I recently wrote about burning or shredding my journals. When I’m journaling, I’m not doing it to record history, come up with book ideas or anything else that may be worth sharing some day. It’s rare that I even re-read anything I journal.
Why it’s important to journal your thoughts
The reason I journal is to declutter my mind. Instead of letting all of those ideas and fears and worries run around in my brain, I leave them on the page. Sometimes they stay there and sometimes they don’t but usually if I keep writing them out, they dissipate.
I write about other thoughts and feelings too but even the good ones get heavy if I hold on to them too tightly. Writing them down helps me feel light. And, it makes room for more creative ideas, more clarity when making decisions and a better understanding of how thoughts and feelings impact my physical and mental health.
Why I don’t save journals and other sentimental items
There are a few reasons I don’t save my journals.
1. Living amongst those words I wrote, even though they are off my mind can feel heavy. I don’t think about them all the time, but knowing a year’s worth of daily writing is hanging out in a notebook close by isn’t comforting for me. All those things happened. I experienced them and felt them. Then I thought about them, wrote about them and dissected them. And now it’s time to let them go.
2. The things I wrote in journals are not for anyone else. I don’t worry about anyone reading my journals while I’m alive and while I expect to be alive for a long time, I understand that my mortality isn’t in my control. I don’t want my journals left behind when I’m gone. That’s how I feel about most of my stuff. It’s hard enough to lose someone you love, but to then have to go through their stuff and make decisions you don’t know how to make feels impossible. Removing some of those decisions seems like a loving thing to do.
But how do you preserve the meaning of life?
Here’s an email exchange (publishing with permission) with someone who reached out about shredding my journals and the meaning of life.
In one of your recent posts you wrote: “One of the reasons I shred or burn my journals is to symbolically let go of my stories; of stress, pain and drama. This allows me to focus on what’s happening right now instead of what I thought was happening in the past.”
I love the idea of shredding my journals, but I have this tight hold on all of them (as I do on all of my memorabilia items that I choose to keep). I feel like if they disappear, then I will disappear. Like they are proof of my life and thoughts and goals, etc. That is where all of the meaning is. I can’t seem to let go of them, because then it will mean I don’t exist and I lose everything.
Any suggestions or words to share to focus on the present and look to the future, and not be afraid to let go of these reflections of the past? It’s really, really, really hard to let go! How do I separate the meaning of my life from these “things” that are just reflections I’ve collected along the way?
I knew how Christina was feeling. I used to feel the same way. I started saving my memories as proof of life in elementary school. I kept saving them through school and adulthood. I moved them from apartment to apartment and home to home.
Even when I started to declutter and live more simply, I didn’t consider letting go of my sentimental items. And then, when there was nothing left to let go of, I took another look at the sentimental stuff. I wasn’t displaying it or enjoying it. I was just saving it. Saving it as proof that I had lived.
I can appreciate how you feel and am glad you shared this with me. It took me a while to figure this out for myself but once I did, letting go got so much easier.
The meaning of my life is not in what I save or keep, it’s in how I live. The meaning IS the living. So now I live instead of proving that I’ve lived by the stuff I saved.
In other words …
Instead of proving that you have lived, live.
Instead of proving that you have loved, love.