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Dear Diary: 13 January 2015

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.

The most useful review of the book, by Maria Popova of the Brain Pickings blog, published in The Atlantic, expresses my thoughts about it more eloquently than I can:

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


I started keeping diaries when I was 10 years old and never stopped. One of my very favorite entries that first year is this: "Today I took a spelling test and I funked it." Cracks me up every time I see it. Blogging, for me, is just an extension of that life-long obsession.

Actually, I hope all your entries are as long as they need to be or you want them to be. It is never a burden, only a stimulating pleasure to read your "thoughts of/for the day".

Believe it or not the "New York Post" would print, daily or weekly, ( in the 1940's? I can't remember) a page from Samuel Pepys" diary. I believe it always closed with "And so to bed". I/We remember some insignificant "stuff". But now I can't remember what I had for dinner.
And so to bed>

I will enjoy your Dear Diary thoughts, as well as the book which I had to order. (Love the Pepys, Hilary, which I'd forgotten about).

Dear diary. Today I read a blog about diaries, which I am writing about in my diary which tells me that people write entries in diaries about what other people write in their diaries, so I can read about it ten years from now in my diary. What fun.

When I was a school girl I received several diaries as birthday gifts. I always dutifully started writing in them, but they only allowed one page per day. I had so much I wanted to write about that I wrote with a cramped hand and still filled the page before I finished what I wanted to transcribe.

I became disgusted and gave up writing in a diary. I think I have always had the tendency to be a "blabber mouth" and that tendency transfers to my writing. Sigh!

Traveling requires or inspires the rendering of facts and feelings to paper. I kept a daily record (log) during the nine years we lived on a sailing vessel followed by similar logs of our RV travels. I haven't looked at these lately, but you've inspired me to revisit them for a dose of pleasant nostalgia.

As you say, our experiences while sliding down the slippery slope are shared by millions. I look forward to your as-long-as-they-need-to-be musings on our journey together.

This is a book I'll have to have! Have been a life long journaler. My journal has been my keeper of secrets. My therapist. My teacher and my best friend. Lately I've been exploring art journaling - a whole new path Home... Once again Ronni, thanks for your insight and the treasures you bring here!

Dear Diary: Length is ok too. Just photos are ok too. It's your space.

I've been doing art journalling for about ten years. It sure helps remember where and when. And it is o.k. to miss days. It satisfies that "wee" artist that barely see the light of day.

I find that I'm not "terminally unique" from being part of the fellowship in a 12-Step program. It's the same feeling you describe, Ronni, in opening your blog to comments. We all learn something from each other that makes life less scary, I think.

Randomly writing (diary or not) for 20' per day, every day or whenever has been researched & proven to be a valuable therapeutic tool. Probably it is not widely known about because there's no $$ involved.........just you & your pen/PC/typewriter making you feel better. Dee

The side pocket of our car is my office on wheels.

That pocket holds a dollar store notebook, some sharp pencils and a couple pens.

Every trip is an adventure.

Every trip is a cherished memory I write to remember.

Never stop exploring.

I, also, look forward to your diary entries. I hope you will not censor your thoughts for brevity. As you noted, this is our journey, too.

I have been journaling since 1996 when I discovered The Artist's Way and her recommendation that you write every day. I gave up with the book, but I've kept the journaling. My life is lived on those pages.

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