I have kept a diary since I was a little girl. I’ve managed to keep most of them. It began because I was lonely and continued because I wanted to record a teen life more perfect and pimple-free than the reality. Today, I record memories, thoughts, shocking poetry, and the sort of mundane minutiae some small part of me hopes will one day qualify for the kind of praise Virginia Woolf lavished on Jane Austen.
Yet there’s also plenty of explicit stuff scrawled across the pages of my oh-so-cliche Moleskine. Mingled with the obvious, the lists, and the silly bits of stuffy-fluff are confessions from peculiar corners of my conscious, inked in all manner of humours and composed careless of consequence.
Like a secret held on bitten tongue, these intimacies pose a problem. For these are the lines of which I am wary, these are my most private of parts. Disclosure could expose me in a way I would not like, confessing my fantasy could compromise my real world. But, like any good secret, there’s always the dark and delicious desire to reveal.
And this desire is compounded the closer you are to someone - someone who has already seen and heard so much.
So do you share? Should you share everything about yourself with the person you’ve chosen to share your life with, the person with whom you are one? Or is it OK to keep some things to yourself?
A friend of mine prompted this blog with a story about a friend who inherited his grandfather’s journals. For years, they sat in a box below stairs, untouched, uncared for, unbothered about. Then a move interstate prompted unpacking, and the question – to read or refrain?
Though his grandmother was also gone, their children - his father, aunts and uncles – were still alive. What if these books contained embarrassing family secrets? What if they revealed events with ramifications impossible to ignore? A person’s influence does not die with them. But should you invite the dead back from the grave so deliberately?
Many discussions were had about what it means to keep a written record. Questions were asked about whether anyone would take the time and make the effort to put their life onto paper if they didn’t want it read one day. That the books were handed down and not destroyed was a fact not overlooked.
In the end, the decision was made to read. The family assembled, wine was poured and appetites primed to devour pages of family history. High drama was hoped for, but not explicitly expressed. Breath held, they dived in, and were soon sorely disappointed.
Nothing but mundane minutiae trickled forth. No rushes of emotion or candid outpourings. Just a simple record of almost every day the man had ever lived, and the weather, and the sports scores, and all the breakfasts, lunches, dinners. It was earnest to say the least, plain boring in actual fact, and certainly not the stuff which might quicken the heart of Virginia Woolf.
But what if the journals had revealed more about the man who wrote them? What then? They may have shown something which altered the reader’s views – something with the power to enhance or destroy the character of the creator. There may have been something with consequences anyhow.
These are powerful questions in a time when record-keeping is almost unavoidable. Even those who don’t keep deliberate diaries leave digital traces of their life, times, and loves. For this reason privacy is ever more concerning. And for this reason we should think about how it plays out when it comes to love.
We’ve discussed whether it’s right to share things like email, social media and bank accounts within relationships. But there the focus is more on seeing who your partner talks with or how they spend their money.
However secrets of the heart and soul held in the mind, in the heart or on the pages of a personal journal, are something altogether different. They are the essence of who we are as individuals, the most foundational aspects of our personal mythologies. They may be the very key to our identity.
So if you share them with someone else, do you lose a bit of who you are? In a way, I believe so.
But can you be with someone else and not bare your soul?
That is the far harder question.
What do you think?
Do you keep a journal or a diary and would you let your lover read it? If you were the lover, would you want to?