It all began with the gift of a five-year diary when I was in seventh grade. There was a page for each date, divided into five sections for succeeding years. The very nature of the page limited the entry. I recall remarking on the weather, delicious meals my mother made, test grades and report cards, maybe briefly an activity or event that day. It was all very straightforward, like Jack Webb and his “Just the facts, Ma’am.” If there was anything “juicy” to report, I wrote it in French because I was sure my mother read my diary despite its lock which she could probably open with a hairpin!
By the time I was a senior in high school, I fell out of the habit of writing regularly and didn’t resume until journals became popular some thirty years later, in 1985. At first I wrote in bound journals and then continued in many, many spiral notebooks. The journal’s unstructured pages were freeing. I didn’t have to write every day but only when I had time or reason. I could skip weeks and even months. I could write a line or several pages. It was in journals that I began to write in depth about my feelings of joy, of anger, of disappointment, of triumph, my successes, my failures, my hopes and dreams. The journal was, and still is, my truth-telling book.
On June 26, 1993, I began using my new computer for entries, and this revolutionized my journaling. I could write faster, write more. I could use cut and paste to include quotes from articles and from other people. I began entering my dreams and nightmares because I could use blue text to separate them from reality. I could go back at any time and make an addition. I often quoted friends and family or books. As a matter of habit, I always wrote in complete sentences and used correct spelling. With the ease of the computer, I chronicled nearly every day, though I would write the next morning when I was at my best. If I missed a day or two, I would go back and write what I could recall, always enclosing the entry in parentheses to indicate the entry wasn’t “fresh. One of my favorite habits over the years was to read back in my journals. I especially loved reading an entry from a year ago, 5 years ago, 10 years ago, etc. Of course sometimes I would get carried away and read a few pages before and a few pages after that date. It would amaze me how much I had been able to do in a day in those earlier years. I relived the fun I had. Sometimes looking back I would have insight into a dream or a situation in real life. “Aha, I would think, that’s why…” Throughout the years, there are common themes: the effort to lose weight, to exercise more, to let go of other people’s problems, and, for whatever reason, often comments about the weather. Ironically sometimes one entry would sound exactly like one from the past, especially on January 1 with its promises and resolutions as I took stock of my life.
About five months ago, I suddenly lost the desire to make journal entries. At first I couldn’t figure out why, but then I realized that recently, when looking back, I was sometimes reviving memories of unfortunate events, uncomfortable words, and hurt feelings which were better forgotten. However, a habit of such long-standing is hard to give up, so I’ve compromised by going back to writing in a journal, although not every day, and I’ve vowed not to read past entries. Will it be enough to simply document the day, knowing I am not going reread it at some point? The jury is still out on that.
I certainly don’t want anyone else to read my journals although actually I can’t really picture any of my children or grandchildren being bothered to read them. Once I started keeping them on my computer, I wished for enough advance notice to select “delete all,” but what about the handwritten ones? It will be tough, but I guess I better start destroying them.
© Dorothy C. Judd 2015
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