Wednesday, September 28, 2011

13: Journal

The first diary I ever had was a pocket-sized page-per-day with pastel-coloured bunny illustrations on every page, purchased on one of my family's annual trips to Thailand.

I didn't know what a diary was then but my parents had told us it was a good habit to keep one, right after they saw the huge selection of cute year-specific paper goods in one of the many stationery shops we frequented in those years. I don't know if making up a good habit to justify buying something cute always works, but it worked that time.

So began a short-lived daily "diary time" for my brother and me. The first day went like this:

INT Dining room. Seven-year-old Ren opens diary to January 1, 1988.

"I don't know what to write."

"You can start with 'Dear Diary'. How about 'Dear Diary, Happy New Year'?"

Somewhere at home, because I come from a long line of pack rats who never throw things away, I am sure there must be a pastel-bunny-filled 1988 page-a-day diary, unused but for one page. On it, a childish pencil scrawl: "Dear Diary, Happy New Year!". The end.

It's funny to bring up that memory now, because I've turned into a compulsive journal keeper.

It all began with wanting to document details of an overseas trip in 2002. But then I discovered something alluring about big pages of unruled paper, so inviting to someone holding a gel ink pen between itchy fingers. I started to doodle. The doodling led to my writing about what inspired the doodle. Which led to further thoughts that led to further doodles.

And now, 38 books later...

April 2008 to January 2010

My family and others close to me know that I'm seldom far from the book of the moment. It isn't because I'm caught up in a Hemingway complex, or because I'm trying to impress anyone. I simply enjoy having a record of my life at my fingertips. It shows me the person I used to be, reminds me what mistakes I never want to repeat, and keeps me in touch with good things that have happened or that I've been told will happen. I don't always have the infallible memory of my childhood (a childhood where I frequently heard "Ren, remember this for me and tell me later... What? Of course you should, you're younger so your head has fewer things in it than mine") these days, and the journals are a reliable repository of events, emotions, lessons and affirmations. A work in progress, like me, documenting my relationships with people, with things I do, with my Creator.

I hope that I'll reach the end of my life with all my brain and memory function intact but, just in case they lose their sharpness someday and I need these books for a refresher, it's the good stuff that I want to remember. I don't want to grow old feeding myself on bitter recollections of all the wrongs life has inflicted on me. That isn't to say that when you open one of my journals, you're blinded by beams of coloured light populated by smiley-faced daisies and assorted woodland creatures. There are still ugly bits in the books, ugly enough to warrant placing the book in a freezer if that's what you do. But I am finding that by aiming for a journal with fewer ugly bits, I've been aiming for a life with fewer ugly bits. I think it's working. The ugly still happens to me, and comes out of me. But as I work on having the sort of life that would make a potentially vague, doddering 90-year-old me smile, I'm finding that leads to a more smile-worthy, trouble-free life in the here and now.

Still warm from purchase at the MOTL market in July this year, completed last week

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