Every year around this time I find myself perching precariously on the horns of a dilemma. Shall I keep a diary in the New Year? It may not sound like much of a dilemma but there is more to it than meets the eye.
On the one hand I can keep a diary. This would mean that I have to buy a diary and a new pen and then commit to finding time on a daily basis to writing it. Not that onerous one might think. However, because it is my diary it has to be the same size and style as its predecessors or it won’t match. Once that hurdle is overcome I have to find a quiet time when I will not be interrupted and yet am not too exhausted to pen a few paragraphs about the day’s events. This can be tricky. Over the years, bedtime has proved an unsatisfactory time slot because, to be honest by that time I really can’t be bothered. Recently, I have taken to using the time when my smaller children are in the bath. This works well because I get ten minutes undisturbed but it does presuppose that nothing exciting is going to happen in the remaining six hours of my day. Now it is fair to say that nine times out of ten by the time I get to 6 o’clock my day is over but you never know. I might have an exciting, impromptu evening event and no space left to record it. Given that the likelihood of this is slim in the extreme, I have taken the view that it is better to run that risk than not use the bath time slot for diary writing.
This takes me to the next point. If, as often happens, I don’t get to my diary on a daily basis then the days build up and I have to eventually sit down and do a week’s worth in one job lot. I have decided that this is pointless because whilst I can usually remember what I actually did from one week to the next, how I feel changes as events unfold. So, if I am writing on a Thursday about something that happened the previous Monday my account of the day will be coloured by subsequent thoughts or conversations and it is hard to try and record the day with only the influences that I had at that point.
Another difficulty that I have to overcome is what I actually write down. As I get older I become more cautious about exactly how honest I can be. Before I had my children I wrote what I wanted. If people annoyed my I let them have it with both barrels. If I had a tricky problem to fathom I discussed the pros and cons as if I were having a conversation with a trusted friend. However, as soon as the first child was born my perspective changed. I started to think that when I died my child would find and read my diary and I wanted to protect her and myself from my darkest thoughts. At that point, albeit subconsciously, I started to sanitize my diary. When, a few years later I became aware of what I was doing and why, I tried to regain my former candid style but found that I have become too self conscious to bear my soul on paper and so the diaries have never regained their honesty.
So why bother? If what you write only covers a portion of your day, is a sketchy description of what you have done and doesn’t accurately reflect your thought processes why waste time worrying about it? And here is the essence of my dilemma.
I started writing my diary in 1985 and with the exception of two years have written one every year since. I have them all in a shoe box, all more or less the same size and shape recording ( or not recording) my life for the last 23 years. If I have a trip down memory lane with someone and we have forgotten a particular detail I can look it up and give an accurate account of who, when and often why. Writing a diary has been a part of my persona for more or less as long as I can remember and a part of me cannot bear to look at that shoe box in 20 years time and think “What a shame I stopped recording my life back in 2009 ” or whenever.
And so I have answered my own dilemma. I can never stop writing my diary. Even though its contents are fundamentally flawed and it adds to my daily quota of guilt when I haven’t done it, it is a part of me and so on I must go. The diary for 2009 is pink.