Dear, dearest diary,
I am sorry I have not written in your lined paper pages for such a long time. I am so sorry to have deserted you for this new-fangled writing instrument called a “blog”. (I know you are raising your papered eyebrows. The word “diary” is so much more flowery and expressive than that harsh syllable “blog”.)
Just wanted to tell you, dear, dear, secret diary that a blog is really something different for me. It’s not a place to tell all. OK, it’s a place to tell some. It has a ready-made audience unlike your secret and hidden pages. I pretend that a blog is column, an essay, something to inspire or entertain. It doesn’t contain all the whining and tears I once poured out in ink, the eternal fretting, “Who am I? What is wrong with me? How to fix this being named Kathy so she can fit into this unfittable world?”
Ahhh, yes, that theme peppered through your pages for way too many years, the endless self-searching, the endless angst. Trying to understand how a life that seemed so good on the exterior actually felt like something-is-missing on the interior.
And then the endless pages of joy and elation, the thrill of being alive, the new experiences, the amazement of life and creativity and delight!
Remember our first relationship, dear diary?
I was in third or fourth grade. You were white, decorated with a pink poodle-skirted teenage goddess.
I wrote big awkward loopy sentences like, “Watched Lost in Space last night. We ate supper.” (We ate supper? What motivated this sentence?)
The diary recorded events. No feelings. Only black-and-white solid eight year old happenings. It was abandoned after three months.
For the next ten years I wrote almost daily in my bedroom, sitting at a blond desk, listening to 45 records spinning on a red record player crooning out “Crimson and Clover” and “I’m so Dizzy” while typing poems and stories and novels on a red manual typewriter.
The poems started, innocently enough, about robins in the backyard. Within five years they were all about despair, pain, and suffering. How did a child with two loving parents, ideal siblings, a lovely house, travels across the United States in the back seat of a station wagon, feel so much inner unrest? You can understand children abused, beaten, sick or hungry experiencing such emotional turmoil, but why a little girl growing up with everything her heart ought to have embraced in utter gratitude?
Instead, I was haunted by Nazi nightmares, running, running, always escaping, diving beneath hay bales, just trying to get away, escape, escape, oh no he’s got a gun, he’s in my bedroom, they’re going to kill us all. Add a painfully shy personality to the mix–scared of saying peep louder than a robin–and you’ve got me as a child, always tripping over shadows and devastated when a 4th grader called me “Clodhopper”. It took ten years to get over it…and if you call me “Clodhopper” today the internal little girl will shrink, humiliated, even though her feet are a respectable size 8 (OK, make that 9).
Dearest Secret Diary, we made friends again at age 18, didn’t we, when I traveled to Switzerland during the summer as an exchange student? Faithful recordings: So tired. So jet-lagged. All I want to do is sleep. Paris is beautiful.
And: I love my Swiss family. It feels just like home. Suzanne showed me how to wear jeans. You buy the tightest jeans you can find and lay on the bed to zip yourself into them.
Then a college journal (diaries became a little-girl word at this age. Now they are journals. Much more mature, don’t we think?) I met this cute boy named Barry and he invited me to a party at his dorm. I think he invited me. I don’t know if it was for a date or just to go to a party…
Later, journal after journal recording life with husband and children in our Little House in the Big Woods. Seeking, always seeking, to find out what my life was about…
Then the years of Spiritual Journals in the late 1980’s. Notebook upon notebook penning dreams:
I dreamed of walking down by the Silver River. It is winter. Thick ice covers the river. I walk out on the ice and it cracks and breaks and I fall in–down, down, down under the ice. Am trapped, can’t get out, and I die but now my skeleton, my bones, lie by the river and I sing myself back into human form, into something new.
OK, I told you the most dramatic dream I can remember. Most of the dreams were more like this: I cracked eggs to bake a cake. One egg was bloody. Or: I am working at home in Yale in the drugstore. A customer puts twenty items on the counter. I try to add them up, but can’t add them, and the dream continues on forever as I try to endlessly add them up to charge the customer.
Or another regular: I am in college. Six weeks have passed and I suddenly remember I was supposed to go to a biology class. Oh no! Horrors! Now, endlessly trying to find that biology class, to somehow figure out how to make it up, the horror of it…
After the years of dream-journals come the years of spiritual journals. After the years of spiritual journals come the years of …more spiritual journals. And, finally, seven years ago, the years of “Morning Pages” from the Artist’s Way where you write three pages of random thoughts, helter-skelter, stream of consciousness, from garbage to significant, letting dozens of meaningless and meaningful words splay across the pages along with drips of smudged coffee, perhaps some tears, perhaps cuddling under blankets on the couch.
Then in 2008, I discovered the word “blog” and suddenly who cared about crying or laughing into your secret pages? Forget secret! There’s an audience out there, an audience, mind you, where you can write to your heart’s content and sometimes they like it (and if they don’t like it, they usually don’t comment, and if they do say something nasty you can sweet-talk ‘em past their own lack of self-worth, since you remember your own lack of self-worth, and gosh darn, they probably didn’t have a diary to help heal ‘em.)
So, dearest secret loving wonderful terrible beautiful diary, we parted company and nary a sentence hath looped across your black-lined journal pages in at least four years, except perhaps long-abandoned lists or the most secret of all ramblings soon abandoned for the utter joy of near-daily blogging which contains very little angst, suffering or pain, thank all the stars in the Universe, because perhaps your pages truly helped heal something because the Nazis ceased breaking into my dreams with their guns and bayonets. Although I do still dream about trying to pack the suitcase for a Big Trip and it’s impossible to pack, impossible to include all the underwear and sweaters and jackets and socks and the plane is leaving in five minutes…
Thank you, dear secret secret diary, for the years you listened faithfully and loved unconditionally. I am pondering burning all the journals in a big bonfire, a magnificent bonfire, a Bonfire of Diaries!, releasing all the angst and memories and joy and suffering to the crackling fire! And yet, the other part says, no, perhaps a grandchild will want to read about the Nazis and the broken egg and the robin and and Lost in Space and how Grandma obsessed about becoming the best person she could be for way too many sentences and years.
Or perhaps I shall become a famous wise blogger and researchers shall want to dive into those musty boxes in the basement, looking for clues of how she became wise, how she overcame internal adversity to offer spiritual tidbits to– nah. You’re going a bit too far now, you dreamer. Ain’t gonna happen.
What do you think, dear Diary? Flames or grandchildren?
P.S. You readers know what question is coming, don’t you? Did you keep a secret diary or journal? Did it help you figure things out? How did it change over the years?