Memoir Writing – Discover Your Life – Themes, Tones and Intentions

We are all storytellers. We all have stories to share.  Stories we have heard from others to pass on or our own experiences to contribute. Each of these stories we tell has a theme, tone and intention behind it. Whether you are sharing some gossip at work or telling a friend what she missed on Dancing With The Stars, you are telling a story and that story can tell a lot about you.

Themes

I occasionally sit back and stare at my Facebook screen and see a theme in my friends posts. I can see one friend posts on her adventures, lessons and experiences as a stay-at-home mom. (Typing that seems ridiculous. Is there another term we can use?) Another friend posts about her family as well as info for us parents to find cool stores or activities for our kids. Yet another friend is a storyteller of another kind. You can tell by his funny posts that he offers you a glimpse into his life.  I get to read about his journey running a bookstore, raising chickens and ducks, having a homeschool family and enjoying many times with good friends and family.

Of course you can glimpse at your own stories on Facebook and see if you can decipher some themes. You can do this in your journal, telephone calls you make in a day or week, through your texts or emails. What kind of stories are you sharing with people? Next time you get on the phone with a friend make a mental note or jot down what you are talking about.  Not word for word but just a theme, it could be family, errands, planning, work issues, boyfriend issues, etc.  An example may be that you are always making plans to go out?  Always running errands?  Seeing traits of being a social butter fly or a planner is key for you to recognize.  We walk around being ourselves all day and do not even know it.

Tones

Now that you are looking and reflecting on your themes do you notice a tone to those themes? Do you find yourself picking up the phone more often than you wish to call your friend to complain about your brother? Do you notice how often you talk about your fellow co-workers at work? What is your tone? Are you angry, venting, frustrated, happy, sad, identifying? What is the tone behind your story?  Perhaps you are angry that you are always the one planning social gatherings.  Journal about your discoveries and what is going on.

Intentions

Your intention brings a tone to your themes. You may notice the tone before you think of your intention. We lead such busy lives that we are often not aware of why we are acting the way we do.

If you don’t enjoy planning activities ask yourself why you are doing it?  Perhaps you are tired of the little goody-to-shoes getting all the attention at work and your efforts are going unnoticed so you do not say kind things about her. You are out to intentionally make other people see what you see – that you are just as good as she is, that you are worthy.

I use to find myself picking up the phone to call one of my sisters to complain about another sister. What a horrible habit that was. I have never really reflected on what my intentions were in doing that but now I think it was a way to feel like I belonged. It was a reason to try to connect with my family. Not a very good reason. I stopped it because I simply didn’t feel good about it but never thought to look deeper into my intentions until this moment.

I will give you a small example. I suggest you explore your themes, tones and intentions all week, all month, for the rest of your life whenever you can bring yourself to be aware of your intentions for doing or saying something. Record your thoughts on the matter and see what you see about yourself.  You will discover some issues you have that are reoccurring, common interests and who knows what else.  I invite you to share if you are up for it.  So much can be learned by us sharing together.

See you next week!

A Bit of Sunlight – Finding Frances

 

I am down. I have been good for days. I am not even sure how many. I went out for supper and saw Eat, Pray, Love again with some friends. I have been moving which is the most important thing I think. Now I have slowed down considerably. I just want to lay in bed and sleep this day away. What is the point to all this stuff in life? Is there a point? I don’t belong here. I hope I can sleep and the world will forget that I exist.

I curl up tighter under the duvet. I close my eyes and try to shut off the horrible voice in my head. I don’t even know what it is saying but I don’t want to listen.  I just want to sleep and There is a void in my negative self-diminishing thoughts of not belonging and having no place in this world where all of a sudden I sit up. Just like that.  Like a voice pulled me up.  I have to find a family member on my mother’s side.

I have done the preliminary research before. Many years ago, like 2004. I had found my mother’s maternal lineage in a community history book.  It listed all the children, my grandmother’s sisters and brothers, with their married names.  All I had to do was search for their phone numbers.  I stopped here, where I had to call a list of people to find one that would acknowledge being related to me. Calling up random people has seemed so daunting so the task has been sitting in limbo for six years.  I have been too afraid to put myself out there. The idea of making those calls made me feel so vulnerable. I always thought, what if the person on the other end was rude or didn’t want anything to do with me? But now I find I am moving like a robot to the living room, opening my laptop and searching on mysask.com for a phone directory. I am not in control of my body anymore. I am just moving. I have to do it today.

The first call was a lady that had no idea what I was talking about.  I don’t think English was her first language so that could be part of our barrier.  

“Hello, I am doing some family research and looking for a relative of Frances Diedral.  Her maiden name would have been Green.  Would you happen to know anyone by that name?” I ask nervously but determined.  This is happening today.

“That sounds like Granny Frances.  My husband is her grandchild.  She always talks about the Greens.”  says the lady on the other line.  She is pleasant.  Why did I think someone would be attacking me?  Why did I think this would be such a big deal?

“Would you mind passing my name and number onto her?  I would love to chat with her.”

“Yah.  For sure, I will call her right now. Can you just explain your connection to me?”  I do this and from how she responds I am certain I have found the right family tree.

“Awesome!  Thank you so much.  May I ask you your name?”

“Jane.”

“Thank you so much Jane.  I really appreciate it.”

Enthusiastically I hang up the phone.  Second call and I have hit the jackpot!  I pace the floor. I go and get dressed anxiously. I open the fridge door looking for food. Something to snack on and distract me from this lull in time while I wait for the phone to ring. I am on edge waiting for a phone call. What if she doesn’t call? What if she doesn’t want anything to do with my mom’s crazy side of the family? I feel like I am in fast-forward touching a bunch of things and moving about but all of it makes no sense and I am moving too fast to be aware of what I am doing.

I can’t take it. I grab my purse and head to the car. I will drive to the city. I can’t sit here any longer.

I am on the road. Half way to the city and I realize where I am.  It dawns on me that I am up. It was just a moment ago that I was laying in bed hoping my existence would not be noticed and now I am vibrating with so much energy I do not know what to do with myself.  I waste time looking around a few consignment stores, book stores – used and new.  Finally I decide it is time to go home.

When I return from the city, I see a red light flashing on my answering machine.   I hit play. “Marian, are you there? I can’t hear you. Marian? I don’t hear anything.” That was it. That is what she said. It sounds like she would be interested in talking to me.  It sounds like she is looking for me. I call her back.

She is a delight. I am in love with her immediately. She is kind and straightforward. I know where I stand with her and she is brimming with compassion and kindness. She is so raw and open with her emotions. “My husband George died thirteen years ago.” She weeps and you can sense the love she had for him in her tears. I realize in this moment that a stranger is crying and letting her heart pour out to me and I can’t do that for myself. Not even when I am all alone. She can be so open with her emotions and I bottle them up inside.

She tells me about her daughter, Brenda, who died of pituitary cancer. She cries, saying that “You could not find a better daughter. Ask anyone who knew her and they will tell you she was the kindest soul and she always had a smile on her face.” She is crying and I love her passion. Her freedom to be herself.

She tells me a little bit about my family tree. She says “Now, Granny Green was a selfish person. She did not give hugs. She was very regal and it was important for her to be a proper English Lady. She was the Governess to a Minister Brown in Winnipeg in the late 1880’s.”

“What was Grandpa Green like?” Excited to finally hear this, who my family is.

“Grandpa Green was a gentle, kind person.”

“Were they happily married if she was so selfish and he was so kind?”

“He was kind enough for both of them”, she replies. After a moment of silence she tells me, “I remember as a little girl Grandpa Green getting on the train to go to Saskatoon to see a doctor. He never came home. Then at the age of 21 I am at the train station holding my baby girl and all of a sudden I cry for my Grandpa. It has been so long and I still love him. We were so close.” I am still in awe about her freedom to express her emotions.

We end the conversation planning for me to come and visit her. She wants to harvest her garden and will call me to arrange our plans when that is done.

 

Children, The Joy of Parenting

Kahlil Gibran’s words in his book The Prophet dance around in my mind and bring a smile to my face as I think of how  my daughter’s paths wind and turn.

“Your children are not your children.  They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.”

The whole chapter on Children in Gibran’s book stimulates me.  He writes with such poetry and understanding.  I read the chapter last night laying in bed and thought of how all my girls are changing this summer and that it is a gift for me to be able to see it and record it even if it is a bit challenging in moments.

Sherese is rediscovering the confidence she had as a child.  She is such a strong woman.  A leader.  Yet as she grew she often let doubt and fear prevent her from being her magnificent self.   Now I see her trusting herself more.

This rediscovering can be a bit challenging at times when I see her exhibiting more independence than I am ready to give her.  It leaves me wondering how much more of the tether I should let go?  Soon it will be all gone.  I feel a bit unready for her to be grown.  I realize a battle within for me to let her go and me wanting to hold on.

Emily, sweet Emily.  Well she is resting.  I didn’t realize how hard she has been going at her passion until I see her just being this summer.  She is still doing all her art and cultural studies.  I see her listening to K-pop in the kitchen when I can pull her away from her secluded art life for a moment to do some chores.  She is doing all that she normally does but without the intensity.  She is at ease with it.  I also see a shift in her.  As a child she was passionate about animals.  Loved them.  Over the past two years this has fallen away.  The pictures of tigers, their young and domestic kittens have fallen from her wall.  Now I see this passion returning.  I wonder where it will go.

Last but not least is my Teela.  My baby girl.  Her changes are tied more closely with mine so I am going to share both of them here.  I started to notice a change in me when I first stumbled upon Waldorf education.  Then I became obsessed with parts of it, not all of it.  I felt like it taught me a new way of being a mother.  Once I kind of relaxed and had more patience with Teela, did more with her in a role modeling kind of way, our fierce connection simmered down a bit.  Now I am able to sit back and watch her.  I still feel sad when she plays on her own but I do believe this is my issue and not hers.

A very joyous new thing is that sometimes she just laughs.  A joyful belly kind of laugh.  The giggle coming from her heart and then infects everyone around her.  Her laughter could be at nothing that we would normally consider spectacular funny – two butterflies dancing in the air, our dog giving himself a back-rub in the grass, or watching two cats playing with each other.  She takes complete delight in these things which causes me, and perhaps my family, to reconsider what we are seeing.  There is wonderment everywhere, joy everywhere, if we just slow down and look is’t there?

On another note she is also becoming more demanding and talking in such harsh tones.  That is a down side.  I am going to have to figure out what is going on.  Has my increased patience created some kind of tolerance or is this a shift in roles or what?  I will figure it out eventually.  Maybe it is a developmental phase and we just need to work through it.

How lucky we are to watch our kids grow and evolve.  I am so curious to know where they will go and what stories and experiences they will have.

I will end with another quote from the same book and author.

“You are the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth.

“The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite, and He bends you with His might that His arrows may go swift and far.

“Let your bending in the archer’s hand be for gladness;

“For even as He loves the arrow that flies, so He loves also the bow that is stable.”

Loving What You Do

I see Emily preparing to feed the cats without me having to ask her.  Often I am yelling downstairs to the girls before I go to bed, inquiring as to whether someone has fed the cats.  Then they are feeding them in the dark where skunks and coyotes lurk.  It is early in the evening and she is preparing the powdered goats milk we feed the cats with some kind of joy.  She isn’t whistling yet I can hear her body singing a tune.

Busily I clean up before bed.  Tidying up the table and putting freshly baked chocolate chip cookies away.  I watch Emily run in and out of the house.  I am silently watching her.  Not saying a word.  Normally I would thank her for feeding the cats but I notice this time I don’t want to say thank you.  At least not yet.  I want to watch her.  Enjoy her.  Her happiness is making me feel joyful about my current task as well. Infectious.

She is in and out with food.  We feed cats at different spots.  Some cats don’t get along with other cats so they eat at different spots.  It is funny how we, humans and animals, all naturally formed this rhythm.  In and out she goes, still kind of laughing or chuckling.  She charges in the house at one point trying to beat the mosquitos.  Did I hear her laugh as she closed the door with a huff or is that just joy from her body and I imagined it?  I am not sure but I can tell she is enjoying what she is doing.

How cheesy is it to post a picture of kittens? Well, these kittens are in a pail in a shed by our house. I don’t know how the mother gave birth in a pail but I am proud of her.

I wonder if the cats feel her happiness right now?  I choose to believe the cats feel Emily’s joy in their food tonight.  Doing any work with love is the best way to do work.  I wish everyone joy and ease in their workday today.