Savour yesterday’s memories | Sunday Observer

Savour yesterday’s memories

5 January, 2020

“Remember what happened 50 years ago today?” Amanda asked her husband Percy at breakfast one morning. He took another sip of coffee and said “No, what?” She looked at the entry in her 50-year-old small diary. “It says, I found him staring at me at the prize-giving function at school.” Percy’s face brightened. “That’s right. I’d forgotten it completely. And I couldn’t take my eyes off you that day!”

Amanda, like some of us, has been maintaining a diary every year. What is more, she has preserved all her diaries. However, Percy never kept a diary. As a result, he fails to attend important meetings and meet his clients. After a moment he said, “I too should maintain a diary. It would help me to organize my life better.”

A few decades ago, young office workers used to hunt for diaries and calendars in December to begin the New Year with a bang.

Today, the scene seems to have changed with the advent of smart phones and organizers. In the past, big companies and banks used to give diaries and calendars to their customers when the New Year began. However, due to the spiralling cost and other factors, diary and calendar printing has taken a nosedive.

Pure enchantment

Unknown to many of us a diary would bring back a moment of pure enchantment, one we would otherwise have conveniently forgotten.

A diary prompts us to repeat an experience that might add a bit of pleasure to the day. Whenever Percy lamented saying that his mind was like a sieve forgetting all the important appointments, Amanda gave him a diary at the beginning of each New Year.

He received his first diary with a special note which said, “This may help you keep those special things in mind.” From then onwards, he started writing in the diary daily. He entered every event important to him. He always reserved the last line for the loveliest remembrances. Like many other people, Percy too lacked the time or motivation to continue, but finally he decided to give it another try.

Today, Percy does not fail to record any incident important to him in his diary. However, over the years, he learnt a few lessons in keeping a diary. In fact, he invented three rules for his own guidance.

The first rule was, “Exercise discretion.” What he meant was that he would never enter anything that would embarrass him if someone else read his diary.

The second rule was, “Write legibly.” If you write something in a hurry, you may not be able to read it later. The third rule was, “Use keywords to make the most of limited space in a diary.” You do not have to write complete sentences.

A word or phrase would suffice. Your memory will fill the gaps when you read it again.

Today, Percy’s diary has become an invaluable companion, kind of ‘vade mecum’ (come with me), enriching life in so many ways. After many years of diary-keeping Percy has found many other uses of the diary.

Reliable guide

In anyone’s life, a diary will serve as a convenient and reliable guide. Without maintaining a diary, you are bound to miss some appointments. Some appointments may not be very important, but others expect you to be a punctual person who does not miss a single appointment.

Instead of maintaining a one-year diary, some people go for five-year diaries. They will remind you to take your blood test and other regular clinical tests at the right time. However, five-year diaries are hard to find in Sri Lanka.

Another major use of the diary is that it leads to self-discovery. Life is not a bed of roses. We do not encounter pleasant events to record in our diaries. Therefore, never hesitate to record unpleasant events and destructive emotions. Recently, Percy received an email from one of his clients who complained that his work was not up to the mark. He felt angry, but after recording his feelings in the diary, he heaved a sigh of relief. A diary is like a trusted friend to whom you can divulge your hard feelings of fear, jealousy, and anger. The mere act of writing them down would have a calming effect on your nerves. If you read the entry later, you will be dismayed at how easily you were upset over a relatively minor issue. It will help you to adopt a more philosophical approach to the whole issue.

Unexamined lives

Almost all of us live unexamined lives. Several years of diary keeping will help you understand what brings you joy and what brings pain. It can inevitably spotlight small satisfactions you may have lost sight of.

Before maintaining a diary Percy blamed himself when he became depressed. He did not know how to deal with depression. Now the diary helps him to bounce back when he fails in his endeavours to achieve something important. Today, he accepts bouts with the blues as part of life’s rhythms. He knows that gloomy weather will dissipate with the sunshine. He has realized, thanks to the diary, that any unpleasant feelings will not last more than three days.

You may have forgotten what you were worried about when you were young. You may have worried about examinations, promotions, transfers, or love affairs. However, your diary remembers all such incidents. By leafing through your old diaries you will be surprised to find how many pleasant days had been darkened by tragedies that never took place.


Tragedies are part of our life. A well-maintained diary can reassure you that tragedies are followed by joyful events. When Percy’s first girlfriend dropped him like a hot brick, he was shattered. After a few years he met his perfect partner quite unexpectedly.

Percy’s diary holds his days together. It is proof that he is living and not merely existing. In poet Sara Teasdale’s words, “Each page of a diary contains the safe-kept memory of a lovely thing.” Like Oscar Wilde who never travelled without a diary, you can relive the pleasant experience wherever you are, or whenever you wish if you keep a diary.

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