save them for the next full moon, which was last Tuesday.  This time I allowed myself to go through the pages and pull out a few pictures, but the remaining diaries were burned.  The deed is done, and I don't really feel a great loss.

My daughter wishes I hadn't done this, but as I told her, none of those writings represented who I am now.  Many of the lines I wrote seemed trite and self-centered.  Sometimes I ventured into criticizing individuals for one thing or another, and who wants that left behind them?  Also, many of my core beliefs and ideals have changed.  

It might not have been so easy to burn all those memories except for the fact that I've been journaling online since 2004.  Because this has been done in the public eye, I censored myself a lot; at this point in life, I feel that's a good thing.  I kept a lot of my personal feelings and beliefs unspoken, but I told many, many stories of my childhood, and even included my mom's "biography" in installments, at one point.  I certainly shared hundreds of pictures and stories of day-to-day activities in my online diary, things I had never bothered to write about in my old hand-written journals.  My two online blogs, as far as I'm concerned, will be here for my children and grandchildren long after I'm gone.  I like to surf through these entries and relive our motorcycle period, my horse-riding times, our antique-tractor-show travels, and all the other adventurous chapters of my life.  I have told many stories of my childhood in this blog.  I believe this is a much better sort of keepsake than those trite little jottings in the now-burned-to-ashes diaries.

So there you have it.  


ADB said...

I have gone through a similar process earlier this year, Donna, although I didn't burn stuff - I shredded it. Who wants to know what I was like 20, 30 years ago? Nah, me neither.

Celeste Sanders Holloway said...

Never did keep a paper diary. I don't think I wanted to remember

Jon said...

Donna, that was an extremely courageous thing to do - and I truly admire the unique, sacrificial way you chose to do it. The full moon is wonderful inspiration for such a momentous task.

I am extremely sentimental and my old journals and diaries meant EVERYTHING to me. Of course I wrote a lot of nonsense, and unnecessary drama,and - as you said - my thoughts and feelings are much different today than when I was young.
To me, my diaries were especially valuable because they documented my entire Hollywood history - my piano concerts, all the famous people I met, my love affairs....

Truthfully, I would MUCH rather have burned them than to have them lost by the movers when I came to Tennessee. I was shattered by this loss more than anyone will ever know.
At least you burned your efforts by choice.
Mine disappeared by the incompetence of other - and it really hurts.

As usual, my comment is too long, but I really liked your post.

Jon said...

I meant to say "by the incompetence of OTHERS", not "other". Sorry.

Sister--Three said...

I am sad that your words are no more. I wish you had just ripped out a few pages that you did not think needed to be read by others.
Have you ever read "vinegar pie and chicken bread". It is an old old diary.


A sad moment to say goodbye to your words. I too have said goodbye to some of mine in a similar way. So I understand completely why you did it.

Anita said...

Another blog friend wrote a post on destroying her journals. It was a few years ago, and I asked her more about the experience. She emailed me and I've saved her response.

I've begun the process, too. Not all at once, because I'm reading (it's rather funny), then destroying. Because time alone is limited, it's taking awhile. Actually, I forget most of the time, but posts like yours, and people mentioning "diaries" brings it back to my mind. I've shredded a couple years worth and have no regrets. I'm workingon cleanig the clutter from my home so that my kids won't have to deal with it, and the same applies with the journals. If they are gone, my kids won't have to be burdened with the ups and downs of my past life... nothing worthy of a book or movie, but... I like leaving them with the vision of being their mother.

I like the ceremonial way in which you did it! :)