A couple of weeks ago an old friend came up to me at a party and asked this question, “Is it true that you’ve been writing in a diary since you were14?”
I answered, “Yup!”
Then she asked a battery of questions:
When did you start? Did you ever stop? Do you have all the diaries? What do you write about? When do you write? Do you write every day? Do you hide them? What happens when someone reads them? How many diaries do you have? Will you show them to me?
At this point, I had to sit down to answer all her questions.
I started writing in a diary at 14 years old. I didn’t know then, that I was going to be a Diary-Lifer!
At first, my diary was a place to put all my confusing adolescent thoughts. Where else was I able to say, “I’m a freak! I’m so in love with Lee Majors, Fonzie and Elvis all at the same time.” Or, “I don’t know why my left boob is bigger than my right boob.” Or, “I F+*#kin hate my bitch English teacher, she’s such a…”
This was my place of peace and privacy. I would write anything I wanted to, as long as I had a lock on my diary. Right? It didn’t take me long to realize that what I wrote wasn’t kept private. A simple Bobbie pin was all that was needed to open it and expose my truth.
Once I realized this, I started to write in code. A few books are written in code. Symbols like # meant cigarettes, * meant kiss, / meant hug, etc. For example, “David and I went behind the Rec Hall and ***/// “. Or “I went to the stables and had a #.” These books are the hardest to read. I pretty much know what I meant to say, but it isn’t completely clear. I don’t know the meaning of all the code symbols. I guess that was the point!
After High School, I gave up the responsibility of keeping my diaries private. I basically told anyone who wanted to read my diary that… “I wasn’t responsible for what they read .” If a friend wanted to read my private diaries and she didn’t like what she read – that was her problem, not mine. The freedom to read my diaries has been a great deterrent. No one really wants the responsibility and fear of knowing something they don’t want to know.
The truth is my diaries are really boring. They don’t read like a novel. There isn’t a clear path of information. There isn’t any structure. They sort of represent my mind and thought processes. Not a very good read at all.
However, after 40 years of writing, they are now the history books of my family and life. This is the gold within the diary.
After I got married my mother slightly suggested that my husband would think I was juvenile when writing in a diary before going to sleep. I said, “Other people read before they go to sleep. I write. If he doesn’t like that I write, I don’t think he’s the right person for me!” At this juncture, I decided to call my diaries, personal journals. Now, I write in a personal journal at night or during the day, or whenever I can.
This was MY TIME with me!
Occasionally, friends have invited me to go to meditation or relaxation classes. They say it’s a great way to unwind, relax and be spiritual. For some reason, I don’t feel the need to do this. I feel at peace. Perhaps working in my garden or running does it for me. I never thought my journals held the truth to the center of my peace.
Years and years have passed. 88+ journals have been written in. Daily thoughts have been recorded. History has been sealed in these books. My darkest and deepest moments of my life are permanent.
Not too long ago, a very close friend asked me about a guy she once dated. She had questions for me about that time in her life. I told her that I would look it up in the journals. She gave me the approximate years to reference. I went to the stacks of journals. I was able to provide her with some of the information she was seeking. Basically, I had some of her history at my fingertips. That was tres cool!
Over the years I have been able to look updates, events, history of the world, my life and other people’s life events. My journals are an amazing history resource.
What I have also come to realize is how valuable those daily time-outs, moments of reflection, peaceful-interior talk, and me moments have helped me as a person. Each day for over 41 years I have had a moment to write about something. Whether it is about my family, myself, the world, anything at all – it was my time for me. On the days that I can’t write, I don’t leave that day out. I will write about it when I have the time. There have been months when I have been a week or two or three behind in my journal writing. That’s fine. That’s life. Eventually, I will catch up and when I do, it will be a glorious chunk of me time.
It is never too late to start. Make your history permanent. Write about you, them, all of us and the world. Make journaling your “me time”! Make your words, a part of your legacy. A part of my legacy will be my words. What will be yours?
Suzanne Reisler Litwin is an instructor at Concordia University in The Centre for Continuing Education . She is a writing instructor at The Cummings Centre. She writes a weekly column in The Suburban Newspaper and at the West Island Blog. Suzanne is a freelance contributor to The Suburban Newspaper, West Island Blog, Wise Women Canada, The Metropolitain, and Women on the Fence. She is the author of the children’s book, The Black Velvet Jacket. Visit suzannereislerlitwin.com to read more of her published articles, books, and poetry.