“Burning the Evidence”

Oh, how this pains me!!!

I just burned 40 years’ worth of diaries. I didn’t plan to — or rather, I had always planned to, once I knew I was dying, or so old that I would soon lack the energy to gather wood. But I woke one morning and knew it was time to let it all go.

I yanked open the flue, started a small log fire and began laying on the books. They burned slowly, at first, reluctant. A few pages caught, charred edges smoldered across my handwriting, plumes of thick smoke funneled lazily into the chimney. Small hard-covered volumes, bound with thread and taped up the side, most of them from an old French stationer, their plasticized glossy lapis blue or turquoise covers shrank and shriveled. I had thought that color would keep away the evil eye. The eye that would pry. The eye that would judge.

I didn’t want anyone else reading my diaries, ever…

Read more at Burning Your Diaries – First Person – NYTimes.com.

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12 Responses to ““Burning the Evidence””

  1. ::shocked:: Wow, I don’t think I could ever burn my journals… I figure if anyone wants to read them after I’m gone, it’s their karma, not mine. :)

  2. No, no, no! Could not imagine ever burning my journals. So my kids will find out I wasn’t perfect, so what? But at least they’ll see I kept growing.

  3. I’m with you. What’s it going to hurt me for people to read them after I die? Still I don’t write bad things about family in my journals…I don’t want to go back and read that and I don’t want others to in the future. I think with a few simple “rules”, you don’t have to resort to this.

  4. I did this once years ago — for the wrong reason — and have deeply regretted it ever since. NEVER AGAIN! I now have 77 journals spanning the last 16 years. They will NOT be destroyed. They are in a safe place, and when I’m gone, my daughter and subsequent generations will read them and think, “Wow! Mom/Grandmama/ Ever-so-great Grandmama was quite a character!” I love that thought. I hope you don’t end up regretting destroying yours.

  5. Oh my… I’ve fantasized about doing this, but I imagine being outside throwing them on a huge bonfire– I wouldn’t want to have to clean up the “remains” in a fireplace! I think I’d like the rush of such a drastic and symbolic act, the freedom of letting go of the past (and some really lousy writing), the illusion of starting over. I’m amazed that people would ever want their kids reading their diaries someday—I don’t have kids, but if I did I would be horrified at the thought!

  6. While there’s volumes on my shelf that are very much worth preserving- memories of my daughter as a toddler, old pets long gone, snippets of conversation with departed loved ones- the older journals I wrote are full of self-important scribbles and depressing meditations pages long… They’re not me anymore. They’re like a skin I shed long ago. I can’t stomach reading them myself and would hate to think someone would read them and think it’s the real me. Yeah, I can seriously see throwing old journals on the fire. Writers who write obsessively about only themselves and the various wrongs done to them will eventually lose interest, but writing about the other people in your life and taking an interest in current events, is sure to be of relevance to future eyes.

  7. Felt, I agree with you. My journals are kind of a week-in-the-life kind of thing, but as I’ve gotten older, I’ve tried to include my philosophies and current events, things that make an impact in my life. I’ve also tried to include things that my niece and nephew have done, since they’re the apples of my eye. I’ve also chronicled my struggle with infertility…it’s painful to go back and read some of that stuff, but it’s who I am. What would the point even be of keeping a journal if it’s not for future generations. Yes, I keep them for my own memories, but for the future too.

  8. I have looked at old journals that I’ve kept over the years and I’m often more embarrassed at who I was than anything else. At first I think it’s nice to relive the memories, but the reality of the written word is often different from what you imagine in your head. Things aren’t as romantic or exciting as you remember. Sometimes it is nicer to have that false memory than a real log of the events.

    It must be a cathartic experience to burn your old journals like that and separate yourself even more from your past.

    It makes me wonder, though, about kids growing up today who have the ability to record so much of their social interactions in facebook, email, or texts, and who have the ability to take a snapshot in time with their cell phone. Nothing’s left to just memory any more. That makes me wonder if we’re missing anything by not being able to leave that past behind.

  9. I dumped my first 18 years worth when I divorced. Then the next 20 years worth when I remarried my first wife. Our memories are in our heads, not in pages. I still keep each journal until I start the next one, then destroy it.

  10. […] (via notebookstories.com) […]

  11. I am also a bit paranoid about others reading my journals.

    My solution was to develop my own shorthand/code writing that no one else can read. I’ve tested it on several people and they really can’t read it. If someone really took the time to study it and look at my practice pages where I made up the letters and words, they could decode and read it, but that’s highly unlikely. So now I can write with freedom! It’s wonderful!

  12. Oh, dear God, no.

    The few early diaries I threw away I still regret. I’ll never do that again, ever.

    I think I am going to get a safe deposit box, and lock the things up and put in my will that I want it to be opened in 50 years, or however long I think it’s going to take for the things to cool off. Maybe my nieces’ grandchildren or something.

    The most confidential stuff is in a locked computer diary with a password I use nowhere else. I debate daily the pros and cons of putting that password in my will.

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