Story and Why
"Your Life is Your
© Tom Gilbert
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Legacy Letters Pass on Values
December 9, 2019
Not to be morbid, but you really need to think about what you want your
loved ones to know about how you feel about them before you die.
Leaving a letter or document that passes on your values is not a new
idea. Legacy letters, also known as ethical wills, have been around for
thousands of years.
A legacy letter is a deeply life-affirming way to pass on your love and
values. It can be a document, book or recording - or any combination
thereof - that becomes a treasured personal history item whose value is
Getting guidance and help with this is the mission of Legacy Letters.
Leah Dobkin guides you through this process and helps you create
a lasting and memorable legacy letter that passes on values and not
Find out more
How Your Story Becomes a Memoir
December 5, 2019
As we get close to the end of another year you might be in a reflective
mood. I usually am. One of the things I start doing as a year winds
down is looking back through some of my journal entries. It helps me
see what my year was like and that helps me remember my life for the
year. There are experiences, memories and feelings written down in my
journal, basically for me - an audience of one.
That doesn't mean I won't use my journal entries for a larger audience.
Journaling helps me sort out what is going on in my life, but it also
helps me reflect. I use that writing, musing if you will, as material
for my life writing.
How does your story that you might be writing become a memoir?
It helps to first consider just what a memoir is. William Zinsser, a
highly respected writer who knew a thing or two about life story
writing, said, "Memoir isn't the summary of a life; it's a window into
a life, very much like a photograph in its selective composition. It
may look like a casual and even random calling up of bygone events.
It's not; it's a deliberate construction."
That quote from Zinsser comes from his On Writing Well,
a really excellent book about writing. I came across the quote again in
a fine article about memoir writing by Estelle Erasmus posted online to Forbes.
I like the points she makes in her article, along with the
encouragement she gives to people who want to turn their story into a
We just came off a month celebrating memoir writing (it's every
November). Perhaps you used some of the tips from Denis Ledoux of The Memory Network.
Your life story can be preserved in various ways. I like the memoir
approach because you can focus on a particular area and theme. You
don't have to focus so much on facts and dates like you would in an
autobiography. I find it freeing, a way to be more expressive and
Life is a Spiral and We Keep Coming Back to Certain Lessons
November 26, 2019
Do you know the saying, "Three steps forward, two steps back"?
That's really how our life works. Your life journey is not one
straight line. Although we do experience our life in one thing after
another, the path we travel is really a winding one.
For sometime now I've been fascinated by the spiritual experience of walking a labryinth.
As you slowly and meditatively take your steps along the circuitous
path, from the outside to the center, you can experience a calmness, a
reflection and an appreciation for how we travel in life. Once you get
to the center, pause, stay, maybe pray - and then begin the slow walk
back to the outside.
I have found that I often re-learn lessons I've been taught before.
We go through stages in life and sometimes we need to come back
to certain lessons. I came across an article today, The Spiral of Life: Why We Keep Coming Back to the Same Lessons Over and Over.
It was a fascinating read that reinforced what I've learned over time.
Our ego wants to control things and our reality in life is that we are
not in control. Things are going to happen and how we respond is more
important than how we react.
How have you viewed the unfolding of your life? Do you see the spiral
pattern? As a closing comment, look for spirals. They are all around
us, including our very own Milky Way galaxy.
November 24, 2019
November is a great month for giving thanks, especially with the
soon-to-be-here Thanksgiving holiday. But how many of us are able to
humbly and graciously receive thanks?
It's time for some thanks receiving.
This is not to imply that we should be focused on getting. Rather, it is to be in a proper state of receiving.
Gratitude is good anytime and always. This time of year there is more
reflection on it, not only because of the Thanksgiving holiday, but
also because the year is winding down and it is a good time of year for
us to reflect on what we have and what we have done. I know it is true
A danger that exists from our reflection is to go towards the negative
side, to look at what we thought was going to get done or happen that
didn't. Or to be sad or depressed over failure to live up to
expectations. And there are losses to look at. It is important not to
ignore the past and the disappointments, but oh the danger of it
becoming morbid or to fall into apathy and dejection.
Focusing on positive things is healthy. It takes more effort and energy
to look at, reflect on and hold dear the positive. It is good for us on
all levels, or so I believe. We must nourish our physical, but also the
emotional, intellectual and certainly spiritual.
But just trying to be positive misses part of the whole. We need to
embrace all of our life and living. All experiences are part of our
journey. The shadow side is difficult to see, so we need others to help
with this. When we become aware of shortcomings it can be tempting to
rationalize them or to even deny. Realistic surveys of ourselves
requires patience and courage.
It seems very apparent to me that life is not a straight line of
steady progress. Lots of starts followed by lulls; many times of
resting on laurels. Three steps forward and two steps back.
Winding and twisting turns with hills and valleys. It surely
keeps it interesting.
Keep striving for steady progress, but don't discard the hardships and
sorrows. Don't try to wish them away or bury them deep down. They
will just re-emerge in some other fashion. Better to see it for what it
is and recognize that it is part of life. It has been surprising to me
to learn how much I grow from these times.
My year has contained a lot of good. Some hard times, too, for sure.
What a treasure to live a full life that is connected to others, shared
with others and lived for others. Being present is an ongoing challenge
and I don't think you can achieve it by just trying to be there. It is more just accepting that you are there - right here, right now.
Be here now. Cherish it, live it and remember it. Because life is happening whether you are present to it or not.
Wounded Souls and Wounded Soldiers
November 10, 2019
Tomorrow is Veterans Day
in the United States. It is observed annually on November 11. It
started as a day to mark the end of World War I, an event known as
Armistice Day. It was picked to mark the day and time that the
Armistice with Germany took effect, on the 11th day of the 11th
month and in the 11th hour of 1918.
Veterans of the military services deserve to be recognized and thanked
for their service. Many return from conflict with wounds, some
physical, but all of them emotional and even mental and spiritual. The
wounded souls of wounded soldiers is a hard burden to carry, but many
do it as bravely as the courage they displayed in service of our
Twenty-five years ago the movie Forest Gump
came out and the saga of Forest Gump included his heroic service in
Vietnam. The storyline continued after the war with Lieutenant Dan,
Gump's commanding officer played by Gary Sinise. Gump saved his life,
but the lieutenant lost both his legs and was also anguished that he
didn't die on the battlefield like the legacy of his older family
members. Eventually Lieutenant Dan comes around to gratitude, but
his very real trauma reflects something many wounded veterans
experience. This is a driving reason for the foundation Gary Sinise
founded to help wounded soldiers. You can find out more about the Gary Sinise Foundation here.
CBS Sunday Morning today delved into this as well as another veteran with close ties to the Forest Gump movie.
Michael Conner Humphreys was just a young kid with no acting experience
who was given the role of young Forest in the movie. Later in life he
served in the military including 18 months of combat duty in Iraq.
Our combat veterans go through a lot. Preserving their stories and their dignity is worthwhile. Let's honor their memories.
Prince of a Deal for Writer of Prince's Memoir
October 29, 2019
I was really surprised, and delighted, to learn how Dan Piepenbring, an
unknown writer in New York, ended up being hired by Prince to write his
memoir. Yes, that Prince, the amazing musician and songwriter who passed away in 2016.
Prince would handwrite memories and Dan worked them into a book. He had
to piece most of it together after Prince died suddenly, but it must
have been quite an experience. The story was featured on CBS News and
you can read it here.
30 Minutes a Day for Soul Work Writing
October 23, 2019
Any of you who have been regular readers of my blog and content on this
website are aware that I admire others who engage in life story work
and memoir writing. One of those people is Denis LeDoux of The Memoir Network.
Denis has been at it for many years, helping others craft memoirs and
life stories and also supporting others who believe in and promote this
type of work. I've taken classes from him and bought some of his
programs and they've helped me grow as a professional and a writer.
Doing this work as a business can be rewarding and important. But
writing about your life, or the lives of others, has an even deeper
purpose that is a reward in its own right (maybe I shoud say, "write").
In one of his blog posts this month LeDoux discusses how his own writing is a type of soul work.
He's had to go through some tough times in recent years including
losing his longtime life partner to cancer. It took a while for him to
process it and to then fulfill some personal writing goals. Part of how
he's accomplished this is by committing to a certain amount of writing
each day. A modest 30 minutes a day goal has really paid off for him in
writing and completing a few different memoirs and projects.
It's hard to accomplish a big writing project when you view it as one
giant thing to finish. But working on it a bit at a time can bring a
finished product. It might even be better written when you don't try to
do too much at one time. Writing is hard creative work. Savoring it and
crafting your language is important. You do need to get after it and
not procrastinate, but you also need to give it time.
There are many good articles, posts and programs available through The Memoir Network. I encourage you to explore them, particularly with the November Memoir Writing focus coming up soon.
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