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Bringing back the Diary

Between the years 2001 – 2007 I was an avid dairy writer and, although towards the ’06, 07′ years said diaries were practically incomplete, for the most part of my teen years I documented EVERYTHING.

The meaning of ‘diary’ is completely elusive in itself, it can be what we use to jot appointments and meetings in, (if you’re more organised than me that is) or it can be the outlet for all our hopes, dreams and secrets. Whilst my diary writing days followed the latter route, I managed to mix hopes & dreams with a LOT of factual, everyday descriptions… “Woke up at 7am, showered and had cereal for breakfast. I walked to school…” etc etc, I’m sure you get the drift, not riveting stuff. However whenever I’m visiting my family back in Cornwall and I come across the stack of worn away, W H Smith diaries, in the ‘junk’ cupboard above my bed it’s so easy to become engrossed reading through my mundane early years.

Memories are SO precious and (at the risk of sounding completely scientificly inacurate) the conscious part of our brain (you know the active bit we can almost speak thoughts in) is too small to deal efficiently with the HUGE catalog of memories we store in the other areas of our subconscious. So most of the time memories we have will never be recalled unless promoted or triggered.  I find this really sad, and I notice it more than ever when I read my diaries, there are events and feelings that otherwise I would not have brought to mind, that would have slipped through the cracks forever.

If this isn’t reason enough to put pen to paper then I don’t know what is, but it’s still easier said than done. For a start what is an entirely natural process for a socially-awkward, insanely crush-obsessed, teenage girl doesn’t sit so well with an older me. Dear Dirary… no longer flows so easily on to paper let alone an out-pour of your day and emotional state of mind. I don’t know if this is true for everyone but whilst I may of been more socially awkward as a teenager I still felt comfortable scribbling down my private thoughts, something that has been lost in the transition to 23 year old me. I feel a disconnection with writing down how I feel, I’m no longer inhibition-free and I struggle to begin a typical diary passage that my 14 year old self eagarly spilled onto the page (in a variety of colours and scents – gel pens were the rage.)

Secondly we just don’t have the time. It’s ironic how angst-ridden our teenage years feel, how we are, en-mass, being oppressed and persecuted by the adult population, by our peers, by our siblings – how burdensome everything is. When in reality we never have it so easy again. I’m generalising here of course but you get the jist. 13 year old me walked home from school around 3.30pm (no nasty hour commute), this was followed by dinner being made by my parents and a relaxed evening interjected occasionaly by homework or an argument about getting off the computer and going to bed. There was no cooking, laundry, commitments, appointments or stress. Chores that were given were completed with sulky, heavy steps, (how ghastly that I’ve been forced to complete this outrageous task of washing up after dinner. Ahkjags.) Life is tough. Yet there is always time for documenting how unfair it is. Once you wave goodbye to your last Summer/Christmas/Easter holiday (ah how good were they?) then life tends to get a bit more hectic and we know where diary writing falls on our prioirty lists…

However I love the rush of nostalgia you get from reading back over thoughts from the past. It’s similar to how I feel when I often flick through the photos on my phone or instagram account, or when I hear a story from my childhood, if it brings back even just one recolection from a certain day or event than its worked for me. Whilst it’s difficult, incorporating some element of the ‘Diary’ into our busy and stressful lives can be hugely rewarding in more ways than one. Collecting thoughts can serve to help us organise our worrys, it can help us make decisions  and I think it’s important sometimes to take a break away from digital documenting! Yes our facebook may have all our holiday pictures in, and yes twitter is an active timeline of the things we’ve done recently but there is something special about holding a memory in your hand, about it being a solid object!

This is why I’m champing for “Bring back the diary(Even as I write this blog I will point out I am nortoriously awful at keeping a project going, and so this is as much a challenge for me as it is for anyone who wants to give it a go.) I want you to tackle this in any way that suits you, it doesn’t matter how much or how little you are writing, you can get creative stick in some printed out photos you love, train tickets, cinema tickets – don’t be neat! 

♥ TIPS AND TRICKS: ♥

  Try and write something everyday. One thougt, one activity, one emotion.

Keep your Journal with you EVERYWHERE you go

When you hear a song you want to download later write it down same goes for movies, books, meal ideas, holiday spots – the list is endless

Don’t be afraid to ramble

Put down milestones – whether that milestone is the day you got engaged (time, place, how!) or the day you decided to quit your job or the day that boy you’ve had a crush on said Hey – it doesn’t matter how big or small, it’s fascinating to look back and read these things

Here’s a little sample of some notebooks and stationary you can use to inspire you to start your journal, scrapbook or diary! I’m a stationary worshiper (and I’m sure you can see the panda/cutsey/cartoon theme going on too hehe). You can find all of the above from either Artbox (my favourite site to buy kawaii themed bits and bobs from it is a m a z i n g) Paperchase, Urban Outfitters or Cath Kidston

Happy Writing! I will document how I get on with my journal/scrapbook/diary.

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The woman with the red umbrella

A short piece of fiction I wrote for a University assignment:

When you are ill you are told all sorts. Some of it bullshit, some of it helpful, some of it plain stupid. Friends and family cluster round your bed like ants in the garden, annoying and indistinguishable. “You’re bound to get better”, “Don’t think about the pain”, “stay positive.”

But when you are told you are going to die the silence that follows is the worst. Now people can’t fall back on their positive pick-you-ups because there is no positivity to be found in death, none whatsoever. You could search the dark corners of that empty and vast room for eternity and fail to find anything. So people are quiet. For the first time in fourteen months I felt as if I could hear again.

I could be cared for at home they told me; I laughed. Maybe that was rude but I couldn’t even begin to explain what it would be like to spend my last weeks trapped at home, suffocated by their pity. I didn’t blame them, not in the slightest, they loved me and they were bound to feel powerless, grief-stricken and numb, but I did not want that around me. I was happy here in my hospital bed, surrounded by people who dealt with death on a daily basis. Hell, I was practically living with death if I stayed here, maybe we could build up a rapport, a friendship. Maybe he would take me out nice and easy.

It was a week after I had been told about my date with death. My health was “deteriorating rapidly” I was told by my doctor.  “Tell me something I don’t know” I laughed. He gave me that funny look he gives me often, shaking his head. He was leaving when he stopped at the door, tentatively turning to me, “Molly, you know there is always the hospital’s minister, he can pop up and talk to you anytime you want.”

“Oh Kevin, Kevin, Kevin. I already see the counsellor. Not my thing sweetie. But thanks for the thought.” I smiled brightly. “Now some more morphine would be accepted with gratitude.” He held up his arms and clipboard defensively before leaving. I had always wondered why doctors carried around clipboards, but maybe it was to hide behind.

The hospital’s counsellor was called Mrs Sims. She tried to ‘engage’ with me, but they had the wrong woman for the job. She sat at my bedside with her pinched up eyes and cold hands and tried to talk to me for an hour every week. I dreaded it. How was I feeling? (How did she think?) What were my fears? (That these visits would over run?)

I turned to the bed on my right. An elderly woman had been admitted a few days ago but had been sleeping most of the time. When there’s a bed shortage (with the NHS when isn’t there a bed shortage?) they group you all together. The terminally ill, sarcastic young one and the old and forgotten one who is surely on her way out. C’est la vie. She stared at me now unblinking. Her eyes were small and green, the folds of skin around them had fallen down (gravity always wins) but they had once been pretty eyes, I could tell. She had had no visitors so far.

“Who’s in the photo?” I asked, pointing to the framed black and white portrait by her bedside. It appeared to be the only possession she had, apart from a slender red umbrella propped up beside her.

“That is Henry, my husband. He’s dead.”

“I’m sorry.”

“Why? He died more than fifteen years ago. What have you got to be sorry about?” I felt stumped. Like my mum perhaps, who had just been told her twenty seven year old daughter was dying.

“I guess it’s just what you say.” I paused. “Do you miss him?”

“I see him everyday; the Lord makes sure of that.” If it hadn’t been disrespectful I would have snorted. Instead I just nodded vaguely.

“Child, you think you know everything about the world, about life and about death.”

“Don’t tell me I don’t know about death. I know death all right.” I felt angry now. The woman was smiling.

“Okay dear, Okay.” The nurse came to give her some medication then and the pale blue curtain that separated us was pulled firmly shut.

I lay with my eyes closed watching the soothing pattern of blood flowing in my eyelids. It pulsed slowly, a red haze blanketing it all. I could stay like this for eternity, here I was safe. The noise of the hospital was a far away buzz now, a backdrop. I thought about something Sims had said to me the other day about dealing with what would happen to me. I’d told her there was nothing to deal with, I would be gone, and I would cease to exist. People talk about coming to terms with death, about accepting it. But I would rather lie here in my red world and feel the steady pulse of my beating heart than feel sorry for myself. For I would be gone.

Over the next week the lady with the red umbrella and the dead husband, and I talked. Between pills and pain killers, drips and mushy food, she told me about her ‘God’ and I told her about my life. She didn’t look at me with sadness filled eyes, she didn’t tell me how young I was, how life was cruel. She told me I was cynical and bitter and I agreed. When she spoke to me with her straightforward attitude and the vagueness of a stranger I felt the knots in my stomach untwisting and the fears I had locked away rising to take centre place in my jumbled thoughts.

“Do you ever wonder where your God is sometimes?” I said one night. We both lay in the darkness but I knew she was awake. “Do you ever want to ask him why? Why bad things happen…“

“…to good people?” she cut in. “And no I don’t question it. My faith is all I need.”

I thought of my Mum crying, my little sister, the children I would never have, the grand children I would never have. It all made me awash with sickness. But I knew what the worst fear I had was. I just didn’t want to say it.

She died on a Tuesday. I woke to her empty bed neatly made on my right. Death makes sure it leaves no trace of its presence. I felt sadder than I’d felt all year. Later on a nurse brought round her red umbrella, she had left it for me. Attached to the slim handle was a post-it note. It read:

You fear that soon you will be gone, and that you won’t be remembered. But you should know that it is okay to be scared. For 15 years I have carried this red umbrella with me, through rain and shine. Whenever I feel my faith slipping, it reminds me that no matter how invisible I feel, God can always see me. Even if you see no God. He sees you, you will not be forgotten.

And I realised we are all just competitors in one big race trying to shout high and loud with our tiny voices: “I have lived. I was here.”