I was looking something up in one of my old diaries when it suddenly hit me - diaries can be a really bad idea.
Oprah would always talk about how cathartic it is to journal all your feelings and while I believe that, I wonder if being forgetful of your past is actually better.
My oldest diary is from 1982 (I think) and I have pretty much consistently kept up the idea of journalling until right this moment. At one point I left paper diaries behind and started a personal blog (no, not this one) because typing is faster and password protected stuff is more private. The first diary was a gift from my parents at Christmas and I found it to be a wonderful idea. I really didn't have very many friends and so I would talk to my diary about things that happened in my day or what I was feeling about something. The problem has been that people have read my diaries. And not just read them - teased me about the content.
My sisters, best friend at the time, and ex husband have all made it known that they have read my diary, and in some cases exhibited no remorse for having done so. But I have no idea if my mom ever did or not. Probably, but if she did she never told me. The result of having people read my private thoughts is twofold: first is the concept that I feel like I am being watched all of the time. That I have no privacy and no expectation of privacy. The second is that I would occasionally lie to myself in my diary in anticipation of someone reading it. Neither of these things is good or helpful, obviously.
While I was looking up information the other day I read entries from years past and was reminded of some awful things people have done to me. I was surprised that I didn't immediately remember some things even though the hurt was clear in my writing about what had happened. I wondered: would I be a happier person if I didn't chronicle the poor treatment I received? Would I remember it all? I could tell right away what was a lie to myself and what was truth, so I know the hurts were real at the time and not just made up for the consumption of a reader.
My mom treated me badly for much of my childhood, so having people invade my privacy simply seemed like a natural progression in life to me. It hurt that my diary was read...but I kept writing in it. Hoping that people would eventually leave me alone? Hoping that things would just eventually get better? Hoping that if I did nothing about it and show no hurt then people would stop? I don't know. What I do know is I learned to accept bad treatment as part of daily living.
So when I look at entries with hurtful events I wonder why I don't keep them in mind longer, leave bad friends sooner, leave my ex sooner...you get the idea. Instead I have managed to sanitize my brain into forgetting some of the hurt in order to present an image of All Things Are Good Here.
I do understand why my mom would burn her diaries before each suicide attempt (there were many). Or at least, I think I do. Maybe it was so nobody could read her private thoughts. Maybe it was to erase her past. I have a fire pit buried in the snow in the back yard. I could burn my diaries. Would I remember that bad things if I can't look them up? Who would I be if I don't have a written history to fall back on? Will I be happier overall because of bad recollection? And the big question is: do I have the courage to set a match to my past?