Why Burn Old Journals, asks my Fine Feathered Friend


All that’s left of the trunkful of handwritten journals.

The journals I’m reading and burning are handwritten and when I started going through them there was a big trunk full. I’d been keeping journals since age 15, although there were a few times since then when I didn’t. When I started this re-reading, I thought they might give me fodder for blog entries or other types of writing, and they did.

As I’ve made my way through them at a rate of several per year, I’ve realized that some of it isn’t something I want anyone else reading, either now or after I’m dead and gone, if anyone were interested. I’m hardly interested, myself, and am often tempted to skim. And sometimes do.

Had any of my ancestors or older relatives left similar writings, they would be treasured by me as, in some cases, the only way I could “know” certain relatives who’d died before I was born. For that reason, I’m curating. I’m keeping some things, although not sure what I’ll do with them. For now they’re going into envelopes marked with the particular year.

The rest? The world doesn’t need to know. Some things can remain private forever; I have my secrets and why shouldn’t I? Naturally any real secrets are written nowhere but on the wind; I’m not dumb enough to leave a paper trail when there’s anything I really don’t want anyone else to know. That would be foolish.

Some of the writing is me repeatedly trying to understand why people (usually the men in my life, but not always) act and think and speak the way they do. Most of my considerations would be of little value to anyone else, even those who love me. I don’t like the way I come across sometimes, either, as immature or selfish or self-righteous — which I surely never was! Hee Hee.

And you know how sometimes when people read a journal – or anything in writing, really — they think it’s the implacable truth of what you think about them, when really it’s just the passing thoughts of a moment when you’re trying to figure out why or you’re pissed off or maybe you truly are an immature, selfish ass? And maybe the next day you realize how wrong you’d been when you wrote that down, but you don’t bother writing down the new, altered story? And yet there’s the shitty one on paper, and that’s the one that gets remembered and saved as an example of your character and that of a person included in the telling. I don’t know about you, but my early years of journalling were often aids in working out my troubles, not describing the things in my life that were going great. That’s not the kind of negativity I choose to stand in for me after I’m gone. It may have been useful and relieving at the time I wrote it; it probably made me feel heard; but it isn’t the whole truth, ever.

It’s the recounted slices-of-life with my children and other family members and history that I’m keeping; the moments most worth remembering and sharing with those who outlive me. As I read, I often copy into texts a few sentences to those I was writing about. They find these amusing even though, like me before the jog to my memory, they have no recall of those particular moments. It’s fun to share them: times I spent with my nieces and nephew and sons when they were very small; times when my friends’ babies were born; stuff like that. Everything can’t be kept, though, Birdie; instead I’m making good use of the memories now, when we can smile together at them.

I’m learning a few things as I go. One, I was a decent writer, even as a young adult. Sometimes I’m quite impressed! Did I really write that? It’s pretty good. Two, the frustrations and anxieties I had then are much the same as those that occupy me now, in different clothing. As much as I’ve changed and grown in some ways, in others I apparently haven’t. That’s a bit worrisome and I mean to do something about it. Old journals are enlightening! Even when they aren’t flattering.

There is still a good stack to peruse and I’ll continue to do it this way, slowly. I only hope to get it done before I die so that the worthwhile bits are saved and the rest, well, it’s satisfying to watch them go up in smoke.

Here’s one of the photos I found and kept, from 1985:

kathy birch lake cabin 1985

My beau-at-the-time and I lived in a drafty two-room log cabin in northern Saskatchewan. And drank a lot of pear cider. And had cats and an old truck. And a dog that isn’t in the picture.


Jeez, now here’s an event that wouldn’t leave you with fond memories of your wedding day, would it! I wonder if the wedding even went ahead:

August 28, 1958
Mrs. Sigurdur Sigurdson, 64, of the
Elfros district, tragically succumbed
from a heart attack while attending
the wedding of her son, John, to Miss
Ethel Fisher. Mrs. Sigurdson was
seated in the front pew of the Wadena
United Church and just as the bride
was about to enter, collapsed. She was
assisted to the yard of the church, a
doctor summoned, and then rushed to
the Wadena Union Hospital. However,
she had passed away on arrival there.

-Reprinted from Wadena News, Looking Back


4 thoughts on “Why Burn Old Journals, asks my Fine Feathered Friend

  1. I have burned journals as well. Especially the ones when I left my ex husband and went a little wild. See, I was a born again Christian and a virgin when I married him and was making up for lost time. Some of the relationships I regret. Some I feel nothing one way or the other and one way crazy, out-of-this-world sex. It was pretty much all we did. Sex, drink water, sleep, sex. The funny thing is, I don’t even remember his name. I would if I tihought about it. No. His name was Ed. Ed and he was a Newfie. He was so funny! We had a lot of fun together when we weren’t mating like teenagers. I do remember that. Then I settled down again and burned the journals. I was constantly worried I would die in a tragic accident and someone would find them. And this comment will be one of the only place that I will tell that tale. I wouldn’t even write that on my own blog. Sometimes the comment section is the safest place, isn’t it?

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Well they will be in for a huge disappointment. I have settled down to a dull and boring life. I barley go out these days. Time with Ed was fun though. No regrets. Like the old lady says on Titanic. A woman’s heart is an ocean of secrets.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. I have a journal that was given to me in 1974, and in which I wrote seven different entries about why or why not I should keep a journal. I had been holding on to it because a friend had made it, from scratch, and had chosen a pattern and colour she knew I loved. I still do love it and it sits in a drawer I can easily reach. Every once in a while, I pull it out and re-read the oh-so-thoughtful serious things I thought about myself. Nostalgia, yes; pride, no.

    Liked by 1 person

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