One of the most empowering, life-changing statements that I have ever made is "I would like to write a story about your life ... " Never, in a million years would I have guessed how those words would change me, my life and sense of belonging and purpose within my little world.
I have been 'collecting memories' for about six years.
I assembled my mom's family's memories into a small book in a very short space of time. I think that I knew that I needed that fast forward momentum to carry me through until the end.
I assisted a friend with her family memories. She was the motivation behind that little project. I had lost my momentum and my friend had what it took to get the job done.
I started collecting my dad's family memories five years ago. I am still working on it. I'm not proud of the fact that it has taken this long but I have a sense of knowing (after all is said and done) that I will be grateful that I didn't rush the process.
The gift of collecting memories has been overwhelming.
I have come to know my parent's families in ways that I could have never imagined or ever dared to hope for. I have forged connections to my cousins that have become one of my most cherished gifts. I have been drawn into my friend's family in a way that is unshakeable and unmistakeable.
When you hear people share the gift of their memories, you are walking on sacred ground.
Within those memories lie the essence of the person who has grown up and is sitting before you. To hear the childhood memories that are an intricate part of the person who sits before you helps you hear more and better than ever before.
When people talk about their memories, the years have a tendency to vanish. Eyes twinkle and sparkle. Voices change and the language of their body becomes youthful again.
Being young is not all sunshine and roses. Within those youthful stories I have heard insecurities within the story or sometimes the story is about those lonely, anxious years.
I think that it is very brave to tell the world that growing up can be hard and sometimes a very lonely place. Growing up in today's world is all of that and perhaps even feels more so.
When I recall the memories that have made me who I am, I try not to omit the hard parts. It is the challenges that we have overcome that make us into who we are. Sharing that-which-is-hard makes us feel vulnerable but I think that others interpret that vulnerability into feeling that a person is more approachable.
We are all living our own drama. When you tell the story-that-is-your life, sit tall and be proud of where you are and the obstacles you have overcome to get there. It is the bumps and bruises, the hills and valleys, the detours and dead ends that make life interesting and make you the individual that you have become. Just think how boring our story would be if it was a straight path to the end goal.
Remember that which has brought you joy and your eyes will twinkle. Recall the innocence of your youth and feel the years fade away. Recite an old poem or recall and old memory and hear your voice tell the story of your life with fond remembrance. Wear your scars like medals. You have earned them.
And when you see someone looking a little lost and forlorn ... ask them the questions that make it easy for them to tell you their story. We all have a story. The more we listen to the world around us, the more connected we become.
If there has been one thing that I have found with each and every person that I have listened to, it is that there is a common thread between us. There is a connection. Always. Sometimes you have to listen a little harder. Sometimes you must share a little piece of yourself. But when we open ourselves up and tell our stories, our world becomes very small and cozy.
"Tell me the story of you ..." This small phrase has opened my eyes, my heart and the doors to my life like no other.
Those six words have not only impacted my life ... they have changed me.