Journaling to Remember and Journaling to Forget…

I’ve been writing more lately and thinking more lately.  When school got out in May, I looked forward to summer, sure that it held something good.  Every summer has that hope for me, but somehow three months passed and now that I’m started a new semester I’m wondering where the time went.  I traveled and took photographs to prove it.  I got a tan and wore sundresses and sandals.  I stayed up late at night and slept late in the morning.  I wanted the sunshine to fill me and make me bright and happy, and when it couldn’t I used the night to write.

This summer I started a journal in June and had filled it by August.  My journaling in the last five years or so has been sporadic at best, but this summer I wrote almost everyday.  I decorated the pages with artwork and quotes and washi tape and souvenirs  from my travels and clippings from magazines.  It is one of the more creative journals that I’ve ever kept, and for that reason I’m pleased with it.  Art and creativity have been missing from my life for awhile, but I had to stop and ask myself what sparked this sudden burst.

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Flipping back through the journal from my summer, I realized that journaling for me has one of two purposes:  journaling to remember or journaling to forget.  My grandmother had Alzheimer’s, and that experience gave me a desire to try to capture memories.  I may need them one day.  Since I was in college, my journals have also functioned as scrapbooks- places to hold the invitations from formals, the wristbands from Duke basketball games, and the random programs from plays and events that I attended.  I didn’t want my memories to exist as boxes of junk, and so my journals were used to house them.  Some of my journals are more paste books than writing books, but that was the function that I wanted them to serve.  I was happy and was collecting those happy memories.  Sometimes the pages filled up because I wanted to make sure I had the complete memory down, but usually the outline of it was enough.  The writing itself did not have as much meaning but putting the memories down before they were lost did. Even those journals of happy and wonderful experiences are not ones that I go back and read right now.  It was the process of making them that was important and the knowledge that someday I can go back and read them if needed and hopefully it ignites the memory.

Besides remembering, my journals serve as a place for me to forget.   I’ve realized that when I’m writing- using my best handwriting, filling pages and pages to try to encapsulate all my thoughts, wanting to put it all down on paper- that is when I am journaling to forget.  Sometimes the mind can only hold so many thoughts or emotions, but the paper between the covers can hold an infinite amount.  I wish that I was one of those people who found their creativity most when they were happy, but I’m not.  It’s only when I’ve retreated into myself that the energy, which would have formerly gone to conversations or interactions with people, comes out as creativity instead.  There are times that I journal to forget, or at least try to forget.  The pages become the place to house any negative thoughts rather than let them loop in my brain.  Not that I can forget, but my journal can be the repository.

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I recently read the diaries and letters of Ann Morrow Lindbergh and realized that writing for her served the same dual purposes that it does for me. Her diaries encompassed worries over school,  the suicide of a friend, and liking Charles Lindbergh but feeling unsure that he liked her back.  On the flip side, her writing also memorialized her travels, her excitement over new experiences, and her happiness around her new romance.  She was not one to draw or paste in mementos, but the way in which she writes paints a picture of the memory.

I love the idea that journaling can be both remembering and forgetting.  I like that my journals have evolved in both respects and that I’ve added more creative elements like collage and scrapbooking and drawing and decoration.  Both the remembering and the forgetting are healthy as long as there is a balance there.

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