My earliest diary memory is the sort popular on the birthday party circuit of my childhood. I never received one as a gift, but I remember looking with envy at those pink puffy covered diaries and their zippered closures. Little girls I knew flashed their miniature padlocks and keys like symbols of their importance.

I attempted a diary on looseleaf paper when I was young. But at the ripe old age of 11, my life was uneventful. My thoughts were all I owned and even then, I felt the risk of committing them to paper.

Recently, I’ve begun collecting books containing diary excerpts penned by women from the past. What filled their days fascinates me. I just read passages by a farmer’s wife who writes about the heartbreaking loss of a child and how she misses her husband who’s adventured to the Klondike Gold Rush. It’s 1901 and she is nursing her only child through the measles. She can’t get over the number of neighbours dying of smallpox.

The diary reads like she’s writing to herself when she tells about friends she visited that day, church and temperance meetings she’s attended, or about the 11 ¼ pounds of butter she churned that morning. Often, she comments about how she rushed around that day. I can’t help thinking how lonely she must have been at times, isolated from other adults. Maybe the diary became a companion of sorts. Or maybe diarizing her life created evidence that she had purpose and filled it admirably.

For the past few years, I’ve been keeping a gratitude journal. Each weeknight I record five things I’m grateful for, three things I’m proud of, and something I learned. Novel writing is a long haul. It’s helpful to remind oneself of the positive progressions when unfinished work shouts out. When an issue is front of mind, I process my emotions and find resolution in place of my usual practice.

My journal entries are effectively bullet-point diary entries. So I guess, I did find my way to some record keeping of my life although I don’t know what value they’d be to anyone but me. I wonder if these diary-keeping women of the past felt the same.

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