Dear Diary,

November 3, 2012 § 79 Comments

We signed a lease on a townhouse yesterday.  Our house-sitting gig ends in November, so right around the time we’ll be celebrating Thanksgiving, and our son’s birthday, and our daughter’s birthday, and right there in the thick of the Christmas season, we will be moving!  Sounds fun, doesn’t it?  But we are thrilled because we will be moving into our own place again, with our own stuff, unpacked and out of boxes.  With our bread board, and our recipes,  both hard- and paperback versions of Lonesome Dove, my green coffee mug, a checkbook we need to find.

And my diaries.

My grandmother gave me my first diary – a baby blue book with a tiny gold lock – and I loved that thing like a best friend.  I can’t remember how old I was when I started writing in it.  I think I might have been a little younger than our daughter is now because I can picture my handwriting, a kindergarten-like “Dear Diary,” scrawled on every yellowed page.  What did I write about at age five? What was on my mind?  What were my secret thoughts, my concerns, my deepest desires at that innocent stage in life?  Maybe I just wrote about what I did that day.  What color shirt I wore.  “I ate Cheerios for breakfast.  They were good.  Bye.”

It is highly probable that that diary was the genesis of my love for writing.  I think in words rather than images*, and my head is often swirling with sentences, theoretical conversations, random words that have no context.  If I don’t get them out, phrases and fragments begin rearranging themselves in different combinations in my head, over and over and over again, like headlines on the scrolling ticker at the bottom of the TV screen.  Those damn mind-tickers keep me up at night and distract me during the day.  Penning my thoughts on paper has always been an effective release, as writing them out removes them from my head, much like Dumbledore’s Pensieve.

I generally don’t go back and look at my private writings, because as I grew, my journals mostly became a repository of stress.  But I had a genius idea at work the other day.  When we move, I want to finally open my box of diaries – all 30 something years of them – and read them as our daughter grows.  To use them as guideposts, to gain perspective, to remember what it’s like to be a seven year old girl, a nine year old girl, a teenage girl.   To remind myself what was important at each age, which thoughts were so significant, which stresses so overwhelming to me that I was compelled to write them down.

To put myself in her shoes so I’ll know where she’s coming from, whatever age she may be.

Because I’ll be frank with you.  I have a hard time remembering what it was like to be a kid.  Even though I consider one of my greatest strengths to be empathy, of being able to see situations from all sides and understand each person’s point of view, I have a terrible time doing that for our kids.  I am not child-like (unless we’re talking fart jokes and footballs in the crotch –  that’s funny stuff), and I often treat our kids as if they should be more grown up than they are.  I struggle with being stuck in my adult frame of mind, distracted by my grown-up mind-ticker, and I want to appreciate their point of view.  How can you help someone, how can you be close to them, if you don’t see their point of view?

I can’t wait to find that first diary and read through the entries til I find my seven-year-old self.  Maybe even read it with our daughter when I present her with her very own first diary.  A diary that will house her own child thoughts, an outlet for now, and a window back in time when she wants to be able to tell her own daughter, “I understand.  I remember.”

*I recently discovered, in year 14 of our marriage, that my husband often thinks in images rather than in words.  This discovery was a revelation to me – I thought everyone thought in words! – and has deepened my understanding of him, and of myself, and of us, and of communication styles.

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§ 79 Responses to Dear Diary,

  • I think in words too, but they don’t come out quite as eloquent as yours. You MUST do a follow up to this post when you do have a chance to go through your diaries. Maybe share some posts? That would be awesome. Congrats on being Freshly Pressed. Well deserved!

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  • Kami Tilby says:

    What a wonderful use of your diaries. I had a completely different take on this in a similar post a few weeks ago. Was debating editing or even burning my journals.

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  • Love it, you have inspired me to go dig out my diaries , especially since i am often wondering what is going through the mind of my 6 year old at the moment…Good luck with your move and thanks again for the inspiration.

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  • Pensieve. It made me smile :)

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  • lanilakwatsera says:

    Like you I used to always have a diary. from the time i was thirteen up to twenty three. and then i started to resort to blogging when i was in my late 20s. but you know what, it’s really not the same :)

    looking forward to hearing your future posts as you discover what the seven year old you used to write.

    congratulations on making it to Freshly Pressed!

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    • You’re right, blogging is totally different. But in a good way, I think. Journaling is usually stream of consciousness for me, and a stream of private thoughts I haven’t sorted through enough to want to share. When I journal, I’m not really sure what I think of my thoughts yet – I’m just trying to get them out. Blogging requires more examination, which is why I like it so much. Thanks so much for the congrats, and I hope to post from my diaries when I finally unpack them!

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  • This is lovely! I started writing a diary when I found out my mother was pregnant, when I was 17. I wanted my new sibling to have something to read to show how I and we felt as she was coming into our lives and growing up. Unfortunately I did not keep it going ): . Your daughter will love it, it’s the most wonderful thing. My mother wrote me some letters when she was pregnant with me, and they are my most treasured posessions. x

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  • oyinhusein says:

    wow! That’s all i can say. and it’s a good WOW!

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  • kittyjane says:

    I always kept a journal when I was little and it’s neat to look back and remember how it felt to go through my life at that age. I wrote several letters to my future self in the journals when I was going through a rough time with my mom, hoping that those letters would help me be a better mom to a teen girl.

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  • i tried to have a diary at least a couple times a year in my youth. never could keep it up, felt like too much of a chore even though i always loved writing. strangely. anyway now i kind of keep a diary but it’s more of a journal, a place for thoughts and inspirations and lists. all the lists.

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  • lsurrett2 says:

    Terrific idea. Wishing I had been consistent in writing in my journal.

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  • gnovember says:

    Congrats on being Freshly pressed! I have also kept a diary since I was twelve and love to go back to it and just see how I have grown over time and how I have dealt with different phases in my life. Definitely keep us posted on how the reflection between your life and your daughters goes.

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  • […] posts on both family and the writing life: a piece on putting food on the table, and a post on revisiting her childhood diaries. Her blog is a delight: lovely musings on motherhood and parenting, and lighthearted pieces, too […]

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  • angelinekyba says:

    I kept diaries form time to time as a teenager but then had to cross things out and not write certain things for fear Mom or my sister or brother would be reading what I wished to put down so it was not easy or truthful. Fear of retribution, mockery but I became visual and painted and am now a painter, which is more private and needs no explanation.

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  • alygeorges says:

    I’ve always loved writing, but unlike you i never fancied the idea of keeping diaries because I dreaded the thought of my personal feelings; my thoughts, falling in the wrong hands. but now looking at it from your perspective, i realize that there’s actually an upside to keeping diaries. thanks for the insight. :-)

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  • dalene says:

    It is truly awesome to see some of those old posts from time to time. It makes us realize that we aren’t stuck in the past and we have come so far…

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  • This is very interesting! I have found going back and reading old diary entries to be very useful in my life often revitalizing of lost dreams, ideas and strengths. Someone brought up diaries at the dinner table the other night and one daughter said she rips out the pages and burns them to make sure no one reads them. I think she was just being overly dramatic I haven’t smelled any smoke or seen any fires. It would be unfortunate if she did. The other one said she staples the pages shut. They have always loved writing.

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  • […] Top parenting (and most popular overall) post: Dear Diary, […]

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