Of loose ends and journals

13 Feb

“At times it’s best to bend ’cause if you don’t, well those are the breaks.”

With this quote from Jim Croce’s “Hard Way Every Time”, I began my first journal on  January 1, 1975.  At the time it would have been unimaginable to me that I would still be keeping a journal some 36 years later. When you’re 16 years old, you don’t think about what’s going to be going on in 36 years–other than sci-fi imaginings (and I am still waiting for my robot butler and my hover car…)

I don’t know why I reached into the grab bag (it is a box, actually) of old journals today and extracted 3 volumes. It happened, most likely, because yesterday while I was riding my bike the thought crossed my mind, “what is going to happen to my journals when I die?” This isn’t the first time I’ve thought about this but I usually shrug it off because, hey–I”m gonna be dead, what do I care?

This time, the thought lingered and rolled around in my head as I cycled through the park, locked my bike and finally settled down on the patio outside of Starbucks with a quad venti latte in one hand and a pen in the other as I cracked open my current journal and wrote, “What is going to happen to my journals when I die?”

Circle of life…

I have thought about destroying them. I don’t know exactly how many volumes there are–when  I finish one I throw it in the box in my closet and start another. But the time frame covered (1975 to the present) suggests there’s a lot of paper there.  I could make a hell of a bonfire, that’s for sure. All that angst, lust, regret, and good intentions converting from paper to ash to smoke…Causing some hybrid form of pollution made up of carbon and karma.

Maybe a bonfire is a bad idea.

I don’t think I have the courage to destroy these books just now. Every now and then I actually use them as a reference. Sometimes I need to look something up–did I really sleep with that person? what was that cat’s name? did that event really happen the way I remember? Unfortunately, I don’t always write down the things I wish I could later confirm. But sometimes I find stuff I don’t remember at all. Interesting surprises.

So, all of that lead me to this moment. Sitting here with Diary 1975, Day-To-Day 1976 (page a day planners I bought at a store across from the apartment building where I lived as a teenager) and, out of sequence, my journal from the first 10 months of 1982–one of my San Francisco diaries. I bought this blank book at a store on Market and Castro, as I recall.

So, I’ve been reading passages from my deep, dark past (and cringing ) and wondering why I haven’t gotten  rid of these things already.

I found this entry from January 23, 1975 to be particularly apt:

“So this is my book. A year from now or 10 years from now what will it tell me? That I was young, that I was insecure, that I was more naive than I cared to believe?…The idea of making a value judgment on a kid who was once me is bizarre. Maybe I won’t even understand me when I’m older. I have enough trouble understanding me now.”

Alas, young William, I understand you all too well. (It is middle aged William who confuses me now.)

The 1976 volume begins with some resolutions, along with a note that I wasn’t all that successful in keeping the resolutions I made the previous January. (Pretty much all of my New Year’s Day journal entries begin this way…)

I conclude my list of goals by writing:

“In 1976 I want to learn to live freer, be a successful college freshman, graduate from high school, legally become an adult, search further for God, and get laid.”

Not necessarily in that order, I am assuming… (Not all of 1976’s resolutions panned out either. I’ll let you guess which ones…)

I opened the 1982 journal with several interesting quotes. I am sure I will recycle them as Facebook statuses and Tweets but this one seems especially appropriate to the subject at hand:

“We live entirely, especially if we are writers, by the imposition of a narrative line upon disparate images, by the ‘ideas’ with which we have learned to freeze the shifting phantasmagoria which is our actual experience.” – Joan Didion

This particular volume was the second journal I wrote while living in San Francisco. I opened this volume by writing:

“This will be the story of my life. This will be the incubator for all of my brainchildren–ideas and creative endeavors. This will be the workbook for experiments, exercises of imagination, plottings and discoveries. This will be the handkerchief for sorrow. A rack on which I hang my hatreds and boredoms…I will not be afraid to be stupid, boring, ugly, vulgar, melodramatic, schlocky, sentimental, tiring or bold…”

By the end of the journal, I was still in San Francisco, but making plans to return to Florida. I rather like the way I ended this volume:

“The Exit door beckons and I am running out of spirit. Or maybe only energy. I do not run out of words. Words bounce around inside my head interminably. But where words do not fail, meaning falters and I am suddenly removed, aware of the boy-man with cold feet writing this page, of the striped cat lying nearby who periodically stretches and opens an eye. This journal cannot end neatly because in real life there are always loose ends. The trick is not to trip over or strangle on them. But to proceed. Go forth, etc. So here’s to proceeding…”

Getting back to my original question, I have no idea what will happen to these journals when I die. If I die in the next 30 minutes or so, I suppose my long time companion/partner person will wind up with them. We’ve operated under a gentleman’s agreement for more than 30 years that he won’t touch or read my journals so I don’t suppose he’d be any more inclined to read them after I’m gone. Seems a bit of a waste.

Who knows?

In the meantime, I  am going to be sifting through my old journals and seeing what is there that is worth capturing. Perhaps I’ll use them as blog fodder. And after I’ve extracted the very best parts and converted them to electronic information, I just may revisit the whole bonfire notion.

Or I may just leave them in that box in my closet and let the chips fall where they may…

4 Responses to “Of loose ends and journals”

  1. Fred February 13, 2011 at 11:10 pm #

    I can’t imagine keeping a journal. I acted mostly on instinct in the past and was primarily empty headed, relying in my subconscious or perhaps God to do my thinking. Had I written anything down … I would hate to think what I would think about such thing now.
    I would love to read your journals though and compare thoughts.

  2. Lyndsay ~ The Kitchen Witch February 14, 2011 at 2:26 am #

    I loved this. Being a journal keeper myself, I completely related – don’t you hate the reading and the cringing – lol!! I had just such a moment when I read some stupidity from 1986 when I thought I was, like, a valley girl.

    All kidding aside, this was a beautiful piece. I’m glad you’re back to blogging.

  3. That Weather Girl February 14, 2011 at 8:19 am #

    You didn’t ask for advice, but I am going to offer some anyway. Do not destroy the journals. Remember that all experiences, even the bad ones, have their value and keeping the journals is a good way to remind yourself of them.

  4. Gay Groom February 14, 2011 at 3:21 pm #

    I did keep a journal at different times during my life. Was going to actually blog the original journal last year daily (starting on the day I started it in 1984) since it was 25 years old. But I found it was impossible. Even if I changed or scratched out the names… too many people would be furious… so I thought it best not to.

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