the shelf life of ink, day 14


outside of checks
and thank you notes,
and invitations to the annual class reunion,
my mother doesn’t write.

she collects quotes
written by others,
though if she ponders
why they appeal
or how they apply
to her own life and self,
i don’t know about it.

i, on the other hand,
some days more copiously
than others.
take today, for instance,
where my journal bleeds red
to match my heart.

the same journal that once was
little more than an
accounting of how i spent my time
each day.
now bears witness
as i write what i would love to read.
my honesty
and deepest thoughts and feelings
inked out on the page,
my journal the only one i trust
to receive and contain.

then i read an admonition from phyllis theroux
warning journal keepers to
keep in mind that children
might read one day’s entry as
the undying truth
without considering the context.
and i feel the weighty responsibility.

mark twain’s new 3-volume autobiography,
is about to be released
some 100 years after his death.
why so long?
he wanted the freedom to
speak his truth
without fear of
his words harming his loved ones
or driving wedges all around.

and so i can’t help but wonder
if i shouldn’t take the safe
road again
and go back to chronicling my comings and goings.
do i really want to risk saddling
my children
with discovering the essential me
through my words that accumulate
as i discover
the essential me?
i want them to understand me,
to at least see me as a complex –
perhaps even complicated –
woman of layers,
but what if i’m eternally
misunderstood and despised instead?

what if they never visit my grave
to change out the flowers?

maybe i should just amass a
collection of quotes
and let my chiclets
assign meaning and likeness
as they will.


  1. Mrsmediocrity

    i had this same conversation with a friend a while back. she is afraid to journal because she thinks her little girls will find it. i told her to do it anyway and then hit delete, or tear it up, or burn it, that the writing it is what counts, the process, the revelation, the therapy. I keep all my journals, because I’m pretty sure that my kids already know how nuts i am. but that’s just me.
    i love ya.

  2. angela

    From what I’ve gathered, you’ve raised children who will love you (and change the flowers)all the more with every page you write and they read. xo

  3. emma

    My grandmother burned all but her last journal before she died, and left explicit instructions to her husband to burn the final one immediately upon her death. He did. I’ve always wished she could have trusted more that her words would illuminate more than they would wound, even if they were sharp.

  4. Sally G.

    I had this discussion with a friend recently too. I lean with mrs. mediocrity ~ journalling is a critical part of the healing process for writers. It’s also an ultimate path to enlightened truths – as information flows from the depths of your heart, through your system, out your fingers and onto the page via the ink and pen.

    I’ve often been surprised at what reveals itself on a page when I think I’m writing about something else.

    Having said that – I will destroy all my Journals soon, for they do not contain the kind of life wisdom I desire to have passed on to my daughters … as you noted, context is important, and there’s much about what I’ve healed that they will probably never know. In many ways, those Journals were Self-indulgent. Which is exactly what I needed at the time, indulgence with my Self.

    My blog site contains the life experiences and wisdom that I believe would serve a more meaningful purpose in their lives. And so perhaps, I will package that content in a manner that can be gifted to them later – when they can fully appreciate the living, breathing, work-in-progress their mother truly was.

    Don’t over-think this Jeanne. You’ll get lost in the quandary. Whatever your instinct was (and is) – trust it. The answer will not be the same for all of us.

  5. Cristina

    The stories of people are what make them come alive. Our future “us” will want to know that we were just as human as they are and not the images of perfection they would like to think we could have been. In spite of our frailties we did what they will hope they could yet do: persevere. Let the written records stand as a testament to us so that somebody in the future might know us for who and what we became. Else what is the point?

  6. Acey

    I think so much depends on the ongoing relationship we build and maintain with our kids. My mother and I had an extremely dysfunctional relationship and that’s not simple subjectivity or dramatization on my part. Reading just a part of one of her (many)journals, and the rancorous things she said about me within it, did nothing but accentuate what was already painfully clear to me. I threw out a few but also kept some in case there came a time when I felt stronger and more resolute about “knowing joyce” from her own unexpurgated point of view. I doubt the day will come but you never know. Last summer I talked to my son about this dilemma. I had come to realize they were a form of inheritance for him and he had already expressed a very clear desire to have my own journals even though I’d previously planned on burning them myself or having Jim do it for me posthumously. Tony feels he wants all the notebooks from both his mother and grandmother because it’s not just his bloodline, it’s his writer’s lineage. He presumes he may never read them but still wants them as tangible proof of the writerly Nature of things. He is also interested in my visual journals and process binders/creative sourcebooks because THEY, from his POV, embody his knowing and loving of his Mom. He says he will find great comfort in them and plans to look through them frequently. I was fascinated by the delineations he made and the wishing to remain close to my heart (creative notebooks) even if he chose to ultimately overlook my mind (the written journals).

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