The Benefits of Life Story Writing

When I view myself as the heroine of my own story, I no longer complain about the conflicts in my life and in myself. I am no longer a victim of circumstances. No longer am I caught within the psychological paradigm of neurosis. Instead, I’m full of anticipation for my journey into the unknown. I am a protagonist in a world of unending dilemmas which contain hidden meaning that it is up to me to discover. I am the artist of my life who takes the raw materials given, no matter how bizarre, painful, or disappointing, and gives them shape and meaning. I am within each scene and each chapter of my life, defining my character through the choices I make. I am on my own side, rooting for myself, aching for myself, celebrating my sensual experiences, marveling in the exquisite subtlety of feelings in my life that novelists have made me aware of in their books. I am as engaged with the ongoing story my life as is a reader who eagerly turns the page.

“Your Life as Story” by Tristine Rainer

Once a month I lead a storytelling group at a nursing home in Saskatoon, my closest city. I bring a topic with me and a prop or two to aid discussion. I find it thoroughly enjoyable listening to my elders tell there stories and see their faces fill with delight that someone is listening.

In February I went with the theme of love. With Valentines Day approaching at the time I thought it would be great for us to talk about marriage and all the good and bad stuff that goes with it.

Only I lost my way. The problem with finding that you lost your intention is that it happens after the fact. I knew I felt disappointment during our time together but I ignored those feelings because I thought I was experiencing the moment where a time did not meet my expectations.

And this is true, I was experiencing that but this time it was a bit more. My expectations failed because I did not honour my intentions. I wanted to talk about the good and the bad yet I began the conversation passing around a picture of my mom and dad slicing their wedding cake. If you have read any of my other blog posts you will know that their marriage did not end well. It wasn’t horrible but it did end.

I began the topic talking about how charmed their life was at the beginning and left it that way. There was a voice in my head saying to tell the group that they divorced but I didn’t want to be taboo. I said nothing.

As the conversation and time went on I realized it was a struggle to keep everyone on the subject of marriage. People wanted to talk about anything but. I let this go cause perhaps they had other things on their mind they needed to share. After it was over the nursing home coordinator told me that they all have either lost their husbands already, divorced or had bad marriages. Only two at the table were still married. For one of them it was her second husband.

Well, I could have handled that. I have had my experiences of bad marriage – one my own and others I have watched. Even my current marriage is not bliss. So why do I not talk about the bad stuff? Why did I not listen to that tiny voice in me that said “Tell them they divorced and that it broke your heart driving away from your dad as a child” as I passed the picture of them around?

Well, I didn’t want to upset the apple cart which isn’t really like me. I don’t mind upsetting the apple cart if it is to advocate for someone else but I guess I won’t do it where I am involved.  Hmmm… this isn’t a self-help blog.  Well indirectly it is I guess.

What I want to say is that we need honesty. We need to tell the truth and not be shy about being judged. We need to make ourselves vulnerable in our writing and perhaps eventually learn to be vulnerable outside of our writing/storytelling lives.  Also, listen to those voices! They are so smart. I am not talking about ego who will criticize and praise you. I am talking about the other voice, the one that suggests things to you. The one that feels like it is floating and not a weight on your chest. Listen. Be brave.

Do You Believe In Signs?

Prairie Sky

Do you believe in signs? I do. Little ‘reminders’ have been dropping into my life like little packages of food dropped into war-torn countries. Perhaps I am in need of signs as much as those people are in need of food.

Some of my signs include having people randomly like some of my blog posts, start following my blog, “like” my Facebook page, respond to my ad for a memoir writing group, and finally I’ve been asked to write someone’s memoir.

All of these events which seems so small keep popping up in my mailbox like little reminders that say “Memoir writing… Memoir writing… Memoir writing. ” over and over again. Little nudges for me to get back to writing and exploring; thinking and evaluating.

So I’ve asked myself what am I supposed to do? It seems as though the universe is asking me to start writing again but yet I do not have the desire to do so. I buy a book to help motivate me (The Plot Whisperer Book of Writing Prompts by Martha Alderson). I set my alarm to see if I can trick myself into writing by being to tired to know what I am doing. It doesn’t work. My writing-self has not outsmarted my logical-self.

Then I started thinking that maybe I’m not necessarily suppose to write. Maybe I’m supposed to help someone. Maybe I just need to get back into some life-story-rhythm and see what happens.

No, that is not entirely true. Writing is my voice. It is how I make sense of my thoughts. I can feel the writing version of me inside me. She is trapped. She is patient though. Quietly waiting. Sitting in her cage observing me. She watches but I know she is paying keen attention. She is smarter than me.