People who keep journals have life twice

Keeping a diary isn’t always for a reader; the writer benefits from the act of writing. By taking a few moments every day to record the weather, a meal, a noteworthy activity or a feeling, the writer preserves it her mind as well as on paper.

Here’s a typical day in one of my late grandmother’s diaries that I inherited when she moved into an assisted living home a few years ago:

February 15, 1995: Had six inches of snow last night, and I had an appointment for a perm at 9 so I did a little shoveling before I could get out and when I got through with that, I went to Jacobsons to quilt on a quilt for a friend of Faye’s. Got home at 4 so it went fast. Cleaned the kitchen tonight.

When I read what Grandma wrote about her day, I know the snow, the permanent wave and the quilting project were the highlights of her day. She could look back on this day some weeks later to determine it was time for another permanent. She could see how she helped work on a quilt for a friend, knowing she was building up a reserve for when she might need help on a quilt of her own. She could review this day years later to compare snowfall. The writer improved her memory with the simple act of writing.

If this were a time capsule, the future reader might be astounded. Grandma, a widow just a few weeks shy of 80 at this writing, began her day with six inches of snow in the driveway! Not an inch, not two inches—six inches of snow, which she shoveled herself before driving to her stylist, to an acquaintance’s house and back home again. And she still had the energy at the end of her day to clean her kitchen!

I’m exhausted just reading my long-lived grandmother’s entry. Even in retirement, Grandma was rolling fast enough so as to gather no moss.

I’ve shared a number of journal entries with my aunts and cousins on Facebook, and my Aunt Mary (Grandma’s only daughter) said, “By you sharing mom’s journal entries, I have come to the realization that mom never had a ‘lazy’ day. I now understand why she lived so long.” 

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The headline for this post is a quote from Jessamyn West, a 20th century American author of short stories and novels. Her best known novel, Friendly Persuasion, was adapted into a 1956 movie starring Gary Cooper.

If my grandmother’s diary entries appeal to you or you’re looking for a reason to start your own journal, check out my book about her: Fruitful Labor: How to Live to 104 Gracefully, Gratefully is available on Amazon.

  • The paperback is $4.49 here.
  • The Kindle version is 99 cents here.