The Woolf Diaries

While I’m self-isolating more than usual this weekend due to a possible COVID-19 exposure (waiting for the test results of the person who may have it that I was exposed to), I thought I’d write briefly about Woolf’s extensive diaries which I tend to call journals.

And don’t pity me too much for having to remain homebound. Other than not being able to go help my mother out this weekend or spend my CVS Extra Care Bucks that will be expiring, it’s a good thing I’m going to stay parked. (I could use the bucks online) because I decided to give up caffeine once again. Other than being very sleepy, I’ve done okay. Only a couple of times has a headache threatened. But when I say tired, I mean ridiculously so!

For instance, when I got home from teaching Wednesday I collapsed onto the sofa. Hubby offered to make supper and I hastily, gratefully agreed. Otherwise I would have “prepared” us a handful of mixed nuts and some cheese cubes and called it done.

And though I finished re-reading Mrs. Dalloway yesterday, I kept falling asleep while I read it. (It was not Woolf’s fault that I did so!) More on the rest of the book soon.

Starting in her thirties, Woolf kept regular journals. I own copies of them as well as volumes of her letters but have only read select portions. It’s a treat I dole out slowly to myself, and now that I’ve finished my novel that involves Woolf, I feel more ready to read them. Sometimes too much research can get you off track.

From what I have read of her diaries, they’re lyrical and funny, soulful and sad. Sometimes she talks about what she’s writing and tries out book ideas in them. They’re fascinating for sure.

By contrast, my own journaling has been sporadic, although I have been a semi regular journaler since I was 20. (That was when I met Barry, the hubby, and I just had this feeling that he was the one, and that I might want to remember these early moments. We’ve been married many years now so I’d say I was correct.)

Of course I wrote even then about many other things in my shiny blue journal. Nowadays my journals are unromantic, multipurpose workhorses. Below is my current one, complete with my banded pen case which has changed my life! Because a journal deserves its own pen attached. This case just slips right over a book. Thanks, Santa!

Notice that my journal is upside down. It’s nearly full now, and I only realized a few weeks ago that I’ve been using it that way. Oh well…

I started writing in this one just over a year ago. Some weeks I use a journal nearly every day. Some months I only use it a few times. I don’t believe in being a servant to anything. (Hence the getting off caffeine.)

My journal contains bad song lyrics, half poems, book ideas, lists of household chores, my grievances against the world. It’s a paper friend and confidant, but it’s also my personal assistant keeping me on task. Unless I’m having a week when I won’t listen. Which happens frequently.

I tell it when I think I’ve been snubbed, or I magnify a tiny problem until it’s so large even I have to laugh at it. I record my weight (ugh) or plan my latest exercise goals (ha). What I’m saying is that these journals of mine are not remotely valuable to posterity. All they would show are my preoccupations and circular thinking. And, I’d like to think, my tempered optimism.

A Grammy-winning friend of mine told her children that her real wealth lies in her journals. I wish I could say the same about mine. Kids, don’t read Marmee’s journals. Trust me, there are some things you don’t wanna know about your mother. Do yourself a favor and burn them!

It’s hard to say how performative Woolf’s journals are. Mine are decidedly not. Maybe that’s a flaw. All I know is, Woolf’s diaries are gorgeous and why wouldn’t they be? I encourage you to read them, as I intend to some this afternoon.

If you’ve read her essays and book reviews, you know what a mind she had. There was no political or social issue she couldn’t tackle with her writing. Her original thinking delights!

By contrast, my journals are…well, pardon me while I go light the charcoal. I have a box of journals and a grill. Nah, maybe I’ll wait just a few more years.

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