My sister told me that lately she's been writing in a diary. "Not exactly like a diary, though," she explained. "I promise to tell myself the real truth."
It's interesting - I totally get what she means. How often do we admit the deeper, darker truths of our lives to anyone, let alone to ourselves? Though I love to write, I have never been able to successfully keep a diary for more than a few months. I started when I was a pre-teen, and kept a diary over the three weeks of each year that my family would go on vacation to Block Island, RI. The entries pretty much read like this:
"Today I woke up and ate breakfast. Then we went to the library. I got [insert Judy Blume title here]. We went to the beach. Then we came home and had dinner. Then we got ice-cream. Good-night."
Occasionally something exciting happened, like when I learned how to insert a tampon (No, I'm not kidding - there's a big page with the words, in all capitals, of course, as if I was looking ahead and planning how best to embarrass myself in the future, "I FINALLY GOT A TAMPON IN!!!!!!!!"). I often recounted my dreams, gave blow-by-blow accounts of the fights my nine year-old sister had with my parents, and fantasized about my fall wardrobe, using diagrams to show my diary the fabulous vests and bracelets I would wear to my 10th grade orientation.
When I got older and began to have more interesting and more tortured things to tell my diary, I found that it was difficult not to edit myself. Anyone who is honest with their diary most likely has a really depressing collection of entries. You don't take time out to say "Hey Diary, my life is awesome, I'm writing this to you from a party on a yacht -- oh, looks like they're about to give me my award, gotta go! TTYL!!!!" My diaries from high school and college are oddly chipper looking back. Reading them over, it seems like I'm trying to convince myself that I'm having a good time.
Diaries are - rightly - what we spill to when we feel depressed and alone. My entries (sporadic as they are) often start out, simply, "I am so depressed." Then I find that I can't elaborate because what I feel is such a cliche. I want my entries to sound good, dammit - I have always done this, always tinkered with their form and content to make them read like little essays, as if someone other than me might someday pore over them.
The point is that a diary is supposed to be completely unself-conscious. It should be the truth in its most primitive form. My sister has the right idea, telling herself the real truth. I'm afraid that the closest I've come to the real truth is recorded for all time in my pre-teen tampon adventures on Block Island. Ever since I've had truth of any consequence to tell, I've entrusted it to people with my voice - convinced, perhaps, that a written record could later haunt me.
You won't read the real truth on this blog; I'm not brave enough for that. I hope, though, that someday I'll write it down. I think rather than a ghost of sufferings past, the real truth might serve as a badge of honor, a reminder that, since simpler times when I spent summer days reading Judy Blume, I've lived through a lot. And lived to tell the tale.