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.
My 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.