One of the many things Richard told me to gaslight me, was that it was somehow “creepy” that I save letters I receive, and copy letters I write. He even had his wife help him with this gaslighting, sat me down and the two of them told me how creepy and weird it was. I describe this here.
I now recognize this as part of a campaign to make me think they were perfectly normal and I was crazy, to keep me from seeing his narcissism and her abuse and realizing how he’d been manipulating me and using me all along.
This is something narcissists and abusers do to you, to get you to stop complaining about bad treatment and start seeing yourself as the problem, while they change nothing and apologize for nothing.
Even if you know in your heart that you’re doing nothing wrong or weird, just by being your trusted friend, a narcissist can plant one of these “mind bombs” in your head to get your brain thinking subconsciously,
“What if he’s right? What if I am a creepy clingy stalker type?” (Just because you like to save old letters and keep a diary? Oh pleeeaaase!)
I’ve been going through my old college diaries, letters, and the memoirs I wrote right after graduation, in order to update my online college memoirs. Tonight I found that on June 19, 1994, I wrote in a letter to a friend,
My dad has an old copier now, and it makes letter-writing so much quicker. I used to write a letter, then hand-write or type up a copy for myself. Now I just take a few minutes to copy it.
It’s so odd to not have to pay a dime a copy [like at school], and bad copies aren’t such a problem when you don’t have much money to make more.
In “Clarissa” by Samuel Richardson, Clarissa and Lovelace are always copying letters or having their servants do it. Then they sometimes copy other people’s letters so their friends can read them. How they would have appreciated having copiers!
I started copying letters around the same time I started writing them: in the mid-80s, my early teens, to my pen pal in Luxembourg. If I didn’t do that, my Mammoth Cave account would have been lost, never turned into this post.
So…Apparently I’ve been “creepy” for some 28 years….
I believe I wanted to record what I wrote to this stranger in a foreign country. As I signed up for more pen pals in other countries, I also saved the letters I wrote them, as well as the ones they wrote me. I had a different folder for each pen pal, with “to” on one side and “from” on the other.
Those folders are still in my fireproof vaults, along with letters written and received from my college friends all through college, and nearly all e-mails exchanged after we graduated, from then up until the present day.
(I recently began archiving e-mails on my computer instead, to save space, and I back up my e-mails periodically on a portable backup drive called My Book.)
There were some letters I didn’t copy here and there, but I later regretted this, because I would have loved to have that written account of everything that happened when my parents took me to college for the first time.
I wrote a church friend about the spires in Milwaukee, but I don’t have a clue what else, and now it’s lost to my memory. The letters I did keep, have allowed me to write accurate college memoirs full of detail, making the scenes far more vivid than, “Well, we did this, then this, but I’m not sure what else.”
This is also why I’m confident that my story about Richard and Tracy is accurate, because I have this record of our interactions, not just e-mails and letters exchanged with them, but e-mails I wrote my mother, college friends and husband during those years.
When Richard accused me of somehow being “creepy” for saving letters people send me, and copying letters I send others–and when Tracy made fun of me for it like some mean girl in junior high–I knew this was absolutely frickin’ ridiculous. I wrote to my college friends about it as well, to find out their thoughts.
They were all in favor of me doing whatever I dang well please with my letters. They didn’t think it was one bit creepy, and one even questioned why on earth Richard would say such a thing. Another said he didn’t save letters (except from his wife), but only because he didn’t have the room to store them all.
I wouldn’t be a bit surprised if saving letters like this, is a “writer” trait. Writers journal; we write diaries; we save odds and ends; we want to remember so we can write about it later, or just to remember. Some of us save for posterity, historians and/or biographers.
A lady brought in her journals to Writer’s Club last night, full of playbills, photographs, written accounts, even movie ticket stubs (I do that, too). And that’s what I’m doing: saving it to write about it later. Or to save the letters dear friends have written me, because they are dear friends. Or simply to remember.
In fact, the first time I ever heard of people just chucking old letters, was when Richard told me it was creepy to save them! I thought everybody saved their letters, simply because those are your friends writing you, they took the time to write you, and the letters are worth saving because of who they came from.
I also wanted to remember what I wrote to people, as a diary, so I saved those as well.
I call it all part of my journal; the letters and e-mails are saved with other mementoes, neatly organized in date order in file folders, many of which are stored in fireproof vaults.
These are all valuable memories which otherwise would be lost as my brain jettisons things over the years. Even old letters, mementoes and pictures from my exes are still preserved.
(Anyone who gets jealous over their mates saving such things, I think they’re absolutely ridiculous. I do not save these because of pining over my exes: I lost all romantic interest in these guys 20 years ago! I save them for the same reason I save all my other letters: as a diary, reminders of something that was important to me once. No one has any business telling their mates what to do with old letters from exes long gone! That’s wanting to control your mate, even their memories!)
I don’t write diaries like I used to, because it’s much easier to save letters and e-mails: They cover many of the events of my life and what I think about them. Also, nowadays I use this website as a diary/journal.
Come to think of it, my ex-friend-with-benefits Shawn, who used and psychologically abused me back in college, objected to, even scolded me for, keeping a diary about the things he would do with me:
He had also complained about me writing in my diary everything that happened between us. He thought special memories should be kept in the head and not written down.
It was an odd idea that I’d never encountered before, because even special memories begin to fade over time. In fact, if I hadn’t written these things down, these memoirs would be far less detailed, because I had forgotten so much!
His objection also came from his time in the mental hospital, though I won’t explain how; I had no such experience. He asked if I worried about anybody finding it; no, I did not. If they did, they’d realize I wasn’t as innocent as people thought, and I didn’t mind that. —March 1993, “Shawn Rips Me Apart for NVLD Traits”
Shawn is the only person I’ve ever encountered who thought a diary was somehow a bad thing.
I’m convinced that anyone who objects to someone else keeping a diary or old letters, is afraid of discovery, that they are abusing that person and don’t want it known.
Also, if you keep records of your interactions with such a person, then you can one day have that “ah-HAH!” moment that means the narc/abuser has now lost all control over you–and that you have proof for others to see, as well.
Yet writers have always been hyper-aware their correspondence might have enduring literary merit. Hunter S. Thompson, for one, made carbon copies of many of his letters…..
One writer who systematically saves his e-mail is Nicholson Baker, whose book ”Double Fold” was a cri de coeur about what is lost when libraries convert newspapers and other rare materials to microfilm.
”I regret deleting things afterward, even sometimes spam,” Baker said. ”I’ve saved almost everything, incoming and outgoing, since 1993, except for a thousand or so messages that went away after a shipping company dropped my computer.
“That amounts to over two gigabytes of correspondence — I know because my old version of Outlook froze when I passed the two gigabyte barrier. When software changes, I convert the old mail into the new format. It’s the only functioning filing system I have.”
Salman Rushdie is also a saver. ”Yes, I have saved my e-mails, written and received since the mid-90’s when I started using computers regularly, and yes, I suppose any archive deal would include these (pretty extensive) e-mail files,” Rushdie said.
”I e-mail a lot, so there’s all sorts of stuff there, but don’t ask me to remember what it is. Private correspondence, texts, business mail, jokes, everything.”
Rushdie said he had backed up a lot of his correspondence on an external hard drive, where he had also transferred messages from old computers. –Rachel Donadio, Literary Letters, Lost in Cyberspace
The comments to this blog post are full of reasons why old letters and journals should not be destroyed, for sentimental reasons and for posterity:
- Regret over letters which were destroyed to de-clutter.
- Destroying letters and journals is sacrilege.
- Letters and journals are not clutter even if you have a lot of them (not a bit like old clothes or broken lamps).
- Regret over the destruction of letters between one’s parents.
During my late forties, I began making copies of the letters I sent to my many epistolary friends. I typed those I’d written in longhand before mailing them, and made carbon copies or photocopies of those composed on the typewriter.
By that time the absence of such a record had on a number of occasions been a cause of my dismay, puzzlement, or keen regret.
It happens that I had become a devotée of the forth-and-back call-and-response pulsations of corresponding with souls of widely different temperaments, interests and points of view.
Each of them brought out another side of me: what was sacred to one might be anathema to another; what enthralled one was less than fascinating to the next; what entertained one, another found was not at all amusing.
When the spirit was upon me, I penned or typed long letters to my friends-in-writing in response to theirs. Because each of these epistolary friendships was sui generis, I suppose it was inevitable that I would eventually begin saving both sides of each correspondence.
I had learned well that a good habit for indefatigable letter writers to cultivate is to review what was written to whom, and when, lest one weary or wound or offend through a slip of the pen….
The passion to preserve my own papers, strewn with the seeds of every living thing I have read or written, was born of the desire to honor the covenant between the generations. Who has not dreamed the impossible dream of imperishability of all we have loved well? –Audrey Borenstein, Saving Words: Old Letters and Journals
So go ahead, save your old letters and diaries. And if anyone tells you it’s wrong, tell them it’s your life and you’ll do what you want!
Those memories will become more precious to you over time, as the ones in your head begin to fade. And your descendants may find them precious as well.
Also, use my story to help you be on guard against narcissistic mindscrews.