Monday, June 23, 2008


I have kept a journal sporadically since I was eight years old. I have about 20 books filled with my ramblings that are alternately funny and embarrassing depending on what season in my life they represent. This weekend I have written some bitter diatribes about motherhood and wifedom, which was set off by my husband being gone for 4 days to chaperone youth conference, while I was left behind to referee fights with my kids, try unsuccessfully to potty train, and go crazy from boredom and loneliness (and to be honest, wallow in a healthy dose of self-pity).

Which leads me to a question I have thought about a fair amount the last few months. Do I want people to read my journals after I have died? Don't worry, I am not losing sleep over this seemingly insignificant question, but it is one that has crossed my mind a few times. What got me thinking is my mom and aunt recently found an old journal of my grandmother's after she passed away 2 years ago, and everyone has different opinions about what to do with it. My mother thinks it is private and that no one should read it. My aunt disagrees, and so do I. I want to read that journal so bad that I practically drool at the thought of it.

You see, my grandma was different than the quintessential doting granny from books and TV. She loved us, don't get me wrong, but she was very reserved and somewhat inaccessible emotionally. I don't feel like I really knew her. As an adult, I tried to get her to talk about herself more, but it was difficult. Now that she is gone, I regret that I didn't learn more about her as a person, her likes and dislikes, her dreams and happy memories. I think grandma felt like talking about those things would be frivolous and maybe uninteresting to other people. I wish I had conveyed to her my deep interest in getting to know her better. Maybe she would have opened up.

So, of course, I would love to delve into that unread journal and learn more about her and what she thought about. I hope someday I get the chance to read it.

But, I can see my mom's point, too. Did grandma want to keep her feelings a secret? Would reading her journal invade her privacy? I used to think that if someone wrote in a journal , they expected and maybe even wanted others to read it. But lately, as I write in my journal, I cringe when I think of my children reading my thoughts (especially those thoughts that shed a somewhat unflattering view of me). On the other hand, I so appreciate knowing about other people's struggles and their honest feelings. Knowing that I am not alone in my challenges, that others have dealt with negative emotions or doubts or fears typically makes me feel better. It makes me feel like those feelings are natural, that I too can overcome, that I am not alone. And it makes me feel closer to the person who shares those feelings with me.

I think I will resist the urge to tear out the pages of this weekend's rantings. Who knows, maybe someday my granddaughter will read the entry and feel less inadequate as a mom or wife because she realizes that other women have felt the same way as she did. I can only hope.


Amy Jane said...

I'm jealous of you journaling types. I have tried at different times in my life to keep a diary, a journal, what have you. It never lasts. In fact, my blog is the closest I have ever gotten, and I don't exactly delve into my deepest feelings there. I guess I'm just not cut out for it. I'm just too lazy, or something, to take the time to dissect my life. Anywho, I think it's great that you've journaled all of your life, and that you've kept them? When I'm there, can I read some of it - maybe from when you were a teen? If you don't want me to, I understand, but it can't hurt to ask! :)

beckbot said...

I'm inclined to think that once you're dead, you give up all rights to feeling insecure or uncomfortable with friends and family reading your journals. That said, I will certainly go through mine and razor out certain parts. That's one good thing about a blog - since it's sort of public, you necessarily edit out rage and other unpleasantries. I think I'll just print mine out once a year and call it journaling.