The book title: Living Legacies – A Collection of Narratives by Contemporary Canadian Jewish Women – Volume VI, Edited by Liz Pearl
My Narrative is called:
This is My History, My Life, and My Legacy.
Dedicate to all those young, impressionable minds who stick to their convictions.
“Sue, I seriously think you should stop doing this. What husband is going to like their wife writing in a diary every night before they go to bed? Perhaps you should consider reading a book instead of writing? It’s kind of bizarre for a young married woman to be writing in a daily diary. Don’t you think? ”
This was my mother’s advice to me two weeks before I got married. She quietly came into my bedroom, sat down on the edge of my bed and said those deconstructive words. At that time, I was lying up in my bed, writing in my diary about how nervous I was to get married.
My answer to her was, “I can’t stop. I need to do this. I don’t know why, but I really need to do this every day. My (husband) will have to accept this part of me or he’s not right for me. I won’t stop, I just can’t stop. ”
At the age of 14, I started to write in a diary. I wrote every day. I wrote about what I did that day and how I felt. More often, I simply wrote about my feelings. My first diary had a lock on it. I kept the key in a secret place. I was convinced my feelings and thoughts were locked and private. Little did I know that a simple safety pin could unlock the truth of my life. It didn’t occur to me that my parents and siblings had such easy access to my private words. It’s a good thing I didn’t know this as I was completely free to express my unedited self.
The locked diaries gave way to secret coded symbols. # meant cigarettes, ! meant kissing, + meant hugging, & meant drugs. The teenager diaries were filled with symbols that I knew and didn’t know the meaning of. Reading them today, I definitely need a decoder handbook. By 16, I figured out that the little diary locks didn’t work, hiding my diaries didn’t help either, and so coded symbols was the way to go. I’m sure anyone who disrespectfully read my privacy could easily figure out the meaning of what I was writing. However, I thought I was safe with my coded symbols.
Once I got married I decided to call my writing books “journals”. That word seemed to sound more mature. I no longer wrote in a diary, I was writing in a personal journal.
Everything was documented! Some days I wrote only one page and other days I wrote too many pages. Some days I wrote that I had nothing to write or I wrote about the world and nature. My personal freedom of expression was boundary-less. Somedays I would write only about my feelings. Other days I would write about my children. Sometimes I would document what was going on in the world of politics, fashion, industry, health, religion, arts, climate, and science, actually everything. All topics were discussed. Nothing was taboo or sacred. Nothing!
When I was around 25 years old, something happened to me which changed my perspective about writing. My dear friend asked me a silly question, “Do you remember when we went to Heidi’s Sweet 16 and she had jumbo matches? What else did she have that was so cool?”
Just then a monster sized light bulb went off in my head. I didn’t have the answer, but I knew where I could find it. I had to revisit the stacks of my teenage journals. I reassured my friend; ”Let me look it up in my journals!” It was June 1979, a Saturday night. I found the answer!
My journals have become the history books of my life, my family, and of my friends. Now, I have the privilege to look up any day that I have lived since the age of 14. Taking the time to look up the information written on that day of the sweet 16 party brought me back to that actual time period. The answer to that question was historically documented. I had created a personal historical resource!
And…what a resource I had! Now, I can never stop writing a daily journal, as I am documenting true life history. I am the official stenographer of my family with the responsibility to keep this resource alive. I have to keep the film rolling. Stopping is not an option as now my writing has even more purpose.
After that epiphany experience, I told my mother how important my writing had become. She acknowledged that she had always felt sorry for trying to discourage me from writing. In fact she wanted to demonstrate her apology by providing me with all the journals I will ever need as an encouragement to write…forever.
I accepted her apology and since then her constant flow of new journals. Many people give me writing journals as gifts for my birthday or on mother’s day. It’s a guarantee I will need them at some point which provides a major incentive to keep writing.
At this point in my life, writing has birthed new and exciting avenues for me. I write a weekly column for the West Island Blog and a bi-monthly column and OP/EDs for The Suburban Newspaper. I’ve written a children’s book titled, “The Black Velvet Jacket” and I have poetry published yearly. I’m very encouraged by my fan base to keep writing and sharing.
At times I feel as thought I am creating my legacy daily. Once I finish a journal, it is dated, catalogued, and placed within the stacks along with the other history books. At any time I can research the stacks for important information about almost anything, including: my graduation from high school, a backpacking trip, my wedding night, the birth of each child, my mother’s 50th surprise party, highlights, lowlights, anniversaries, all milestone, etc. The list includes almost everything that has happened in the last 40 years of mine and everyone else’s life.
When it is time for me to leave the surface of this world, my children and family will have all the journals as my personal history, life and legacy. Although, I might mention that most of the content is relatively boring as the journals don’t read like a book. There is no beginning, middle and end. Some of it is intriguing, but just some. Though, the journals are a great research and reflection tool.
By the way, the content is not pure in any way. Actually it can be downright mean, awful and really disgusting (swearing like a maniac). Perhaps some people will read the content and be offended. Anyone who wants to read my journals has to assume their own responsibly towards the content. If they don’t like what they have read, it’s their problem, not mine. It’s their choice to venture into my inner world.
I’m sure this week of 2016 I will write in my personal journal that I am preparing a Living Legacy non-fiction piece about what it is that I am currently doing. I’m so glad I never stopped writing. Actually, I can’t stop.
Suzanne Reisler Litwin is an author/writer/columnist/educator. She is an instructor at Concordia University in The Centre for Continuing Education in Montreal. She teaches courses in creative writing and writing for children in the Communications Department. Suzanne is a Columnist for The Suburban newspaper – Living in the Now and for The West Island Blog – Keeping it Real. She is a freelance writer for the websites Women on the Fence and Wise Women Canada. She is the author of the children’s book, The Black Velvet Jacket. She lives in Montreal, Canada with her three children, Allyn, Taylor, and Duke and her husband Laurie. Please visit her website: suzannereislerlitwin.com to read more about her and her published articles, books, and poetry.
“I would best describe myself as a passionately creative person. My world does not move at the same pace of the world, it is a lot slower.” Suzanne