For me, today begins Year 4 of keeping a journal. I have a little blue book called One Line a Day, which is a 5-year diary. There’s a page for each date, with five ruled blocks beneath, each containing only six lines. I’d always wanted to keep a journal, but I wasn’t confident that I had the discipline to make entries on a daily basis. When I came across this book though I thought, surely I can take the time to fill six lines every night? And I have. At this point I feel so invested that the thought of having a blank entry is repugnant.
I’m enchanted with journals, both nonfiction (The Diary of Anne Frank) and fiction (The Handmaid’s Tale). I’m currently following a blog called Ella & I, which shares daily entries from a series of diaries kept by Ella Warner Fisher of Vergennes VT from the late 1890s through 1932. As the author of this blog describes, Ella and her husband had eight children and “she washed and mended and churned and sold eggs and chickens and made lots of pies and bread and was active in her church and the D.A.R.” Through these records and the generosity of the blogger who’s taking the time to share them, I enjoy a view of another’s long-ago daily rhythms as well as (with the advantage of hindsight) cultural and historic forces at work.
When I was young, my grandfather’s journal from World War I intrigued me. Reading his young-man thoughts and perceptions documented in his own handwriting gave me a tangible connection to and a more complete picture of the elderly taciturn man I knew only through once-a-year visits. His diary let me see him as someone like me, with fears, yearnings, private thoughts, petty complaints and joyful moments. There are mysteries too: who’s that person he mentions? Why did he record this particular event? Why did he skip writing on these days?
Both of my parents died relatively young, and my adult self longs to ask them questions that my younger self never thought to ask. I don’t know if my children or potential grandchildren will be curious about me, who I am/was, my motivations or why I made the choices I’ve made, but my leaving clues like my little blue book, letters I’ve written and my blog might allow them a glimpse.
My little blue book also serves me in a way I didn’t anticipate. Now that I’ve been diary-keeping for a few years, I’m able to revisit and reflect on what I’d written on that same date years before. What had seemed to weigh heavily has been dealt with, overcome, and passed. As a parent of teenager/young adults, this practice of nightly reflection allows me to see how much I’ve grown as a parent and a person and how my children have stumbled, made mistakes, hit obstacles and grown wiser. I go to bed each night reminded of the value of fortitude, patience, love and gratitude.