I was once a compulsive diarist. I wrote page after page of prose, poetry, commentary, peculiar emotional screeds, and quite a bit of inappropriate this-n-that. I began writing sometime in the 4th grade.

My first journal was in a blank book like this, that I nicked from my Dad’s workbench in the basement.

I wrote compulsively. I wrote most days – for years. When I left for the Army, I left my journals (those that I had, which were of my high school years) in a box, hoping they would be held for me, or sent along once I was at my duty station. Those are now lost volumes. The handful of volumes I wrote during the years between 4th grade (I’d have been… 9) and the start of high school (when I was 14) are also “lost volumes”. I’d dearly like to have those once again; they would span the “before and after” period of significant head trauma. (Who was I before that injury??)

My violent first marriage doesn’t have much writing in it, and what writing I did do, lived in volumes “safely” stored in safety deposit boxes I didn’t keep (in some cases forgot about, in others did not or could not maintain) – or hidden (and subsequently lost somewhere in my shitty memory). Those are also lost. (Well, except for one very peculiar volume that I’ve strangely held onto – that’s a story for another time.)

What remains are the volumes I wrote from the very afternoon I left my violent first marriage (finally), in 1995, until I realized my writing was undermining my emotional wellness (years later, after I returned to therapy to save my life), in 2013 (ish?). There are 916 weeks in the timeframe I know I was writing (and I have these volumes). 75 volumes, I counted. More than 15,000 pages of intimate uncensored (sometimes deceitful, sometimes incoherent) personal writing detailing my subjective experience of the events of my life in those years (and what I observed of the lives of many close to me, too). My 30s. My 40s. A lifetime spanning 3 very different career fields , many different jobs, 5 different addresses, 8 cats, 3 significant relationships, quite a few lovers, and numerous tales told – and I’m no longer at all certain this clutter of words needs to live on in durable media. I’m fairly certain it does not. I’m attached to the idea of the volumes, the legacy of so many words, but… I don’t read them. I don’t want to. I don’t hold on to them with purpose. They just sit in a bin, gathering dust and being “clutter”. I have occasionally used them to look up some specific event to clarify a recollection. That’s been a rare thing.

I had an idea about how best to deal with all these journals, that doesn’t amount to “put them in a bin in the attic crawlspace”, because honestly, why am I storing their physical forms now? SO. I’ve decided to sort them out, photograph the assorted volumes, and maybe take some shots of especially good or interesting writing, or the details of some important moment that lingers in my memory (or doesn’t). I’d like to preserve the poetry that may have been written somewhere in these volumes. I’d like to save original sketches that may be lurking there. There’s no reason to keep the totality of this body of work though, and there are quite a few reasons to let it go. Once I’ve gotten a few pictures – so that I have the lasting memory that these did exist, and what they looked like, and their very vastness of thought – I’ll destroy them. Shred the pages. Dispose of the covers (or give them away to be repurposed, perhaps).

Today, on this last day of 2022, I’m getting started on it…

Something like 20 years of living… in so many words.

It’s been a peculiar day, flipping through these volumes, year by year. Spotting some… moment… and reflecting on it, briefly, then moving on in time. Strange patterns emerge. Details that did not seem significant in my lived recollection become oddly prominent from this new perspective. A lot of it – most of it – is ferociously hormone and lust fueled reverie (and recollected misadventure)(or wishful thinking) that is neither especially novel (human primates being what we are), neither is it good writing (I’m no Anaïs Nin or Henry Miller). I found that most of that simply amused me ever-so-slightly. It has been easy to let that go. Harder were the forgotten traumas, the despair, the hedonism… and the friendships that have been lost to time, geography, and poor memory. Embarrassingly, some of those friends were lovers. “Ghosts” now, I guess – memories, half-recalled for an instant before being lost again. Those poignant “oh, remember… I wonder how they’re doing these days…” moments. I cried kind of a lot in the morning, before it sort of sunk in; this is all 100% in the past. Part of how I got where I am, and little more.

…It’s been nice to find so many “lost” sketches and beautiful poetry…

Anyway. It’s the last day of 2022. New Year’s Eve. It’s a good time to put down baggage. A good mark on the calendar for letting things go. It’s so choice for making changes that we have a funny culture that embraces “new year’s resolutions”, then also the inevitable self-mockery because it’s equally commonplace to fail to follow through. That doesn’t have to be your way, though. What is your way? My way, as I sit here thinking of the woman I most want to be, the woman I want to see looking back at me in the mirror each morning, is to embrace change, practice the practices that will get me where I want to be, understanding that we become what we practice. My way? My way is to cultivate calm and contentment, to develop wise perspective (and humility), to be kind, and to follow my path without aggression. My way is to assume positive intent, and let small shit stay small. I mean… my results vary. This is the path I seek to follow. Doing my best. Still quite human.

…I mean… there’s no plan in mind to be anything but human, I’d just like to get quite good at doing that well. lol My idea of “living my best life” isn’t about vast wealth or accolades or fancy titles. I would like to be a good person. Kind. Not a raging bitch. Wise (if I can get there), and humble (because I won’t have gotten very far alone). Chill. Merry. Fun to be around. I won’t say I want to “be happy” – it’s a trap. I’d like, instead, to feel joy more often than sorrow, and a genial contentment just generally. I’d like to live a strong sense of sufficiency. I think all of this is within reach… I think I can practice a lot of it.

So here it is the eve of a new year. Time to turn the page and begin again.