[Note: This will likely be the first of a few posts on journaling, as most of it gets consumed with the story of George and Eva (read on) and strays away from my own personal journaling methods.]
I’ve been journaling on and off for most of my life in one capacity or another. I recently organized my room and went through my old journals and found them going all the way back to 1996. In addition to this, I’ve kept blogs on and off since the late 90s (I can’t seem to remember the exact date I started, but am working on figuring it out). Unfortunately, my writing isn’t consistent. It starts and stops, usually starting after something really sad (deaths of loved ones, ended friendships, breakups etc) and then tapering off as I get over it or just get too lazy or tired to write. Another aspect I always grapple with is wondering if my writing is worth it. I read a lot of memoirs and journals and find many of them to be so beautifully written, introspective, full of insane amounts of descriptive details, etc that it makes me self conscious about my own writing. Earlier this year I decided I want to write again but couldn’t work it into my routine. Enter the One Line a Day journal.
I first discovered One Line a Day over at Mini Penny Blog a while back. I saw a photo of it and thought “That seems cool” and then forgot until months later. I randomly remembered it one day and ordered myself one. The book is really cool, there is a page for each day of the year and five spaces with a few lines each so you can fill in what you did each day over five years. I received and started my One Line a Day journal in May. It was easier than regular journaling because the lines are so small it just takes a minute to jot something down. It felt really rewarding and I kept up with it easily… and then something funny happened. Writing in my One Line a Day (OLAD from here on out because writing it repeatedly is getting weird) book became so routine that suddenly I found myself a little irritated at the lack of space to write. I kept writing smaller and smaller until finally I broke down and took out my most recently used journal (started in April 2010, woof!) and began writing both in OLAD and long form entries. Initially, my old self consciousness crept in, judging my own writing (which is ridiculous because it’s my private journal and only I see it anyway), getting annoyed with myself, etc. But as the months went on something funny happened, sure my entries involved mundane synopses of my days but they also became more introspective and dare I say… interesting? I have to admit that although I do write primarily for myself because I find it cathartic, I also consider who will own and possibly read my journals in the future. I used to be less detailed about some, err, more personal matters in my journals for this reason but I got over that aspect of it.
Part of the reason I consider this fairly often is that I also have a collection of antique journals. One of these is my grandmother’s (and someday a handful will be my mother’s), but most of them belong to George and Eva Rudiger. I’ll explain:
Somewhere between 10-14 years ago my mom went to an estate sale in Drexel Hill, she called me frantic (or maybe came home, unclear now) and told me that a man was selling off all of his mother’s journals. She knew I was an avid journaler and would be horrified at the thought, and she was right. My mom picked me up and we drove back to the house and I purchased the journals for $10. I peeked through them and discovered they started in 1898 and went into the 1970s, but they were pretty boring (“Went to town today,” “Milked a cow today,” etc.) so I put them in a box and forgot about them for a while. I proceeded to move the journals around with me while I moved from apartment to apartment, occasionally peeking and remembering how dull they were.
Flash forward to this year. I mentioned the journals to a handful of people and each time wondered where they were. I wasn’t sure if they were in my current house that I have lived in for five years, or if I had left them behind at my mom’s when I temporarily lived there (most of my 200 or so books are there because I used to move once a year and it sucked moving them all). Finally after mentioning them to yet another friend I went digging around in my basement and found them in a rubber bin. I was relieved because my last memory of them is them in a cardboard box and my basement flooded fairly badly last year. I also remember removing 3 of the journals, including the very oldest one, to look through if I had time. Those journals are currently unaccounted for but I am sure they will turn up eventually (or at least I hope so). Looking through the box, I was once again reminded of how dull the journals were but discovered something interesting: they weren’t all Eva’s journals, they were also her husband George’s! George’s were even duller and shorter than Eva’s so initially I thought maybe she nagged him into keeping one. To my surprise, I discovered that George is the originator of the journals!
George’s journals range from 1898 to 1935 with a handful of years missing (there are 22 in all). Eva’s journals pick up a few years after George’s end in 1938 and go on until 1973 (33 books in all). I have not found out if that is the year she died or not yet. George’s journals are to the point, sort of calendaresque, while Eva’s are longer but still devoid of emotion. I happened to stumble upon the year George died while organizing and cataloguing the journals, he died on March 14, 1940 and it isn’t super surprising because the year begins with Eva talking about how sick he is all the time. Eva’s unemotional writing continues even at the loss of her husband, as seen in the following photo. She simply states his death and that’s all. The same thing happens a few days later on the day of his funeral, she speaks of it without emotion, noting “it was a fine day like spring.”
The journals are certainly interesting to own, and I am glad I saved them from being tossed, but it’s sad that you don’t really see any real emotion from the Rudiger’s in either of their journals.
After my initial posting of some photos of the journals, a lot of folks asked me to post more and start a project with them. I’d like to do this but am still trying to figure out what exactly I’d do, given the lack of real content in them. I did do some searching on ancestry.com and discovered that Eva was George’s second wife. I haven’t found any mention of his first wife’s death yet and am not exactly sure when she died. George and Eva had a son, Harold, born October 11, 1909 (died June 26, 2000). Harold was the owner of the journal’s and it was his estate sale that I purchased them at, so my mom was wrong about the seller (kind of relieving because how could a child sell of his parent’s life stories!), it’s still unclear who sold them. While digging for information, I also discovered that at least one of George’s journals were sold on eBay around 2005. It’s unclear how they were acquired (maybe someone bought one or two before I got the rest?) and I haven’t been able to find out any additional information about who may own them. I intend to do some more research, and will post information as I get it.
Anyway, all of that is written to say that it inspired me to make sure that my journals tell my story and don’t just give blunt facts about my life. If someone is reading them later, I want them to be interested rather than bored. (I’m also so sorry if these end up being my children or grandchildren because of the, err, personal details). I may not be a Sylvia Plath, but I’m also no George or Eva in my writing, and that makes me feel a little better.
All this is a long way of saying that I have been journaling every day since May and I’ve found it to be really cathartic. It helps me de-stress but also to really dissect things that are going on in my life and find some deeper feelings about them, and if I’m lucky maybe even some meaning.