Confessions of a Dallying Diarist

Vita Sackville West once wrote

It is necessary to write, if the days are not to slip emptily by. How else, indeed, to clap the net over the butterfly of the moment? For the moment passes, it is forgotten; the mood is gone; life itself is gone. That is where the writer scores over his fellows: he catches the changes of his mind on the hop.

Similarly, the late Thomas Merton wrote:

Keeping a journal has taught me that there is not so much new in your life as you sometimes think. When you re-read your journal you find out that your latest discovery is something you already found out five years ago. Still, it is true that one penetrates deeper and deeper into the same ideas and the same experiences.

I think when I was younger, I misunderstood the purpose of journaling, thinking that the goal of such an exercise was to record what you did. Certainly I was not the only one to confuse the purpose of keeping a calendar and keeping a journal or a diary. I now understand that to be a good diarist is to record my feelings and reactions, and as Merton and West illustrate, to so faithfully enough that I can recognize patterns and cycles, for good or for ill, and should I choose to, to try to change relationships to things, people, and so on.

I am not always good at being faithful to my habits, especially when they are good for me. I have read the diaries of Plath, the deeply personal writings of Nouwen, and of course the confessions of Augustine so many times that my own copies are threadbare. I would think I could at least stay faithful to writing my own for at least two years. Who else is willing to commit?


2 thoughts on “Confessions of a Dallying Diarist

  1. I journal often, but, like my decorating- I’m rather haphazard and sporadic about things (by necessity, not design)… although beauty and order are essential, they oft must be overlooked or compromised for the betterment of ‘civilisation’ shall we say- and that is to say, I’m a tad neurotic about it all and failure is always looking me in the face and I get grumpy to say the least. afterall, I don’t have a ‘single’ living alone like I did senior year in college and truth be told, I got messy sometimes. (or, to be more forgiving and flattering to myself, let’s say I’m ecclectic.)

    I absolutely love to read C.S. Lewis’ everything about Jack, evidenced by hearty LOUD glee (laughter) emanating from the bathtub.

  2. I confess that I too am a bit of a perfectionist, though I have worked toward changing this, with a bit of success. I think at some points we have to ask ourselves if what we really, truly want is a perfect “end result” (whatever that is), or if we wouldn’t rather have a great time making an absolute mess, getting the job done as well.

    I hope your future holds many long soaks, much CS Lewis, and beautiful messes.

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