Journal, Schmournal: What a girl would give for her diaries

Originally published February 2017

“How am I supposed to pick a single one?”

That was the first thought racing through my head when our blogging community moderator asked us to blog tonight about a book or publication that is special to us or has made a big impact on our lives.

Are you kidding me? Where do I start?

The beauty of this writing prompt, of course, is that no one has an excuse. For the written word impacts all of us at one time or another. Whether it’s a novel, a memoir, a newspaper or magazine, a church bulletin, a poem, or even just the directions written out hastily, googly-eyed, heart a flutter, when setting up that last first date — words always have meaning.

So I have to approach this question with a heightened sense of urgency — something that’ll push me to a Sophie’s Choice kind of conclusion. So I tried imagining what I’d save if my house were on fire.

It would crush me to leave behind my childhood copies of Little House on the Prairie and my old Nancy Drew mysteries, and my tattered “A Wrinkle in Time,” for sure. I’ll never forget the night my daughter came into my room after having read AWIT, in tears, and being thrilled she loved it as much as I did at her age.

But I gotta give it up for my diaries.

It’s been years since I’ve taken journaling seriously at all. But I know that one of my biggest regrets is that I don’t have the diaries from my childhood. Some were lost between physical moves from one location to another. Others were thrown away after breaches of privacy, too embarrassed to keep them for posterity. Others still handed over to people I thought I loved, only to end up in a landfill. If I let myself think about it too much, it can physically hurt. Words on a page — my words —treated so disrespectfully. What’s more, it’s a record of my adolescence, and something I wish I had to share with my kids now as they traverse that in between time. Damnit.

The journals I have now mostly detail my life as a young mother. And they’re also embarrassing. Because so much of it is straight up bitching and moaning. But they also contain roadmaps through tough times. There are words written about expectations unrealized in a pregnancy diary to my first child who never took a breath, and words to my three subsequent children while still unborn, tinged with extra concern that they know how much I love them — a subconscious prayer they wouldn’t meet the same fate.

There are entries, venting at the universe about how unfair it was to my oldest he has to deal with the challenges he was dealt. And there are entries of self-discovery, a-ha moments that helped to guide relationships and formulate life-changing decisions. There are attempts at gratitude, which will mean more as I get older and look back to determine what really matters in life. And there are moments of love — and not just between me and my husband or me and the kids, but details about those tiny moments with friends that will forever remind me of the people that sustained me during the years where childrearing sucks every last minute out of your day and ohmygod canIjusthaveaglassofwine withmyfriend beforeIhavetogetyourpajamason?!?!?!

So, yes — if my house were on fire, it would be these books I’d grab. For a long time, the pen to paper in those journals is what linked one day to another. Reading them back now, they are a reminder that for as much of a struggle some of those days seemed to be, it was cupcakes and butterflies compared to raising young adults. And in acknowledging that, the lesson today is to remember no matter how hard the time, nearly everything is surmountable and not nearly as difficult as it seems.

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