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In favor of diaries -- or am I?

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MY diaries often get me down. An enormous weight of them sits on the shelf, and I'm only 33. They beckon to me, saying, ``Read me.'' But I know if I succumb, I'll be disappointed. I want to repossess the moments they record. Or I want them to tell me I should have no regrets, and that there were no wasted minutes or bad decisions. Impossibilities. Rereading them is often unpleasant, not only because of the content, but because the language itself is loose, the thoughts sometimes sloppy and usually unfinished. Some diaries, unlike life -- even unlike the lives they record -- are genuinely artful. But these, the published ones, have been edited. Mine are not.

And yet I can't stop writing. This is a red-shoe-like pen.

I don't remember if I was given my first diary outright, or if I asked for it. But I do recall that it came on a Christmas morning when I was 8. This past Christmas, I watched a nine-year-old open her gift of a diary, one she had requested. Immediately she sat down to write in a big comfortable chair. Later I asked her to go for a walk in the snow. No. She was too busy writing.

The little girl's diary did not lock. I remember my first one did. I was intrigued by that, and by the permanence of the sewn-in pages. There was to be no tearing out of these lockable words.

I think that the sewn-in pages are a good idea, for I've done some volumes in loose-leaf, and I've found that it's too easy to toss pages away if in later years your thoughts look tawdry or weak. Or contradict what you're saying today. Or if you see that the lofty promises you made to yourself were speedily broken.

But I sound as if I'm in favor of diary-writing and -keeping. Am I?


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