No, I don’t journal. I guess because I’m a writer and a cancer survivor, I get asked that a lot.
It was different when I was younger, when except for schoolwork, I didn’t crank out prose every day. Back before “journal” became a verb, I loved writing in diaries and journals.
I think I got my first diary when I was in third or fourth grade. It was white, fake leather, with gold-edged pages and a tiny lock and key. I kept it locked at all times with the key carefully hidden. Never mind that had my brother cared to read that I had been to the swimming pool or had a spelling test, all he needed was a bobby pin to pick the lock. I know, because that’s what I used to open it all those times I lost the key.
By junior high, I had graduated to spiral-bound notebooks, which I called journals, and filled them with deep, profound thoughts and feelings. I kept them hidden under my mattress, obviously forgetting that my mom changed my sheets once a week.
Here are a few deep and profound entries from seventh grade. Names have been changed to protect everyone (except me) from deep and profound humiliation:
Today Bob brought this blue clay to school, which we called “Herman.” Mary smushed the elephant Billy made out of his “Herman” and Billy got mad and started cussing and crying. (Really? Who names blue clay but doesn’t name the elephant?)
I’ve got poison ivy on my neck, and everyone has been teasing me saying it is a hickey. (I don’t think I’ve ever had a hickey, but I can guarantee no one ever got close enough to my neck to give me one in 7th grade.)
Today was kinda boring. I made a 106 on the Science test, but I got a zero for playing a tic-tac-toe game with George. (I’m pretty sure 7thgrade was the last year I excelled in Science but probably not the last time I was socializing in class)
By eighth grade, there was more about boys and who liked whom. And by ninth, I was writing bad poetry and philosophical treatises, along with the usual boy and girl drama. I continued keeping journals sporadically through high school and college, but once I started work at a newspaper, the journals went by the wayside.
Shortly after I was diagnosed with breast cancer, I decided to keep a daily journal on our computer. I think I lasted about three days. I discovered that when I wasn’t actively dealing with cancer, I didn’t want to write about it. At least not right away.
Everyone copes differently, of course. When a friend, also a writer, discovered she had breast cancer, she blogged nearly every day during treatment. Her experiences with surgery, chemo, and the aftermath helped countless other women facing the same experiences.
In hindsight, I would love to have records of my own experiences with cancer – even if I had never shared them with anyone else. Whether it was medication or a coping mechanism or just plain forgetfulness, I’ve forgotten whole blocks of time that I never thought I would.
These days, I don’t mind writing about cancer. Since dealing with it a second and then a third time, it’s just another part of my life. Still, you’ll notice that most of my blog posts aren’t specifically about cancer. That’s because most of my life isn’t about cancer.
How about you? Do you keep a journal? I’d love to hear your thoughts.