My mother was moved into a care home in the fall of 2014, two years after being diagnosed with Lewy Body dementia—as is often the case, she had an "incident" (a mild stroke) that landed her in hospital, and she never saw her home again. It fell upon me to clear out the house she had lived in for 52 years... the house I grew up in. It took seven months.
That's a story for another time—I mention it here because that experience induced a fever in me to clear out my own house, and avoid putting my daughter through the same thing... you know, when the time comes. I went through every room in the house, brutally culling any and all extraneous pieces of bullshit psychically cluttering my mind—or so I felt—and eventually we had a monstrous garage sale.
I hadn’t forgotten my stored boxes of journals... some 70 of them at the time, dating back to 1978. Should I get rid of them... could I part with them? I HAD TO (or so I felt). I definitely didn't want my daughter dealing with them. So after my mother died in January of 2017 I embarked on the colossal project of reading each journal in sequential order cover to cover, taking photos of the covers, taking photos of select pages, tearing out and saving select pages, and otherwise ripping up the remaining innards (which still sit in a gigantic vat in my studio). Isn't that what everyone does when they're grieving? Sadly, I was in such a rush to achieve this task that I took terrible photos (see below), and in my fervor possibly tore up things I shouldn't have.
Some friends were aghast that I wasn't saving this legacy of mine for my daughter—but believe me—she's not interested. And my journals really weren't for anyone's eyes but my own. Not because they were so salacious or full of secrets—they were just pages upon pages of me working things out. Discovering what I thought by letting it emerge on paper. Coming to terms. Self-regulating, self-medicating, problem-solving. Cheap paper therapy. As my "motto" on Instagram states: "TRYING TO UNDERSTAND SINCE 1960".
Some of my journals were unadulterated dreck. Some held pithy gems that I was surprised to see I'd understood when much younger. Some (I felt) deserved to be saved in their entirety, and they were. I was actually struck by the thought at one point, "Oh my God, is this my life's work?".
Possibly. And if so—I've torn most of it up. Bravo!
I've always felt that my journals saved my ass, emotionally speaking, and resulted in making me precisely who I am (which we all know is AMAZING, amirite?). On one level, it's clearly helpful to get things off your chest in a safe place, and acknowledging your feelings goes a long way toward moving through them and calming your mind. On a more mysterious level, journal writing is an alchemical process… transformative and healing. Plus—BONUS—you could find yourself facing things you might otherwise successfully avoid dealing with for years.
I made it all the way to journal number 63 before some other aspect of my life took my attention away and I haven't returned to it, though I intend to. Below are some random covers and some inner pages—none that include writing, though (insert smiley emoji please). The first cover was a collaboration with my friend Athena.
The first page of above journal
From inside the "This is Now" book
1981—living in Vancouver—diary bought in Chinatown (and altered)
1981 - back cover of above journal
1981—1st page of above journal
1982—photo of Doris Lessing taped into the back of a journal
1983—traveling in Europe
1983—Amsterdam window (photo of window by Eva Durlacher)
1992-1994—linocut print I made, glued to the front
1992-1994—first page of above journal: another linocut I made, while pregnant!
That's all, folks.
Though I don't yet know where I'll be situated, I will be at the Art Gallery Paint-In on Moss St. this July 20th. I'm bringing loads of original artwork, both paintings and collage, plus my 100 Days of The Artist is Present book, (laser) prints of my 100 Days paintings, prints of collages, collage greeting cards, and who knows what else. PRICES WILL BE SLASHED! Slashed I tell you.
What I look like when I'm pretending to do 17 things at once.
The winner of this month's free giclée print from balampman.com is firstname.lastname@example.org! This print will be traveling all the way to Denmark... WHOA