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To Shred or Not To Shred – Journals, That Is

204. To Shred or Not To Shred – Journals, That Is

I found myself a few weeks ago going back to my very first journal and trying to decide whether I should keep them with permission given to my children to read them if they wanted to, or whether I should shred them.

I remembered those times when my own mother came to came to live with me in 1982. I worked full time. She had a room in my Nyack house. And at one point she said to me, “I have thrown away my journals.”

At the time I was overwhelmed with working, getting her to doctor’s appointments, running a house and I think I only asked, “Are you sure that you wanted to do that?” And I really don’t remember what she answered.

After her death (in 1984 when she was 74 years old), my regret for those lost journals of hers increased dramatically. I wished I had reassured her that I was interested. I wished I could discern whether she threw them out because she was depressed at having to leave her Indianapolis life and friends. I felt like I didn’t know what I had lost—did they go back to her childhood? Did I lose pieces of history?

And now I am 79 years old and reading the old journals. Now I am the mother and imagining my children reading these journals. I now see Mother’s decision in a whole new light and don’t know whether my reasons are the same as hers, but it makes me think.

I’m shredding. And these are some of the reasons: 1) I write incompletely, and as I re-read them (1974 journals) I immediately see the entire scene. My children wouldn’t be able to do that. 2) Some of what I have written is my story, but at the same time, some of what I have written belongs to other people. It’s their story and not mine to tell or to share. 3) I really did write just for me and for no one else. It was private when I wrote it and it still is private.

When I look at those reasons and think back to Mother’s journals—there may have been very similar thoughts going through her head.

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