Tuesday, April 13, 2010
Dear Diary ...
I don't know why I never thought to suggest this before. Trade diaries with someone. It's great, especially for summer. My friend's brother suggested it once and I took him up on it. I didn't know him well, and still don't, and his identity I shall protect. He just said, "I want to trade diaries with someone." And I think I volunteered mine.
Some would say it's a bad idea to keep a diary in the first place. Since a part of me agrees with that, it was all the more nerve wracking to swap personal diaries with a casual acquaintance but that was part of the allure. I don't know if I've ever explained about me and dares or situations that even feel like dares, but it's sorta like I have an answer to the question, "If your friends all jumped off a bridge, would you jump too?" My answer is,"Did it look like fun? Then, yes, absolutely." Never mind that none of my other friends were swapping diaries. The same spiritual principle applied here.
It turned out that this fairly bad idea came with many unusual benefits. First, the diary I got was a great read. The diarist is a talented visual artist, sensitive and questioning, and interested in all kinds of hermetic, mystical stuff. Beautiful handwriting, beautiful design, weird diagrams. A summer read to beat the beach. The enjoyment was heightened by the feeling that this was something I was not meant to read. Even if I had express permission, it was not written for my eyes, or anyone else's for that matter. No literary device can ever reproduce that.
My own journal seemed a poor thing to offer in exchange. It had a pretty design on the cover and a plastic slipcase. Inside, there were a few autobiographical cartoons, some attempts at fiction, and many meditations on romantic love worthy of someone five years my junior. I like to think it was fun for him to read but it probably didn't take him very long.
The biggest value of this emotionally risky experience for me was in letting someone else see this little collection of my thoughts. Exposing them allowed me to see them more clearly. We compartmentalize our most private thoughts and writing them down and then closing a book cover on them compartmentalizes them further. Thinking about someone else reading these things made me realize what I was spending mental energy on. I didn't like it at first, but now I'm quite comfortable admitting to the revelation: I am obsessed with love.
This is something I had somehow managed to hide from myself until the diary swap. I'm not sure that I had succeeded in hiding it from rest of the world, but no one was going to argue with me about it. However, it was clear in the post-diary swap era, because my (highly agnostic) thoughts on love and getting some or not were a good 80 percent of my book and that was a fact I could no longer ignore. How embarrassing. But knowing is half the battle, as they say on G.I. Joe. Once, you notice something like that you can get that shit under control.
My recommendation if you keep a diary is that you go to a party, wait until everyone is a couple drinks in, and then announce that you want to trade diaries with someone. It could take a few tries to find a willing diarist but it will be worth the trouble.
Failing that, you can pick up a diary published for purposes of reading. I liked this one by Anais Nin:
Fire: The Unexpurgated Diary, 1934-37