Thursday, May 10, 2007

Throwing words away

This week, I have spent several hours in the shed in the backyard of my old house, digging through boxes and trying to figure out what was musty, what was moisture damaged, and what was *ahem* mouse damaged.

There are things I used to save. They fit neatly into two categories: words and pictures.

Amongst the millions of photos I have kept and never organized, I found boxes of cards, some from birthdays 20+ years ago. There were letters from old friends. There was a box of journals that could cinch my inclusion in the cringe book.

It pained me to toss journal after journal into the trash, but the mice had made that particular box their little cozy den. The journals were chewed on the edges and I could just see the invisible germs that crawled all over them. The mouse poop was almost enough to make me toss the whole box without even gingerly trying to peek at what was inside.

When I saw the red and yellow flowered journal, I couldn't help but clutch in my hands and close my eyes, trying to remember to how to pray before I opened it. It was a journal I shared with a girl from my youth group. Yes, I had an ill fated stint as a Presbyterian youth director. It was a bad idea, except that the kids talked to me. A lot.

This girl was so broken, and I never knew why exactly. At 15, she was depressed, suffered from anorexia, was completely anxious about her grades - she was in so much pain. That is what she was. What she showed was a very put together, lovely young lady.

I gave her a journal. A blank book either to keep to herself or to share. She decided to share, so for several months, she and I passed this book back and forth to each other. She would cry out in her writing, and I would try and ease the pain in mine. I would confess things to her, my own flaws, my own demons, in the hope that these confessions would help her feel more normal and feel better about herself.

In the end, she flipped when I told her it was time for us to go to her parents and find her some professional help - I was just a 24 year old train wreck of my own sharing a journal with her. She never spoke to me again. She never wrote to me in a journal again.

She did write me a letter about 5 years later. It was an apology for the things she said and things she called me when I exposed her need for help. But, I was caught up in my own life and being the ass that I can be, I never wrote her back.

About a year ago, she overdosed on prescription drugs and died. She was 24. She was a nurse. She still went on mission trips with our old church. She told everyone that she had gotten her life together and was happy.

Just like when she was 15.

I sat for a little while with our words, and I wondered something strange. I wondered how things might have been different if Leigh had blogged instead of just written in a journal. I wondered if those words, the ones that I had to toss in the garbage can today, would have helped her anymore had they been read by many instead of just one.

I have had this post open for hours now. I know there is some great point I could make, and I'm just not finding it. "Throwing words away" like I did, quite literally, has just left me thinking. About Leigh. About my own writing. About blogging versus journaling. No points here, just thoughts.