LOOKING BACK–the first steps in writing our personal story!
“Stories have to be told or they die, and when they die, we can’t remember who we are or why we’re here.” –Sue Monk Kidd, The Secret Life of Bees
Looking back over one’s life, as an adult, often brings with it a lot of mixed feelings. We usually think ‘looking back’ means looking at all the unpleasant things, or delving into introspection to the point of naval-gazing. To remember an unhappy scene long, long ago is not an easy task, and we often find ourselves saying, “Why bother to look back! It’s over! Done with! Can’t do anything about it now! What possible good could it do to go back to that old memory that brings so many emotions with it?” But—looking back involves the good memories also and their memory can help bring balance to our life story.
Our stories matter!
For some of us, to add to the fear of looking back, would be the additional fear of writing down those memories—in a journal, computer, or notebook. Clair De Boer in her book, Soul Writing, says that ‘. . . even if you are the only person who ever reads your own story, it’s still important that you write it.” Here’s some reasons why.
Writing helps to dispel fear:
Are you afraid to go there–back? Way back—even to your childhood? My hunch is that you are—and to be honest with you, so am I. I’m fearful of what I might see, or feel again; of discovering some truth or hidden detail I never understood before–and I’m not sure what that will do to me on an emotional plane. Or that in the telling, I will discover the source of my pain, my fear, anger, discouragement, shame or. . .and not know how to deal with it.
For me, I’ve found that it is better to acknowledge my past and face it head on. Processing something in writing helps to bring clarity, and even closure, to a certain time or set of events in our life. (Journaling has sometimes helped me to see my wrong thinking, or shallow thinking, and to look for help in good places–like reading good books or articles and yes, even some good memoirs.)
Writing is a record of my personal history: (not my spouses, not my parents or my close relatives.)
Recently I started a special journal that I am calling, My Personal Journey of Healing. I decided to begin this journal for myself, and for the sake of my children. (I’m the mother of four adult children, and grandmother of 9 grandchildren.)
Since I was orphaned at the age of eleven, and raised by relatives for the next seven years—some of my personal history has been lost. Those years prior to my mother’s death and my adolescent years with my Aunt and Uncle are virtually unknown to my children. Not because they were unimportant–but mostly because the part that involved them was later–and my life with my husband seemed much more adventurous! When we are together, stories from that time in my life surface easily–because they are shared stories. Somehow–I have never talked much about the early years of my childhood–and their understanding of my history then is nil.
Now that I’m in the “Sixties Club,” I feel a need to write the ‘first chapters’ of my story—so that my history before I married will not be lost to my children and their children. There is more to me than they know, and I have felt a longing to write it down before I forget! (smile)
“Stories have to be told or they die”. . . (Sue Monk Kidd)This quote hit me between the eyes. Some of my story has almost died–and for my children–it ‘never was’ because I have never written it down. I have never told it. My grandchildren will never know it unless it is written in some form.
As I began this special journal—I was full of questions.
- Who will read this story? (Beyond my family)
- How will I put these things on paper? What life-themes should I talk about—or will I see even new ones I wasn’t aware of until now?
- What events should I include or leave out? Should I ‘tell names”?
- Why should I write my story?
- What difference will it make? To me? To my children? Others?
- Will my ‘voice’ come through the words—and will my children and others hear ‘me’?
As I have mulled these questions over and over in my head, answers have been forming in my mind. Yes! Our stories do matter. Mine, yours, and every other person in this great world of ours. If we don’t write it down–that part of our life will be gone! Forever–for there are few people left who could tell it. As for my story, I’m the only one who lived it!
My story helps to explain ‘me’!
You see—the telling of our story gives others who are close to us a better understanding of us. It might just explain our quirks, our phobias, our joys and our lifelong desires and dreams. Our story reveals the high points, the low points, the crossroads, and the dead ends we have lived through. It tells our traumas and our greatest moments!
Our story introduces the key people in our lives who have loved us, influenced us, who elevated us by esteeming us—and yes, the ones who have also damaged our hearts and left us broken. It also tells the story of our redemption (or not) and, hopefully, our healing. It brings our timeline into clearer focus–right up where we are today. Writing our stories adds a new layer of understanding, not only for us, the writers—but also for those who read our story.
My story explains my Redeemer!
As a Christian, I want my story to reveal my Redeemer, Jesus Christ—who has been a major part of my life since my eleventh year. You see, one’s religious beliefs are an integral part of our story—shaping many of our decisions and serving as a comfort or guide during low points along our life’s journey. One’s understanding of the Bible, the character of God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit is part of our healing journey.
It is through this relationship that the Lord has shown me, the dark and hidden things of my heart, that have caused me emotional pain and suffering. He has also shown me the bright and beautiful things to be glad about, the sweet memories, the kind people He moved into my life; His guidance and care for me–even in the times I didn’t recognize that He was there. “Nothing is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of Him to whom we must give an account.” (Hebrews 4:13;) I want my children and grandchildren to know how important God’s role in my life was/is–back then–and now!
“If we don’t connect with our own stories we don’t know who we are. We wander through life unsure of which path to take, not knowing our true needs or values, or how to live life according to our true identity. . . .No matter what you have experienced or where you come from, your story and who you are have no less value than the next person’s.” (Claire J. De Boer– Soul Writing, pg.15)
My Story is a gift to those I love.
As I begin this writing journey, I breath a Writer’s Prayer. I begin with dependence on God to guide me to the important parts of my story that have lasting value to the readers. “Whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus. . .” (Col.3:17a)
“Lord, help me be faithful to write something every day. Sharpen my skills so that whatever I write will be clear and relevant to the readers who read my story. Let me tell it from my heart—an overflow of what You have placed there—and let my story reveal the work you have done in my life, to shape me, forming me into the person I am today. Let my story be a blessing to and for others. Help those who desire to begin writing their story—and may they find courage and joy as they do so.”
Thank you for stopping by my blog today.
I hope you come again and again. If you would like to interact with me on anything I’ve written today, please feel free to write it in the comment box or send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. I’ll get back to you as quickly as possible.
All God’s best, as you begin YOUR personal story today!
PS: If you would like to know more about writing your personal story visit the excellent blog site: www.thegiftofwriting.com I highly recommend it—and I don’t recommend things unless I have checked them out!