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Kate: Dear Diary, I can’t write in you

The article appeared in the Sunday Style on 20/03/16 

SO, I’VE tried to start a gratitude journal. If you don’t know what that is, then I reckon, perversely, you should be grateful for that. The first I heard of this New Age phenomenon was several years ago from Oprah Winfrey, who used to talk about hers all the time. Oprah was always on about having an “attitude of gratitude”, but why wouldn’t she? 

The woman has a lot to be happy about. I always imagined her journal would be full of “Thank you for my billions!” and “Yay! Stedman loves the new golf course I bought him!” and, of course, the more succinct “BACON!”

Anyhoo, the gratitude journal is no longer confined to billionaire media moguls. It’s now become “a thing”, which means every person who describes themselves as spiritual, has been to Byron, or set foot in an Ishka store, is writing in one. Which should mean me. But even though it’s supposed to be a celebration of the simple things, I just can’t do it. 

See, I have trouble writing in my gratitude journal because I find it embarrassing. It’s the same whenever I’ve tried to keep a diary. I love reading other people’s diaries… when they’re formally published, you understand (but if I’m being honest, also the ones where I’ve creepily snuck into someone’s room and rifled through their desk drawers). Anyway, I’d love it if I had a chronicling of my own life to flip back through, to recall incidents and people that otherwise would be forgotten. I’m slightly envious, and enormously admiring, of people who’ve done that. 

But whenever I’ve started a diary in the past, I just can’t lose myself in it. I’m always sitting on my own shoulder, commentating: “Should you start with ‘Dear diary?’ Because that’s traditional. Jeez, it sounds hokey, though. But if you don’t, who are you talking to? Yourself? That’s just weird. Because you’re actually sitting right here. And I am you. So, me, you probably don’t want to write what you just wrote because they won’t like it when they read it. And they will, you know. Anything you write down will be read by other people. Just ask me, me. I’m reading this right now. Also, I hear someone coming up the hallway…”

The upshot of all of this is that I’m actually embarrassed by myself. In front of myself. Which is strange. And a touch pitiful. But it probably explains why, instead of an uplifting gratitude journal, I’ve found it easier to start a list of things that I find cringey or odd. Entries so far include:

1. Men who, in describing something as delicious, use the phrase “to die for”. I don’t know why, but I’m just mortified for them.

2. Everybody on dating websites. Not because of their quest for love, but for endlessly referring to themselves as having a “good sense of humour”. For some reason, EVERYBODY believes they have a good sense of humour. And you know what? They don’t, or we wouldn’t have ISIS.

3. People who like biscotti*. Sometimes, in a coffee shop or restaurant full of the most scrumptious, exquisite desserts and biscuits and cheesecakes and profiteroles, you’ll hear someone order this desiccated, desert-dry, flavourless biscuit. When the amazement passes, I just feel really sorry for them. (*Genuine Italians excluded. They can’t help it.)

4. Folks who don’t read fiction. It’s all very well to know about Steve Jobs and how he had 30 black skivvies hanging in his wardrobe to save time getting dressed every day, but what about imagination? What about flights of fancy, and leaving behind the grinding earth of reality, and enjoying some make-believe?

I’m so grateful I’m not like that.

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