I have always enjoyed writing diaries and journals. I ventured into Journal Groups and found a new world of art combined with journalling that I loved. Within this, I discovered like minded people who had an openness and delight in creativity. I found my writing was reflective, positive and uplifting. It grew to be a big part of my life and I began my longed for dream, to write a book.

My Sister

I decided to write a memoir initially for myself. To capture everything before I became older and could possibly forget the details. My sister had died of Alzheimer’s disease recently and this was a prompt for me to capture my life story. I felt the process of writing, researching and keeping mentally active was essential for my vitality and wellbeing.

My Parents

Another influence was that my parents died when I was 30. Sadly, this coincided with the time I had become eager to know more about their lives. I knew a lot, my childhood was peppered with memories, particularly my mother’s. But my father was quiet and barely spoke about his childhood or home. It would have been wonderful to hear his story too. So, this enthused me to write my own life story in detail which I found cathartic and integrating. My eventual memoir was very different from the first one: illustrated, poetic and held within the natural cycles of life within the metaphor of birds. I saw the spirals through the years mirrored in the multitudes of unique beings we live alongside. The process of creating my book gave me a connection far beyond my family and friends. A wider kinship to nature and a fundamental acceptance and compassion for the journeys we transition through.

I recognised that many other people were part of this story and would see elements from their own perspectives. This was my personal view of my journey within a world of parallels. Many others will have similar stories, but the places, times and people vary and give the bones to the lived experiences.

Remembering who we really are

During my career as an Occupational Therapist, I created groups for people with severe memory problems. In preparation, I assisted carers to collate a memory book of their partner’s lives with photographs and a short life story. I helped in prompting recollections and with their agreement the information was available to staff; to enable a clearer understanding of who this person really was. An adult who had experienced adventures, jobs and a myriad of experiences. From this, the rapport in the group grew as carers became involved and loved sharing photographs with explanations. To see them smile, when the photographs were shared in the group, often with music for themed sessions, was a wonderful and uniting moment. They became enlivened as they saw the real person shining through. Following on, it sparked conversations with familiar language and interests. If we take the time to see through other’s eyes a camaraderie develops and a connection. It felt akin to tribal gatherings acknowledging the wisdom of the elders.

I remembered my mother talking with excitement about her life before the war and the fact she was the only daughter to go out to work. She came from a large farming family and it wasn’t the norm for women to go outside of the farm to work. She was an independent soul and trained as a secretary and telephonist and was proud to tell us all that she worked on Fleet St, commuting every day in 1941 before the war. She talked about the doodlebugs over London going silent before they dropped. Seeing the fires in central London from the farm and later having German prisoners of war, whom she had compassion and empathy for working on the farm. She had always said she would like to write a book, she, unfortunately, did not. But this also inspired me to write a memoir.

Often all that is left is an obituary, heaps of old photographs of people and places we do not know. I cherished all of these but I would encourage you to write your story in your own words. You will be surprised by the depth of peace this brings. When you take an overview of your life you notice the highlights, but also see the everyday experiences that have changed due to advances in travel, technology and learning. We have so many opportunities now, more freedom generally and choices.

A Personal Mirror of Reflection

To look back, describe, collate and begin to see the whole picture enabled me to recognise how I had learned from my experiences. My journey was viewed differently later in life with less intense emotions and more understanding and self-compassion. Alongside acceptance of those, I had left behind. Trials and tribulations are inevitable and the best thing for me was being able to see how assistive they were in my own growth as a person. I realised my part in the problems, in the joys and the sorrows. My development, enthusiasm, spontaneity and fear. The delights such as parenthood and the difficulties. A personal mirror to reflect on our lives.

Crossroads of choice

The amazing potential we all have to do whatever we focus on became apparent during my life. I did not feel ready to write a book in my twenties but in my fifties, I relished the possibility. The best place for me to start was with myself. I felt strongly about this as I wanted others to realise we have a voice and a choice. We can change our situations; we are not stuck in a rut or a relationship. We can learn new skills and take new directions at any age. We need to embrace our free choice and curiosity and dare to take a step outside the normal routine! Life is a story after all, a new chapter can be written.

The ability to transform our lives was the main inspiration to write my book. I had gone through several major life events and these were the drive to write my story in the hope it may inspire other people who have a feeling they need to make changes. Perhaps buying a journal to reflect, review and discover a new path to a happier and more fulfilling life. It never ceased to amaze me how from the depths of despair, at pivotal moments, kindness, encouragement and transformation can be ignited.

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