Years ago, I used to begin each day writing three pages in longhand, per Julia Cameron’s “Morning Pages.” It was stream of consciousness writing done via a fountain pen and legal pad that usually morphed from scribblings about my life to the plot and characters of the novel (my very first) I was working on. I loved that ritual and don’t remember why I stopped in the early 2000s. But because I struggle to throw out “documentation” of my life (in large part because my parents saved very few items from my childhood), I stored those years of legal pads in a filing cabinet in our basement where they remained until today when I took an empty cardboard box into the storage room and began emptying the contents of that file drawer.
At first, I averted my gaze, knowing how easy it would be for me to get lost in my words. Instead, I focused on tearing sections of paper away from the cardboard backing. Pad after pad was disassembled before my gaze somehow landed on the bottom of a page where I’d written about Wildebeest’s last day in soccer the day before. Apparently, in addition to ordering a team photo we’d also ordered a trophy for him despite misgivings about participation trophies. I wrote how Wildebeest was so thankful for the trophy he nearly cried as he said, “it makes me so happy.” Or maybe he said “it’s perfect.”
I’ve already forgotten the exact wording.
And that’s what panicked me as I stood this morning in the storage room next to the half-filled box of loose Morning Pages: the knowledge that I was about to recycle so many memories. For a moment, I considered going back through all those pages to extract every one that offered glimpses into my life with Zippy and our two sons. Such as the (May 1999) pages written the morning I’d gotten up at 5:00 a.m. in order to go to the Fillmore Auditorium to get in line for Bob Dylan concert tickets, and the next day’s pages in which I recounted how Zippy and the boys brought me croissants to where I waited in line and that it was Bob Dylan’s 58th birthday which I was celebrating by happily gazing upon the tickets I’d just scored. All those pieces of my life there on those legal pads.
But it wasn’t only highlights I came across as I tore paper from pads. I also read some angry words about Zippy. A scathing unsent letter to my father. And a shame-filled accounting of how I’d temporarily kept our sick dog, who was wet and muddy, outside our tent before coming to my senses and bringing her inside. Those Morning Pages also had the power to pull me back into places I didn’t need to revisit. Deep down, I knew there was no need to reopen wounds.
It’s all a moot point because as I write this, Zippy returned from the recycling center. Those six or so years of documentation are now officially gone from my life. I’m mostly at peace with my decision to let it all go, but admit to still having some twinges of regret. Undoubtedly, I’d documented some funny things the kids said. Fortunately, I don’t need those Morning Pages to remember Zebu pulling off his socks and saying “Mell my dinky toes.”