Dear Diary: Today I... (Part 1)

From Diary of a Country Priest by Georges Bernanos:

“I hoped that this diary might help me to concentrate my thoughts, which will go wandering on the few occasions when I have some chance to think a little. I had thought it might become a kind of communion between God and myself, an extension of prayer, a way of easing the difficulties of verbal expression which always seem insurmountable to me, due no doubt to the twinges of pain in my inside. Instead I have been made to realize what a huge inordinate part of my life is taken up with the hundred and one little daily worries which at times I used to think I had shaken off for good. Of course Our Lord takes His share of all our troubles, even the paltriest, and scorns nothing. But why record in black and white matters which should be dismissed as fast as they happen? The worst of it is I find in these outpourings such solace that this alone should suffice to put me on my guard."

One of the challenges in keeping a journal is to preserve the details of life, without spending all one's time recording what you did and who you saw and how you felt, and therefore, never getting to the point of going deeper and processing it all. It's particularly easy to get stalled out in the "how I felt" type of entry. Lately, I've tried a strategy that seems to be working fairly well. I bought a date book that has a page for each day. There is where I make a quick list of the details of the day, not in full-sentence format, but just bulleted phrases. For example, "birds singing, snow melting, sunny." That provides mental images of the day, which I may want to remember, without taking 15 minutes to write about. Another example, a bullet of "headache" lets me record that I may not have felt my best that day, and in so doing, I feel less compelled to write a full "poor me" paragraph. Or, "checking account low again" without proceeding in angst for five minutes on the matter of personal budget shortfalls. This bulleted list takes a couple minutes and lets me record the daily details that give life texture, without exhausting my mental and writing energy before I get to the matters I really want to think and write about. This other thinking and writing is done in another paper or electronic journal, so as to keep the daily list separate from the reflections. Since it's all dated, however, it's easy to go back and piece the two together.