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Don’t Re-Read Your Journal if You Can’t Take It

The entries are from 2008. I had been involved with writing group for a year. Each week, after we met, I came home and wrote into the journal every significant thing I could remember having happened. The journal helped me process the chaotic hour that was a weekly writing group of men and women who had experienced homelessness. I am reviewing the journal to draft a template for “What Worked For Us When We Did Writing Group.”

The pages are hard to read. I can only read a few at a time. Memories come flooding back. At least three of those who were writing with us during that period are dead. I recorded their dialogue. They, and the times, come alive as I read what I wrote. I loved the group and the process of becoming accepted by them. They each gave me particular delight.

On these pages, I recorded when W. asked me my name. This is astonishing: at one time W. didn’t know my name. We have now been through the terrible period of W.’s arrest; his interminable trial appearances; his incarceration in both jail and the mental facility for evaluation; his release when the DA realized the woman’s physical description of the man who stole her pocketbook had nothing—nothing!—in common with W. But in June of 2008 he didn’t know my name.

Humbling that, six years ago, the Executive Director of the Door of Hope was asking me if we had enough writings for a book. Tomorrow, we hold the final meeting necessary to send our manuscript to the publisher. Six years after I recorded the words. “Do we have a book?” the answer is, “Almost. Almost.”

here’s to creative synthesis . . .

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Comments (4)

  • You have good reason to feel that way. I, OTOH, don’t like to keep a journal because there is always such a period of growth that I can’t take how immature I sounded before. What must I have been like to start with since I’m still pretty immature??!!

    • Ellen Morris Prewitt

      Luanne, I come across in this journal as very naive, breathless with exclamation points. It would be embarrassing, except I sort of miss that sense of discovery. Your point does give me pause: if I were keeping a journal now, what would I look back on with a slight cringe?

  • What wonderful recollections! Journals…any writings, really, can be hard to look back on without a cringe, but think of it this way: the day W. asked you your name, you knew it was significant because you wrote it down. Did you hope, someday, that you would look back and remember the day your good friend W. (and a good friend he IS!) first asked your name and find it so far away? I think looking back over our own lives and finding our earlier selves naive is embarrassing because we’re holding ourselves accountable for not knowing then what we know now. Another way to look at it is that you’ve learned precisely what you meant to when you wrote the stuff down in the first place.

  • Ellen Morris Prewitt

    I love that Marisa—I have learned precisely what I was meant to when I wrote the stuff down in the first place. Thank you.

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