I just finished The Unfinished work of Elizabeth D. by Nichole Bernier. In the book, Elizabeth and Kate met through a playgroup and stayed friends even when Kate and her husband moved to Washington D.C. When Elizabeth is killed unexpectedly in a plane crash, Kate learns Elizabeth bequeathed her journals to Kate. “I’m leaving them to her because she’s fair and sensitive and would know what should be done with them and ask that she start at the beginning. I’ll come soon to drop of a letter for that should go with it.” The letter never gets dropped off.
I enjoyed the book immensely, but a review is not the intention of this post. Elizabeth’s journals are a key element of the story. Kate is overwhelmed with the task of determining their fate. As you would expect of a journal, the content is brutally honest and not always the most complimentary of those Elizabeth writes about including herself. While not entirely negative, they reveal a much different person, a more complete person than Kate knew.
I journal, it is an activity started as an angsty teen, but only sporadically completed. Journaling didn’t become a habit until my mid-twenties when I read Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way and started writing morning pages. I still have most if not all of the journals I’ve finished. Frankly most of it is rubbish. narcissistic drivel, a daily emptying of the garbage can in my brain. There are some entries worth keeping. Underneath the to-do lists and the free writing, there is a chronicle of my life, one telling of my story you will. Like Elizabeth, I am not always complimentary of those in my life or myself. Sometimes those pages are just an out and out bitch fest.
The Unfinished Works of Elizabeth D., resonated with me in many ways, it posed some interesting questions about relationships and friendships, but for me it brought up the age old question of what do to with my journals.
Should I die before my husband, I really don’t think he would have any interest in reading them. Would my kids want them? Would they gain anything by reading them? I think I’m an open book, but but reading my journals they would learn the gritty details of my relationships with them, their father, my own parents and various acquaintances and dear friends.
I’ve never gone back and read them. Should I? I’m not the type of person who says “Gee, I wish I could be twenty again. There are specific events I wouldn’t mind living again and of course there are some I’d prefer to never remember.
Hmmm, perhaps a huge bond fire is in order.
Do you journal? What do you do with the books once you’ve filled them? I don’t have a good solution to this. I’m very interested in hearing how other’s handle their journals.
Lee Laughlin is a writer, wife, and mom, frequently all of those things at once. She blogs at Livefearlesslee.com. Her words have appeared in a broad range of publications from community newspapers to the Boston Globe.