January—that awful month when the cold settles in, refusing to let go; when the bills fill your mailbox and when everyone you know seems to get the flu. Some Januarys are worse than others—sometimes we have blizzards and get snowed in; sometimes the power goes out and sometimes people die. I read somewhere that there are more deaths in January than any other month, but I don’t know if that is true. I do know that my mother died in a January, leaving a huge hole in my life.
January is also the month of resolutions, of goals, of renewed determination to achieve something worthwhile. This determination begins to diminish by the second week and more often than not has completely disappeared by mid-March.
My new year’s resolution this year was to get rid of clutter. I have a very small house but I have bookshelves in every room, including the kitchen and one bathroom. I determined that reducing the size of my library would be the best place to begin my decluttering project. In the process of going through this intimidating number of books, I came across a sizeable number of journals. The irony is not lost upon me. Each volume reflects a prior New Year’s resolution to “journal” every day. There is a sort of beauty to the covers of the journals themselves. Some of them are quite lovely and inviting with butterflies and birdhouses, ribbons and rhymes, calligraphy and clasps; then there are the plain old spiral bound notebooks. It is the pages themselves that intrigued me and stopped me cold in my quest to conquer clutter.
The entries all begin on January 1 of each year, except for one that begins on December 8, 1975, when I met my husband at a Boulder bar. That one ends with a paddleboat trip through the bayous outside New Orleans in September 1978. Another journal with a lovely cover, a gift from my daughter in 1996 was given faithful attention until February 2, 1997, with one more entry in July of 1999. This one is full of prayers of thanksgiving for a multitude of activities with my family.
Parting with any book is difficult enough, but journals dating from 10 to 15 years ago are just begging to be read. After several cups of coffee and some serious eyestrain, I get this bright idea to consolidate these myriad snippets of my past by typing them all into the computer and then sorting them somehow. This is a bit daunting for several reasons. First, there is the sheer number of entries; and then there is the countless number of subjects covered. Do you sort chronologically, as they are written to get a picture of a certain time period, or do you sort according to subject; perhaps with the goal of seeing change and/or growth in certain areas of your life? Hard to know. Family is liberally interspersed through all of the volumes, so “family” itself would be a huge category. The good thing is I don’t have to decide yet, because I am still in the data entry stage of this project, with about fifteen more journals to go.
The point I am trying to make, though, is that running across and gathering these journals in one place has slowed my “clean out the clutter project considerably.” I cannot put them down once I begin reading. Despite the paucity of entries, because there are many, many volumes, I have been tripping down memory lane for days now. I find entries about my parents, long ago departed, that are bittersweet. I sometimes marvel at the language I use, surprised that I could write that well. On the other hand, I find myself cringing with embarrassment at the clumsiness of certain sentences.
These journals, which have lived in various corners, on various shelves ,and on my nightstand from time to time, are admittedly fragmented and incomplete, but they are scenes from my past. There are, of course, the mundane references to the weather and the whiny laments about the flu, colds, injuries, etc. On the more pleasant side, though, are anecdotes about kids and grandkids, camping trips and vacations—all of which paint memory pictures that brighten this tedious project. Several times I tried to set down my dreams—these have an almost science-fiction quality, even though they are usually peopled by characters in my life. There is the occasional rant about the total contrariness of my spouse, children, or bosses. References to some of the animals in my life, who are no longer with me, bring both tears and happy memories.
There are, I am glad to say, many references to God and His creation and the blessings He has bestowed on me over the years, along with a few prayers for His favor as I travel through the peaks and valleys of life.
Although these journals almost always stop sometime before mid-year, attesting to still another broken vow to write daily, they have been fun to read. I sort of cringe when I think of anyone reading them, but I can’t bring myself to get rid of them. As I grow more content with each passing year, I find it a little harder to find anything to write about, so typing these journal entries is, I hope, another tactic to waken my sleeping muse.
As for the clutter elimination project, well, there’s always next year.