Recently I’ve been working on a course by Storyline for creating a life plan. I thought it might direct my biographical writing a little more if I had a process in place because otherwise I have zero process. One of the first steps in the course is creating a timeline of significant turns in your life, both positive and negative turns. I had Boo list the big events she remembers in her life so we could make a timeline for her too. I thought it would be neat to look back on later in life and see what she thought were significant events…something I wish I’d done earlier on.
Things she listed: my father’s funeral (she remembers the bagpipes and the hearse); when I was diagnosed with cancer (she doesn’t remember much, just that I had cancer and lost my hair); the time she was wrapped in wrapping paper at a party we hosted for our church’s youth group and she was crying from being claustrophobic inside, moving to North Carolina, starting a new school, and getting her dog Max a few weeks ago.
At first I was really sad and disappointed that her memories have been mostly sad and traumatic up until our move to NC. (How could she not remember that birthday party? Or Christmas? Or the time we went to Disneyland?) I made each event into a little strip and taped it to her timeline and when we looked at the events together she obviously noticed the same thing. After a few minutes of contemplation she asked me to change the rules of the process:
“we don’t have to put things that just I remember, you can help me remember big events that were happy that I was too little to remember”
She is my greatest teacher. And it’s true…we need other people to help remember our stories, the perspective of another lens to look at our life through. A biography to compliment our autobiography. My timeline takes up 4 pages to her 1…but her 1 pager is already such a great story. My job is to help her see that.
The cool thing is that no matter how crappy things have ever been at times children can see the positive changes we make in our lives…the impact of being determined to tell a BETTER story. Living that out.
I love this quote:
“And once you live a good story, you get a taste for a kind of meaning in life, and you can’t go back to being normal; you can’t go back to meaningless scenes stitched together by the forgettable thread of wasted time.” –Donald Miller, A Million Miles in a Thousand Years
We can edit our own life. Always a rough draft. I have this quote cut out and pasted into one of my journals:
I have already lost touch with a couple of people I used to be. -Joan Didion
One night Brett asked me if I knew what my purpose was in life. I answered: I don’t know, and I don’t know if I will ever know, but I think I get glimpses of it. I don’t think we are ever supposed to know, otherwise it would be like we’d reached our story’s arc: hey, I know what my purpose is! now I can retire at age 37! It seems like it would be all downhill from there. I think we do get some signs to help us head in the right direction, sometimes they are u-turns. And so I can reinvent myself every day towards the story I want my life to tell. I can safely say that I may never find myself, and I’m okay with that.
It’s never too late to be who you might have been. -George Eliot