Keeping Track

holidailies2016December 5, 2016

The impulse to write things down is a peculiarly compulsive one, inexplicable to those who do not share it, useful only accidentally, only secondarily, in the way that any compulsion tries to justify itself. I suppose that it begins or does not begin in the cradle. . . . Keepers of private notebooks are a different breed altogether, lonely and resistant rearrangers of things, anxious malcontents, children afflicted apparently at birth with some presentiment of loss.
— Joan Didion, b. 1934
American novelist and essayist
from “On Keeping a Notebook”

I have a friend who might be described as a typical modern professional woman: she’s mid-forties, has a demanding job as a criminal defense attorney, three children all in different schools, an ex-husband with whom she must coordinate schedules for the two older children, a husband with his own demanding schedule that must be considered when determining everyone else’s, and a mother in a nursing home an hour’s drive away. My friend is a reader and a thinker who has to know many things about many things to serve her family and her clients as well as to figure out her place in this world.

She does not keep a journal. She does not write a narrative of her own life as it is happening.

“How do you keep track of yourself?” I asked her once.

“I remember,” she said.

I’m told I have an unusual memory for details. I recently recalled for a friend the titles of two of the movies we saw on Friday afternoons at Our Lady of the Blessed Sacrament School in 1959 (Glory, with Walter Brennan, and The East Side of Heaven with Bing Crosby). I know the first words I ever uttered to my husband (“You said my name wrong.” — He’d made the blind date call and asked for Marge). I’ll never forget the time I insisted the mortgage papers be redrawn to include my name and not et uxor, that is, “and wife of” the other person whose name was actually on the agreement but who had not provided any of the funds to secure it.

And yet I keep a journal. I am currently in Volume 48 (about 150 pages each) of a personal journal kept steadily since 1992. I also have notebooks for writing ideas, for each of the long projects I have going ( two novels and a story collection), folders with fugitive information about places and people and random ideas. I am indeed a rearranger of things, an anxious malcontent fearful of loss and forgetting.

From today’s early morning writing:

December 5, 2016

8:15/33° — I am concerned about how creaky I am. In Light Upon Light [a book of reading for Advent], and excerpt from Silas Marner. Was that 9th grade or 10th?

At least I remember that it was assigned.

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