Writing our story

Woman must write her self: must write about women and bring women to writing, from which they have been driven away as violently as from their bodies-for the same reasons, by the same law, with the same fatal goal. Woman must put herself into the text-as into the world and into history—by her own movement.  – Helene Cixoux

Stories are how our ancestors wove the fabric of meaning and existence as they made their way in their lives. Telling your story helps you to explore yourself, your roots, and your journey through life. Think about taking out your notebook to begin. "One day, this is what happened..." can be a beginning. There are so many beginnings. "Once upon a time" is a powerful beginning. The beginning is the hardest part for most people. Whatever beginning you choose, whether you start with today or the day you were born or some other time is the beginning for your story. As you wind back and forth, from present to past, from who you are now to how you got here to where you are going, write the story you are living.

Jung wrote in Memories, Dreams and Reflections:

Thus it is that I have now undertaken, in my eighty-third year, to tell my personal myth. I can only make direct statements, only “tell stories.” Whether or not the stories are “true” is not the problem. The only question is whether what I tell is my fable, my truth.

The goal of all life, the end point, death, is what lies in front of us. In the third act of life it looms larger than it has before and is much more a part of consciousness. To be fully alive is to know that death lies ahead.

Between here and death, there is a lot of territory. Work to be done to deal with things left undone, to reconcile ourselves to our past, to seriously consider the story we have been living with an eye especially toward any changes we want to make in the remaining years.

A friend of mine, a woman in her mid-70's, told me that she wishes she could read about this life period as she could about midlife. The issues of midlife are not hers. She wrestles with the conflict between the desire to do and the body that no longer wants to. With the bubbling up of creative possibilities that she does not know she can bring to fruition. All of us in the third act are faced with having to prioritize in a new way, to come to terms with the certain knowledge that if there is something we want to do, want to create, we have to get down to work now because time is passing swiftly.

How to wrestle with these issues without succumbing to despair or melancholy and regret is a major concern. What does it mean to become old? How do we come to terms with a body, a face that is not the face or body I carry in my mind's eye of myself? How do we make sense of the story we have lived and consider how we want to live the last chapters?

Life review writing is a means of intentionally reflecting on the experiences and events from our past and drawing meaning from those experiences, especially as it affects our present lives and the future. Think of Janus, the Roman god of the threshold, looking backward and forward at the same time. In life writing, we look back at the life we have lived and forward to the life yet to be lived.

Life review is important for many reasons . . . it can help us deal with unfinished business, to plan for retirement, for pursuing goals that we would still like to achieve and for sharing what we have learned from the past with our children, grandchildren and generations yet to come. It can help us reconcile ourselves to our failures and hurts as well as our successes, our joys and our sorrows.

 “Owning our story can be hard but not nearly as difficult as spending our lives running from it. Embracing our vulnerabilities is risky but not nearly as dangerous as giving up on love and belonging and joy—the experiences that make us the most vulnerable. Only when we are brave enough to explore the darkness will we discover the infinite power of our light.” – Brené Brown

© Cheryl Fuller, 2018. All  rights reserved.