I began writing in my own diary when I was about 10 years old. I felt this need to write down my feelings and events as they happened in order for them not to get lost in time, never to be experienced again. My mother at that time would take me “dump digging” and I remember picking up a dirty old handwritten check and couldn’t believe it was still in tact. It got me thinking, if this survived then there’s more out there like it. So I stored that thought in the back of my mind and 20 years later I started my own collection of “other peoples” diaries. It’s been 25 years now since I first started collecting and within that time span I’ve had the pleasure of reading and researching thousands of vintage and antique diaries; experiencing and living in the past on a daily basis. I remember a friend of mine once saying to me that I live more in the past then in the present tense. I took that as a compliment.
The diaries I have in my collection are as early as 1800 and as late as the 1970’s but no matter what era, it’s so incredibly fulfilling to experience someone’s else’s thoughts and emotions first hand when perusing an old diary. Times have changed yes, but people really haven’t. They still experience times of great joy and sorrow, birth and death, marriage and divorce, and everything that comes with living life to its fullest.
So why do people feel the need to keep a diary? There are so many reasons and I found an amazing passage that helped me to understand those reasons. It was found in one of the diaries of Anais Nin, a famous 20th century author. She explains why she feels the need to write. It also helped me to understand why I write, why others write and why it’s so fascinating to read “other people’s” diaries, and I quote…..
“I believe one writes because one has to create a world in which one can live. I could not live in any of the worlds offered to me; the world of my parents, the world of war, the world of politics. I had to create a world of my own, like a climate, a country, an atmosphere in which I could breathe, reign, and recreate myself when destroyed by living. That, I believe, is the reason for every work of art. We also write to heighten our own awareness of life. We write to lure and enchant and consol others. We write to serenade our lovers. We write to taste life twice, in the moment and retrospection…..We write to be able to transcend of life, to reach beyond it. We write to teach ourselves to speak with others, to record the journey into the labyrinth. We write to expand our world when we feel strangled, or constricted, or lonely….”
(Anais Nin; In Favor of the Sensitive Man and Other Essays, 1976)
Other then the diaries in my own collection, which I will be sharing on this blog in the days ahead, I also buy and sell diaries on eBay. Over the years I’ve gotten so many wonderful emails, much like the one I want to share with you here. It got me thinking about why I love reading these precious diaries and why I want to share them with others……
“Dear Sally, Our mother died in October and my sister had been caring for her. We both were working our way through our grief and not doing too well. Then I came across your write ups on your diaries listed on eBay. We would spend Sunday nights reading them….You need to write a book of your own. You have a gift for writing. Anyway I don’t think people know how they can touch other people’s lives without ever writing. You touched ours. God Bless, Carolyn.”
I had another email from a woman who said she had been taking care of her precious husband while he battled cancer. She said she looked forward to Sunday mornings because she would get up, grab a cup of coffee and read one of my eBay listings where I had posted “other peoples” diary excerpts. She said it would take her to another place, a place of temporary peace, another world. I say this not to bring praise to myself but because these women are experiencing the same thing I experience when reading these cherished treasures of the past. I lost my own precious husband who was killed in a constructions accident about 3 years ago, and reading the thoughts of people who have gone before me, who have also dealt with the same things I’ve dealt with throughout my life, is so very healing. I am not alone, you are not alone.
And that is the reason now for my blogs, to share the profound words of unknown authors. People who once picked up a brand new diary and a pen and while sitting at a broken down table, or in a wagon, or on the deck of an ocean liner, or on a hill looking over a beautiful valley below, decided to write down their experiences and deep heart felt feelings, never to realized they would be sharing their stories here, on my blog, hopefully blessing others with their thoughts as they have blessed me. Welcome to “Other peoples diaries.”
“We’re thinking of you as the twilight is falling
And we’re approaching the end of the trail.
Always when darkness is deepest they’re calling,
The voices of loved ones we know cannot fail.
The years are upon us, their numbers beguiling
The thought of the days when the skies were so blue.
When the summons shall come, we will go to sleep smiling
And thinking of you, yes thinking of you.”
J. L. H’s memoirs.
Taken from a woman’s diary in 1938