Friday, June 15, 2018

History is Made by the Historians

I’ve never been able to keep a diary, or, as the grown ups like to call them, a journal.

I’ve wanted to, that I know. I wouldn’t be able to tell you how many times I tried or how old I was when I bought the first diary but in the recesses of my mind, the poor beleaguered thing that my memory can often be, I have fuzzy visions of small, square, fat little notebooks, with delicate locks which, really, were only for show. I would crease the spines, date the page and write in my imperfectly messy round script the very important happenings that a little girl thinks to record. Each time I did this for a day, maybe two, perhaps a week but slowly, the blandness of my days would devour any desire to write. Of course, as I type that I stifle a cynical chuckle because, if you’ve read me for long enough, or if you know me well enough then you know that my childhood, well into my early teens, was full of chaos. But in between the cyclones of dysfunction, there was school, and then home, and then school and then home, and on and on.

Is it any wonder I quickly put aside the blank pages in favor of already full pages of stories from much more creative people than me, and chose to get lost in those stories?

Still, here I am at 45 years of age and I still have this wish that I had shelves - or probably more likely, boxes tucked away in some closet, of fat, little notebooks that graduated to more mature, grown up vehicles that stored my words.

Partly because my memory, as mentioned above, and on many entries previously, isn’t great. As recently as today I shared as much with a coworker - shortly after confessing that I sometimes forget words. Not names for that is a common enough thing but every day, common, simple words. Like ambulance, for example. Why this particular loss of memory should so stick with me I cannot say but I still distinctly remember, funnily enough, being in the car, driving to who knows where but I was doing something I often do - crafting a story, an entry. And I got to a point where I needed to think of the thing that takes you to the hospital. The vehicle with the flashing lights - no, not a police car, not a fire truck, that thing, damn it. The rest of the story went by the wayside as I struggled to pull that simple little thing from the brain only to come back with confusion and, okay, I’ll write it since I’m here, fear. When these moments happen there is always fear. “That isn’t good,” the coworker said, about the loss of memory. “I know,” I said. “But at this point, I’m dealing with about 25 years of poor sleep habits, chronic sleep deprivation and that’s gotta have taken a toll.”

But before this entry gets away from me and we go merrily down the path of a game I (and many others, I believe) like to play called “Is this a tumor? It’s not a tumor!” let me quickly go back to the point of this.

Our day to day matters. We may think not but it does. We’re not famous so who’ll care what we were doing, thinking, feeling on that Monday in May in 1995? Maybe no one else but ourselves but that’s enough. I truly believe that.

I was speaking with a new colleague a couple of weeks ago and she shared with me that with every new job she keeps a journal her first year on the job. Then, in the second year, she’ll go back and look at all the things she’s learned, the accomplishments, and, yes, even the “mistakes” so that she can assess how far she’s progressed, feel good about the things she did well and improve on the things she didn’t. I appreciate that level of introspection, of the constant learning and the desire for personal growth. I love that she recognizes the power of journaling.

A week ago, while listening to a new podcast (Making Oprah), well, new to me as it ran a couple of years ago, Oprah was asked what she was thinking and feeling when she got the opportunity to start her show. She didn’t have to rely on memory; she simply went to her journal for that year, that fateful day of and read her entry. It wasn’t earth shattering. It’s not as if she forecasted the empire she would build but just the sheer ability to say, “Here, let me turn to that page and tell you exactly what I wrote that day” - that moment is powerful to me.

And maybe that’s my vanity. Maybe that’s my ego. The belief that my words matter but I think it’s checked somewhat by the fact that I’m not saying my journal would matter to anyone else. It’s not as if I think my ramblings will do anything but maybe mildly entertain me in my old age. But I do think, in an age when facts and truths are being rewritten on a nearly hourly basis, maybe each of us writing down our own stories, our own histories, is a small step to keeping things on an even keel.

Or maybe it’s just me liking the sound of the keys as I type into the abyss. Only time will tell.

Filed under: Dailies


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