I started keeping a diary twenty-five years ago. It’s eight hundred thousand words long.
I didn’t want to lose anything. That was my main problem. I couldn’t face the end of a day without a record of everything that had ever happened.
I wrote about myself so I wouldn’t become paralysed by rumination—so I could stop thinking about what had happened and be done with it.
More than that, I wrote so I could say I was truly paying attention. Experience in itself wasn’t enough. The diary was my defence against waking up at the end of my life and realising I’d missed it.
Imagining life without the diary, even one week without it, spurred a panic that I might as well be dead.
Could I claim a memory even if I couldn’t access it via language? Or was I writing as if it never had happened?
I didn’t mind that perception is partial or that recollection is worse, but I minded that I didn’t know why I remembered what I remembered—or why I thought I remembered what I remembered.
The best thing about time passing is the privilege of running out of it, of watching the wave of mortality break over me and everyone I know. No more time, no more potential. The privilege of ruling things out. Finishing. Knowing I’m finished. And knowing time will go on without me.
Look at me, dancing my little dance for a few moments against the background of eternity.
Why, then, should I continue writing the diary?
In it I digest the time that passes, file it away so I no longer need to think about it, and if I spent all my time thinking about the past I’d stop moving into the future, I begin to write, but no—I’d keep moving. How ridiculous to believe myself powerful enough to stop time just by thinking.
There’s no reason to continue writing other than that I started writing at some point—and that, at some other point, I’ll stop.
Ένα μικρό αριστούργημα: Sarah Manguso, Ongoingness: The End of a Diary (Graywolf Press, 2015).