One day when my oldest daughter was a toddler, she was reflecting on how much she loved her dad. “When I grow up, I’m going to marry Daddy.”
“But he’s already married,” I quickly pointed out.
Disappointed and shocked, she said, “To who?”
“To me!” I blurted too quickly.
“Oh!” surprised and sad, her head slowly drooped.
If I hadn’t written that story in my journal all those decades ago, I might have forgotten it. Now an adult, she doesn’t remember this encounter, and was a little embarrassed at her childhood naivete, but she was delighted that I remembered it and shared it with her.
The big events of our lives, such as graduation, weddings, and getting our first job are memorable, of course. But all the seeming insignificant everyday experiences leading up to and following those times are the most precious memories of all. Those everyday events that we take for granted are pure gold. In them we find our resilience, the birth of our attitudes and values, and proof of our courage and survival.
Pleasant memories shape our direction
When I was growing up, my mother owned a home-based beauty shop in what we nowadays would call the inner city of St. Louis, Missouri. She set it up in what would have been the living room of a “shotgun house,” where one room came right after another. The next room was her bedroom, with a convenient sliding wooden door that she closed when she was working, followed by the bedroom my sisters and I shared, with the bathroom off to the side a bit, followed by the kitchen, with the back door that led to a big backyard.
Her patrons were more than customers. They became friends to her and many times mentors to my two sisters and me. While my youngest sister took advantage of my mom’s preoccupation with her customers by taking off to play outdoors, I loved hanging around the beauty shop listening to the ladies’ stories, even though I didn’t always understand what they were saying. To keep me from recognizing the details and objects of their gossip, they would spell out key words. As soon as I became skilled at writing the alphabet and determined to crack the code, I’d sneak into the next room and eavesdrop as they talked, writing out the words they were spelling. When I realized they were not spelling out vulgarities, but boring words like “sweetheart,” “husband,” etc., I soon lost interest.
Unhappy childhood memories teach lessons
The memories from childhood can range from happy to traumatic. While most of us probably think a happy, carefree childhood is best, Frank McCourt, in the introduction to his Pulitzer Prize winning memoir, Angela’s Ashes, said, “A happy childhood is hardly worth your while.” He went on to say that you can never escape a horrible childhood, but you can put it to work for you. In other words, instead of trying to bury the sad times deep inside, we can draw out the stories and the lessons we can learn from them. After growing up in miserable poverty, McCourt eventually became a teacher and an award-winning author; but he never stopped being grateful for things other people may take for granted, such as electric lights, a boiled egg, and a hot shower.
Memories that are written yield benefits
Whether your memories make you laugh or bring up tears, when you share them in writing they have many benefits:
· You realize how resilient you are when you write about times of sadness and overcoming adversity.
· Your children grow up with a stronger sense of self-control and have more success at facing challenges.
· You get a new perspective that can boost your self-esteem when you reflect on the choices you made in your life.
· Your life story is a precious gift that will keep you alive to generations who never got to meet you.
· Your story gives meaning and richness in a way that photos and your genealogy tree can’t.
· Your story will even fascinate and inspire people who don’t know you.
If you long to write your life story and want help getting started, don’t delay any longer. I help turn your memories into memoir, because your life story matters. I’m a certified Guided Autobiography coach, and I invite you to join me in my next class, "Write Your Life Story, Two Pages at a Time," get on the waitlist HERE