Dear Amy: I've been writing in my journals ever since elementary school. I have kept every single one of them, tucked safely away in the back of my closet, for years. I'll look through them occasionally just to see what life was like for me at certain points.
I still write in my journals, and I just turned 60 this past summer.
I guess because of the advent of COVID, I worry about what would happen to these journals if I should suddenly get ill and could not "get rid" of them of my own volition. Those books hold years and years of my deepest thoughts, fears, anxieties and secrets. Honestly, I'd be mortified for anyone to read these, especially my family. How do I handle these personal treasures?
Amy says: One idea I have is for you to take this opportunity to "cull" through your work, creating a document (including dates) of some of your experiences, quoting from your diaries and creating a timeline of your life. You may remember when Neil Armstrong first walked on the moon. Did you write about that from the perspective of a second-grader?
You might have written about experiences with your grandparents, parents and siblings: camping trips, carnival rides, weddings, holiday celebrations. Ordinary days are also worth noting, because they capture the essence of an individual's existence in a specific place on the planet at a specific time.
Leave out the "icky bits" (we diary-keepers all have them), and make a printed copy of your edited version.
If you choose to do this, after you complete your work, put your diaries away with instructions among your important papers that they must be destroyed (without reading).
After six months, revisit your diaries and if you believe you have followed through on your original intentions, then you can destroy your diaries yourself, leaving your edited version behind.
Basically, I'm suggesting that you make your choice and then sit on the originals for long enough to believe that you've made the best choice.
Amy, thank you for publishing this letter. I was also physically abused by my ex-wife. I was so ashamed and embarrassed. Only one person took what was happening seriously. I genuinely believe that this one person saved my life.
Amy says: I'm cheering for you. Victims of domestic violence (male and female) can contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233 or thehotline.org.
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