With the exception of everything I cling to, unrelentingly, I’m pro at letting go. I just burned years of old journals. Lib-er-ation. I did a journal cremation about seven years ago that was really freeing. This round, I saw a slightly disturbing pattern in my pages that, I’m happy to say, has long gone up in smoke.
I skimmed each book before I offered it to my fire pit. As I flipped through that past era of my life, I was struck by a beautifully sad fact: so many journals were filled with seeking answers—outside of myself.
So the burning wasn’t about letting go of my divorce process, or predictions from clairvoyants, or countless sessions with a particular parasitic healer, or pages of pleading for direction. I was saying farewell to self doubt. And self abandonment. And a heap of fear. And that’s a fire I will dance around any day.
I’ve kept my very recent journals, the last two years’ worth. Eventually, I’ll go through each book to mine the creative notes and half-written poems. Then I’ll weave what’s worthy into digital folders named, “write,” “vision,” and “divine.” The well-mined journals will then go into the fire baptism box.
In my more current journals a new pattern has emerged. (Lord have mercy.)
My therapy sessions still take up copious space. Which is self-congratulations for my enlightenment. (I’ve come so far!) And crib sheets if I near derail. (But I thought I’d come so far!) On the whole, as I become more whole, my inward writing is more declarative and less dreamy (read: clingy). It’s more intention and less venting. And all inquiry is directed to my Higher Self and the Divine Mother—and they both answer me right away.
I still have council members and experts that I turn to. A gifted psychotherapist, an energy healer. GIRLFRIENDS and man-friends. Functional medicine keepers. All dispensaries of love and insight. But now they’re by my side, I’m not at their feet.
There’s a lot of revelation, healing pain and gratitude between my covers, within my skin. And that’s all I need to heed, really. My heart, my guide.
I want to give myself
As this maple
That burned and burned
For three days without stenting
And then in two more
Dropped off every leaf
– Jane Hirshfield, “Lake and Maple” poem
I did my first journal fire years ago, and when I wrote about it I learned that people basically fall into two camps: There are archivists. And there are burners. It’s a very personal matter. To keep, to torch… it’s your free will. But I can tell you this: Traveling lighter helps me shine brighter.
Some things to consider:
Legacy? I’m not really interested in the idea of leaving a legacy. If I die tomorrow and vanish from everyone’s memories, fine by me. I’m here for now. Do you want anyone to read your journals when you move on? Anyone? (Memoir writers, you can skip this question.)
I’ve tried recapitulation and obsessive, neurotic over-attachment as a means to self-improvement. Funnily enough, it doesn’t seem to work. I can find plenty to be sad about in my current life—I don’t need to go digging up old material. I’ve come to the conclusion that re-living pain is actually not that conducive to my joy or creativity. Nope, just isn’t.
For me, clutter-free living is up there with rainbows, front row seats, and answered prayers. Most of us are taking up too much space with too much stuff on the planet anyway.
Burning your recordings may point out your insignificance on the planet. And it may feel thrilling. Personal insignificance is provocative when you’re making your art. And remembering how insignificant you are helps you to be more daring, more honest, more… here.
Privacy is a powerful energy to harness. One of my favourite things about being alive is the fleeting intimacy of events. Me. You. A moment only we shared. Gone. God, I love that compression of the sacred and the mundane. No moment will ever happen twice. Why hold on? Fluid yesterday, fluid tomorrow. And besides, history is malleable because memory is subjective.
And also, please do not give your past the power to define your future.
Burn, archive. Let go, hold close. Either way, may your recordings be full of self-agenting revelation, healing pain, and gratitude. That’s all you need to heed. Your heart, your guide.
Flames of Love,