Dear diary

So, my friend, go easy on yourself. You have people in your life who care about you. Not everyone can say that. I spoke with Steve and Gloria this afternoon, and they both recommend that you keep a diary – you’ll treasure it one day.

Those are a few lines from the book I read this weekend, The Gum Thief by Douglas Coupland. I wrote recently about how meaningful his body of work has been to me. It got me thinking that it would be a good idea for me to get back to reading some of it again. At the time when I wrote about it, I realized that there were a few books of his that I had never read. Once our library reopened, his name was at the top of my list for borrowing and I picked this book up on my first trip back after the renovations.

If I’m honest, I can’t say for sure whether I’d read it in the past or not. His tones and the themes are so consistent that it’s possible I’d never seen it before (it didn’t ring a bell when I picked it out) but there were times when the story seemed familiar. I could never fully decide if I was just so in tune with Coupland’s story development had worked or if it was actually a repeat. Regardless, it was very enjoyable.

But that’s not my topic today. My topic today is keeping a diary.

This is something I have always sucked at. If someone said I’d owned a thousand diaries in my life, I wouldn’t be able to deny it. If someone said I’d made fewer than a thousand diary entries in my life, I’d know in a heartbeat that was the truth. Most of the diaries I’ve owned have contained 2-3 entries and then dropped. I often don’t like the lack of continuity if I were to start over months or years later so I buy a new one instead of continuing with an older (read: already tarnished) one.

I have a friend who has kept diaries all her life. She continues to do it still to this day. When she married over a decade ago, her mother cautioned her that she thought it wasn’t a good idea. While my friend carefully considered her mother’s advice, she continued on anyway. I actually just found that out last year – I’d assumed she’d put an end to the practice after her wedding, that’s how seriously she took her mother’s counsel.

When we discussed it last summer she told me that, yes, she had thought about it, but in the end she couldn’t bring herself to do it. She also told me that she was happy she’d carried on because she still had a record of everything. She said she’d often go back and check on certain events to verify that her memory of them was accurate. She’d also go back to reference her feelings about something that had taken place. Since our perceptions often change over time, she said that it was interesting to remember with accuracy not only what had happened, but how she’d responded emotionally and intellectually.

It certainly made me feel a longing for that kind of dedication. As we’ve covered a million times, it’s hard to get me to do the same thing twice, let alone regularly.

I don’t regret not keeping journals of all of my experiences, but there are times when I wish I had a strong recollection of what happened in certain situations and the sequence of events that influenced them. As I get older and my repertoire of stories grows, I sometimes find myself working my way through the details and questioning who said and did what and in what order.

As much as I love to write and I have adopted it as a coping mechanism for working through sticky and confusing situations, I’ve never recorded it all in one place consecutively. There are files here, stories there, notes, letters – it’s all over the place.

I’d never realized this so much as I did when we started going through my stuff that’s stored at my parents’ house. There I found a number of diaries scarcely populated with cringe-worthy entries from various stages of my adolescence. It was awful. At the same time, there were some great reminders in the few that I’ve been brave enough to open.

I can’t say that I’m going to start keeping one, but I’ve definitely been giving it some thought.

Do you currently or have you ever kept a diary? How has it come in handy? Have you ever regretted it?

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