About three years ago, a remarkable book was published: New York Diaries 1609 – 2009 edited by Teresa Carpenter. It is what the title says it is, excerpts from the diaries of some New Yorkers and visitors to that city over 400 years arranged chronologically, day by day.
”New York Diaries is an absolute masterpiece blending a curator's discernment, an archivist's obsessive rigor, a writer's love of writing, and a New Yorker's love of New York—the ultimate celebration of the city's tender complexity and beautiful chaos.”
I wish I'd said that – particularly the part about New York City itself.
A few days before this new year, I pulled New York Diaries off my shelf and realized, while enjoying a browse, how pleasurable it would be to read the book all through 2015 – each day in its time.
For example, from today's date, 13 January, there are three entries. One, in 1790, is taken from then-President George Washington's diary recording his decision that day to receive an upcoming address from the House of Representatives in his home in New York rather than in a federal building.
Think of that: now we know what was important to the first U.S. president on this date exactly 225 years ago. If you get a kick out of things like that, this is a book for you.
But all that is only preamble - the event that led me to this post today.
When I subtitled this blog, “What it's really like to get old,” I didn't (and don't) mean that I have the answers. My intention, since hardly any media of any kind is honest about growing old (unfortunately still true), I would investigate and share what I learn with readers.
That's worked out pretty well. I know a whole lot more about this ageing stuff than did when I began the blog more than 10 years ago and the surprise I didn't anticipate back then is that one of the biggest sources of new or additional knowledge is you, readers who share your experiences.
Perusing New York Diaries a couple of weeks ago suggested to me that there could be a new, more personal aspect to this blog: occasional diary, or journal entries.
From the earliest days of developing Time Goes By for its premiere, I realized that one source of good ideas for blog stories would come from the monitoring I have always done of myself – keeping an eye on the physical, cognitive, emotional, belief and other personal changes that take place through the passage of time.
An obvious example, if I am having trouble remembering peoples' names, I could track down the best literature on the subject and report what I have found for readers who are having the same kind difficulty themselves, recognize it happening in others they care for or to tuck away the information for future need.
I knew this would work because the one discovery about life I have made entirely on my own is that I am not unique. If I am experiencing it – whatever “it” may be – so are thousands, even millions of other people.
It is a useful thing to report good information about ageing but what I have hardly ever done is write about how all that relates to the sense I have of my own ageing. Maybe there is something value for readers in doing that. Or maybe not.
Although I have never kept a diary, one of the reasons to do so, beyond recording events of note, is to work out one's own thinking - which is what I have in mind.
So consider this the first entry of an experiment, an occasional “Dear Diary” which in today's case is, in part, what I might have written to myself about deciding to try this. In future, let's hope it won't be so lengthy.
At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Trudi Kappel: The Inspection