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© 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 immeasurable.

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 just valuables.

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 memoir.

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 creative.

Life is a Spiral and We Keep Coming Back to Certain Lessons

November 26, 2019
spiral way of life
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.

Thanks Receiving

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 for me.

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 country.

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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