Diaries, Journals, And Letters


When I was a teenager I wanted to keep my private thoughts and experiences my own.Were they so special or interesting? No, not really, but important to me. I think it was an aunt who gave me my first diary with a little key to lock it for my birthday. It became my best friend, my confidante and I kept no secrets from it. I wrote about all that happened, my thoughts and my feelings. Especially all my thoughts and feelings! I trusted it with my first kiss and also the first names of the boys I allowed to kiss me after the first one. I even told my diary that I didn’t like  tongue kisses at all and always broke off a friendship before it could even develop.

DSC07693My diary was the only one who knew when and how I had fought off a boy who had tried to get more than just a kiss; everything he said, I said – well, you get the idea. No, I did not share my body with anyone during those years. I truly believed in ‘saving’ myself for the ONE that I would marry. The ones of you who read my memoir “We Don’t Talk About That” know about that part anyway when it finally happened and not in the way I had hoped it would.  I filled that little diary within four years. I was close to twenty when I bought myself a new one. Number one was locked and under some underwear in ‘my drawer’ in a chest, which I shared with my sister. Sadly, I had to escape to another country and when I finally had a chance to come back many years later and looked through my drawer, everything was still there. But I was shocked to see my diary lock had been broken. When I confronted my mother she admitted that she had read it all. Why did she do that? I would not do that but then I am probably one of those rare creatures who is absolutely not curious. I do not have the diary anymore since I burned it back then. I was hurt and angry. It tainted the relationship with my mother for the rest of her life. Broken trust is not easy to fix.

Do I ever wish I could read it again, now in my advanced age… I still have diary number two. I very recently read it. Half of it is empty. I had stopped writing in it when my life fell apart after twenty years of raising a family. But the happy times are there for posterity. I also have a travel journal from a three week trip in 1973 with my two stepdaughters and my baby boy from Canada to Germany to visit the three sets of grandparents: My husbands, my own, and the girls mother’s parents. A very interesting trip and time in my life. I never saw the girls as my stepchildren, they were my own and this travel journal really proves it. Often I had to smile when one of them made some funny remarks: The older one spoke mainly English, the second one, just fifteen months younger, spoke and understood German quite well. She had been raised for three and a half years by a great aunt of her mother in Germany before she joined our family.

After my immigration to Canada in 1965, I wrote regularly to my kayak friend Christa in the former East Germany. She kept all my letters from 1955 to 1996 at which time I started to telephone her rather than write. By that time Germany was reunited. It was easy and nice to have a personal conversation. At a visit four years ago she handed me a big package – and to my surprise, she had saved forty-one years of my letters and gave them to me with the words:

“I hate to let go of your letters. I read them all again but I think they will help you when you start  writing the second part of your memoir.”

I just finished reading the letters up to 1961 when the Berlin Wall had been built overnight. What an emotional rollercoaster! Forty-five years came alive as if it all happened during the last few years and not half a lifetime ago.

Another journal I started in 2010 was an account of all my doctor visits and prescription medications as well as X-rays and other tests. This journal proved very important during the last couple of weeks. My doctor had prescribed a new medication and it did not sit well with me. Looking through my ‘Med-Journal’ I found that I had been taken the same pills a few years ago and also had to be taken off them. I can only urge you to write a ‘Med-Journal’. It may one day save your life!

And, if you don’t have a shoulder to cry on or a close friend you can share all your troubles with, get a diary. Or, start writing letters to an imaginary friend. You will be surprised how much more of yourself you will reveal because you are absolutely sure your most inner thoughts and secrets stay secret. Maybe until your heirs read them after  you have gone to the pearly gates. In my case – I think that would serve them right! They will finally know how much I loved them and how often they hurt my feelings, probably not even realizing it.

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About gmroeder

Author: - there was so much I never talked about and now, that my memoir "We Don't Talk About That" is written I can't stop talking about it. And the reviews I get are awesome; so I think this book needed to be written. Interesting that I receive many e-mails from people who read the book and now tell me their similar stories... Did I open "a can of worms?" I think there are so many people who carry a heavy memory load and they do need to "unload". But interesting enough, even more people want to know MORE of my life and therefore I am working on a sequel.

10 thoughts on “Diaries, Journals, And Letters

  1. My cousin and I wrote back and forth for years, and I too had the opportunity to return her letters to her a number of years ago. They were a treasure chest of our childhood memories. I’m so glad to hear your med journal helped you out. Sure hope you’re on the mend.

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  2. On Dairies, Journals and Letters, I am glad to have read it. Pubescent boys and girls have secrets they are ready to share with anyone or anything but a diary. They have an ideal lover, or a future life-partner that only exists in the romantic imagination. This person never comes to light, because he or she isn’t human. Some of us at that tender time of life used to believe we invented sex – that older people no longer enjoyed it. At the very least they didn’t know how to love with passion, or properly. Or they did it accidently, but not artfully. Yes, we were going to have the perfect love, not the failed love of our parents’ generation. Some of us even had the notion that what we were thinking and doing in secret was special only to us – that it was our individual occupation or sin; for some of us who were religious it could even be an unforgiveable sin. That God was watching and disapproving. So much stress was put on sex, a normal body function. In my humble opinion, sex and religion are a heady mix, even sometimes a toxic one. Anyway, Giselle, I’m so happy that you had that second diary, and that your friend provided all of those letters you wrote to her for so many years! Not many of us have such treasures. But you created them, and you did it for a reason. Write that second book!

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  3. Gisele, It is with your usual insight into this beautiful messy existence called life that you ruminate on matters such as trust of parents and ‘saving yourself’ that always strikes a chord. Both are values not readily addressed by very many but that are very close to the heart for many of your readers. Thank you for your special talent as a writer and for all the time and effort you put into opening your heart for us all to see. You are a beautiful soul, living life to the fullest as we all should do.

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  4. Hi Giselle! I love this post. I have kept a prayer journal for the last 20 years. In the middle of the night when I need to talk something out and my friends are sleeping, I go to my journal. I can be completely honest there, and usually find the answers I need. You’re absolutely right. And Claudette Cadrin, thank you. I couldn’t have said it better! Love to you, Giselle🌹🌹🌹

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  5. Well said Giselle. Thanks for posting this. Stand out: The trust thing. I’ve just blogged about regrets. Similar thing. Once broken, Humpty Dumpty. Cheers my friend.

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  6. Thank you JP, James, Claudette, Herb: It is not easy to overcome the ‘shyness’ and write openly about your most inner feelings. But, once it’s done, you WANT to know if it strikes a cord in anybody else’s heart, or at least somebody else’s mind. I do believe we writers often write for ‘certain special people’ hoping they would read it, giving them a message, even praying for a reaction. Then if nothing happens, we think “am I throwing pearls before the swine”? Why do I even bother… Therefore, I am very grateful to you for responding and telling me “You are doing alright.” Thank you!

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  7. Letters and diaries – yes, it’s amazing how revealing they are to the writer, all those years later! Like visiting the past – and so useful when writing a memoir. But I’m so glad that your ‘medical’ diary proved a point to your doctor, Giselle – clearly it’s saved a lot of unnecessary suffering.

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    • Nowadays, with all the allergies and so much controversy about conventional medicine versus alternative (I believe in complementary ..) medicine it is very important to keep a “Med Journal”. As I said in my blog, ‘one day it can save your life.’ But, after reading all my letters from 1955 to 1996 and the diary I felt like joyous! Circumstances and people in my life made me feel – hmm, bad? Guilty? Not good enough? – it all floated away, I held the prove in my hands that I was always doing more than could be expected, that I was a good mother, strict but always fair, and that I worked more hours than anybody would nowadays. Exhausted to the point of collapse a few times, always trying to please everybody and trying to prove worthy to the people who considered themselves ‘above’ me. Now, in my final years, I can see more clearly: It wasn’t me who has lost everything, no, the people I thought I had lost, lost me.

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  8. Lovely post, Giselle. Glad I found you. I’ve been thinking about my diary, the one that disappeared after I moved out. I’ve often wondered where it went and wish I could read it now and re-visit my young self. Too bad that you burned your diary, but it is part of your journey and something else to write about. Thank you for sharing. Delightful, heart-warming and so honest.

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