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The "Your Life is Your Story" Blog Archives

© Tom Gilbert

Read about quality family history and life story news, views, methods, products, links, services

                     ...and whatever else catches our fancy of personal historian  

January, 2017

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Closure Time

January 23, 2017

How important is it to have closure with someone before they die?

Very important. One of the greatest gifts to happen in any life. If you can be with a loved one in their final days and hours you are witness to a blessed, even sacred time. Sure, it can be painful. It is sad. It is also a time when you can thank your loved one for their life. And the person who is dying gets dignity and received your love.

I was able to do this with my mother when she passed in 2006 (Opening Death's Door) and again with my dad in 2012. Personal Historian Bruce Summers wrote a moving piece about the closure time with his mom who passed away around Christmas. He posted it to the APH Blog (Association of Personal Historians). I think you should read How Much Time Do You Have, Mom? and reflect on the opportunities that may come along for you. 

Who knows if you will be able to attend the final time with a loved one. Be ready for it and be present to it. The closure time is so special and the memories will be part of that person's legacy.

Inauguration  Day

January 20, 2017 

Today Donald Trump was sworn in as the next President of the United States. The inauguration of a president is always historic and generates a lot of news coverage. Social media and Internet use are bigger than ever and that adds even more news, commentary and discussion. Anyone can have a voice in this age of global electronic expression.

I always look at big events like this through the lens of life history. It is important for each of us to consider our lives both from the deeply personal and also with consideration of what is going on in the world. In fact, I wrote an article a while back about that very subject - Your Memoir and the Larger World. In the article I make the point that when we set our experiences within the context of important historical events connects us to history in a more personal way.

I encourage you to journal about historic events like a Presidential Inauguration. I know it helps me process my thoughts and feelings. Good citizens are informed and good living includes reflection and contemplation about our lives and our experiences.

Service Work

January 17 2017

A true statement that I hope you have discovered on your life journey is that service work is key to a fulfilled life.

What I mean by service work is doing things that are helping others. You have probably heard terms like servant leadership and in service. The best leaders, movers, shakers and difference makers in our world are those who step out of their personal desires and self agenda and find ways to do things that enrich other people's lives.

Yesterday was the holiday recognizing the life and legacy - and service - of the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. He was a man who epitomized being of service to others. He lived his life in service to those fighting racial injustice. He was a big proponent of all people doing something to help others. The very nature of the MLK holiday is to to promote service. Each year on this holiday people step out of their comfort zone and get busy volunteering and helping various causes. 

It's called the Martin Luther King, Jr Day of Service

What does that have to do with people preserving their life story? A lot, I believe. You see, your life must have purpose and most people discover that truly valuable purpose is in doing things for others. In short, service work.

It's a great topic to include in your life story. The things you've been involved in that helped improve people's lives, whether it was time in the military or Peace Corp or helping in your child's classroom, are great material for you to reflect about and write about.

Your service work gets you "out of your self" and it also is rewarding in many ways.

It's part of a true life legacy. If you haven't done any service work start looking around and then getting involved. Find things you care about. Share your passion and your compassion.

The world needs it. And so do you.

Healthy Living Through Life Storytelling

January 6, 2017

Each person has their own unique life. That life is unfolding and the experiences and emotions that result from communication, relationships and various life adventures make for a great story.

Even if you don't think so.

There is ample evidence that the quality of your life, especially your mental health and outlook on living, can be improved when you engage in storytelling about your life.

There are a few caveats. For one, your reminiscence needs to be done with an eye towards the value your life experiences have brought you. This means embracing both the good and the bad. How you deal with the rough patches, the suffering, loss and despairing moments, makes a big difference. Studies are revealing that people who learn to accept and value their experiences, no matter where they fall on the scale of enjoyment or unhappiness, can have a positive effect on their mental health.

An article on The History Project goes in-depth in exploring this. The Meaningful and Mysterious Mental Health Effects of Life Storytelling makes some pertinent points. When your story is coherent there appears to be a connection to well-being. This means being able to write expressively about life experiences, especially the negative ones. What you need to guard against is languishing in "poor me, life has been horrible" thinking. Instead, discover how the hardships have helped you develop and grow.

Health care has known for some time that narrative writing can promote positive feelings and have health benefits. Spiritual thinkers recognize that the big breakthroughs resulting from a sense of wonder and the ability to accept and grow through suffering make for a more fulfilling life.

There is power in your story. You can develop the skill of storytelling, but it does take work. You don't have to do it alone. Look into workshops, articles, books and other resources to assist you. Find a guide - a personal historian or writing coach. Don't get overwhelmed; start simply and small with one or two stories that you've often thought about as turning points. You may find that very action can lead to inspiration to continue. Soon you can be enjoying a healthier life by telling your life story. 

Time Passages, All Aboard For the New Year

January 1, 2017

All aboard for the New Year! We start anew, but in reality it is this way each and every day. Every day the train leaves the station for another 24 hour trip; either you are on board or not.

People have complained about 2016. It was a tough year in many respects. But there was also a lot of good. If you were awake to it, the daily miracles of grace were all around. Gratitude is the touchstone.

It is true for me (and likely, for you) that the new year brings thoughtful reflection and perhaps some resolutions. The resolution I feel is most important is to resolve to fully live each day. We don't know how many of these days we will have. Punch the ticket for each one and enjoy the ride.

Well I'm not the kind to live in the past
The years run too short and the days too fast
The things you lean on are the things that don't last
Well it's just now and then my line gets cast into these
Time passages
There's something back here that you left behind
Oh time passages
Buy me a ticket on the last train home tonight

-- song lyrics from "Time Passages" by Al Stewart and Peter White.

Everybody has a story to tell!
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