Many years ago, I made the embarrassing and shocking discovery that someone very close to me had been reading my journals. I discovered this when I heard her, belive it or not, laughing about my spelling with a friend (which certainly was/is laughable at times, but that wasn’t the point!). In a fury, I burned all of my journals; years of thoughts, musings, experiences, and observations that I thought might someday end up in a book, were gone in one fell swoop. About 5 years after this incident, I found one journal (that somehow escaped my book-burning frenzy). I had always felt some regret, about getting rid of all of that personal history, and now one piece remained.
As I opened the journal and started to read, I was shocked by what I had written; pages of grievances, anger and frustration pouring out on the pages, judgements of friends, family, society, women’s place in it…..the writing was explosive and raw as I was at the time. There were also good entries, hopeful stories, some fun adventures but mostly not. I closed the journal, waked to the trash can in the kitchen, and threw it out.
Those pages were written back in the days when I thought that all negative thoughts must be “vented” and talked about….ad nauseam. There was a big push for this in therapy, (1970’s?) I seem to recall. It was believed that if you could “get it all out”, you could get rid of it (write, yell, confront people, label your parents, ex’s, as “toxic”, etc.). But that never worked. I didn’t understand (nor did the therapists that I saw), that like energy attracts like energy….negative, harsh, critical thoughts and actions just “invite” more of the same and that putting them down in writing, magnifies the energy even more. As Einstein said, “You cannot solve a problem with the same mind that created it.”
I was suddenly so grateful for those little “journal thieves”, so grateful that this stuff didn’t end up in a book. It might have been interesting reading, but so what? I was searching for solutions at that time, but had not found many. The writing was not hopeful, uplifting or inspiring. And the two girls that had “insulted me, and invaded my privacy” all those years ago, turned out to be messengers from God, angels in disguise, keeping me from doing more harm to myself (and others) when I didn’t know better….I only feel gratitude for them now and for this universe that is always conspiring to bless us, help us to grow and expand into a better, fuller and richer life, when we are ready.
I had forgotten about this incident until the other day when a friend sent me a link to a wonderful interview with the Pulitzer Prize winning poet, Mary Oliver, (by Maria Shriver). Maria was asking Mary about her work, the fact that she had touched so many people. Mary said,
“Well, we went through a whole period of confessional poets. And I think a lot of people—certainly Sylvia Plath and Anne Sexton—got therapy mixed up with the work they were doing, and that’s a shame. I may be wrong, but it seems like they felt they could heal themselves through writing, and it didn’t work. I don’t usually mess around with what makes me unhappy when I’m writing. I want to write poems that will comfort, maybe amuse, enliven other people. I don’t mean that the world is all great and wonderful. But I’m careful to—I try to keep the emphasis on the good and the hopeful”.
The link to the full interview is below.