Every life has its own trajectory, one that only the person living it can truly tell. And every person alive is a essentially a story waiting to be told. The fast pace of our culture makes it harder to take the time to preserve our stories. But it’s worth stopping the merry-go-round long enough to tell those nuggets of unique experience…before it’s too late.
As the facilitator of our clients’ stories, I am fascinated by the choices people make along their life path: who or what influenced their biggest decisions; how they picked a path toward purpose or just plain survival; what roads were taken, not taken, and maybe revisited at midlife. It’s a gift of grace to witness and record people’s stories. Even though interviews are only one- or two-time experiences, in the moment of all that sharing there is a heartful connection that is unmistakable.
Sometimes people in later life remember more details of their early lives than of their more recent experiences. Either that’s the way memory works, or maybe those early episodes were more formative and therefore unforgettable. Regardless, it’s precious for extended families to have the benefit of those histories. The tragedies come when offspring want too long to gather those accounts, and the memories are lost forever.
The fact is, we’re all walking stories, every single one of us. We came into the world with story on our backs, lifting the life stories of our parents and forebears. Those stories embody traditions, tribes, geopolitical whereabouts, and cultural patterns that inform what our lives will become. There’s no “right” story, instead our choices and inbred patterns roll out a path for us to follow or to change, depending on our choices.
When Sam and Rose’s family couldn’t gather for Thanksgiving last year because of Covid, their kids vowed to record their parents’ oral histories for posterity. With things so uncertain still, they’re glad they did — as are their parents!
If you have a camcorder or a phone that shoots video, maybe it’s time to do what you’ve been meaning to do for a long time: Record the priceless stories of a parent or other loved one as a keepsake for your kids and theirs. Why pay someone else to do this when you already have what you need? Here are five good reasons.
A story untold hides itself from those who matter to us, and maybe even from aspects of our own self-perception. Through dialogue, when the listener is genuinely interested, our untold stories get the light of day and bring insight, connection, and, sometimes, revelation simply in the telling.
Midlife brings insights derived from life experience, education, and working away at jobs that may or may not be fulfilling. At its best, midlife grants us the wisdom gleaned from our mistakes and confirms our talents and predilections. But midlife years can also be challenging if we’ve worked too hard with too little gratification and a loss of that original sense of purpose that got us here in the first place.
The telling of our stories releases us from our attachment to them, puts them in context and gives those stories a life of their own. In the telling, our stories enliven memories and help us reconnect with the original energy we experienced when living those events. Our life story is the most interesting thing about us! It’s our primary asset, unique to each of us and likely a treasure to those who come after us. Story connects our past and future.
There’s so much we can learn from people’s stories, no matter who they are. At an early age, I learned an important lesson from an unlikely source about how to make my own luck — a lesson I’ve used many times in the years since. We all have wisdom to pass along.
What if this period of pandemic-driven “languishing” could open the door to trying something totally new, something you may never have contemplated or maybe considered but were saving for much later in life — a Life Review?