Sometimes the heaviness of life can make it hard to remember the how capable we are and how resilient we have been in the past. But life story writing can change that.
Let me tell you how it changed things for me.
I’ll never forget the day. I sat I on my bedroom floor, hugging my knees and sobbing uncontrollably.
It was six years ago. I was 61 years old, in the middle of my third divorce, grieving the recent deaths of both my mother and sister, financially strapped, and convinced life had failed me.
Every time I opened Facebook, I encountered pictures of my soon-to-be former husband and his new, much younger, girlfriend followed by posts of how happy and “in love” they were.
Sunday, the day I always connected with my mom by phone, was now quiet.
On a daily basis I worried how I was going to support myself and wondered what new career I could possibly start this late in life.
“My life sucks”, I remember thinking angrily. “I am all alone, and I have nothing to look forward to.”
And, in that way life tends to nudge you when you least expect it, I looked up and noticed a book sticking out from the bookshelf–When Things Fall Apart. Heart Advice for Difficult Times by Pema Chodron.
It had been given to me as a gift, but I had not yet read it.
I pulled the book from the shelf and began sifting through the pages. My eyes landed on this phrase.
“Life is a good teacher and a good friend. Things are always in transition, if we could only realize it.”
How has my life been a good teacher and a good friend? I wondered. How can all this pain possibly be a good thing?
Now, I have never been someone who writes in a journal, and although I enjoy writing as a way to express myself, I never made time for it.
But a pretty spiral bound journal with a Monet-inspired cover lay nearby. I opened it, grabbed a pen and wrote the question on the first page, “How has my life been a good teacher and a good friend?
I started to write. And I continued to write each morning for the next 7 days.
I wrote my life stories, starting with my view of myself as a failure after three divorces. Then I wrote about my sadness and guilt over my troubled relationship with my dad. I wrote about how being bullied for being Jewish had caused me to believe I was inferior.
And as I wrote, I kept asking the question, “How has my life been a good teacher and a good friend?”
Gradually, my life story writing started to shift. The question forced me to look for the gifts and the lessons from my life experiences, something I had failed to do with the stories I kept in my head.
Instead of seeing myself as a victim, I was opening up to a broader, more empowered perspective.
By writing about my marriages from this new vantage point, I saw my tendency to make others responsible for my happiness.
By writing about my father and his deeply troubled childhood, I gained compassion for both him and for myself in my relationships with men.
By writing about being bullied, I saw how I had given my power away and deserted myself in the process.
Telling myself that my life sucked and I had nothing to look forward to was just another story that needed to be rewritten.
So that’s what I did.
The process of life story writing from this new perspective has literally changed my life.
I have made peace with my stories.
I have never felt this much self-acceptance and gratitude.
It became the inspiration behind the creation of From Journey To Legacy.
So if you’re feeling burdened by your circumstances, I am calling you forward, my friend, and asking you the question. How has your life been a good teacher and a good friend?