The Christmas that I was eleven years old, my grandma gave me a Book of Remembrance. This giant, three-inch, three-ring binder was chock-full of pedigree charts, family group sheets, and old photos. Being the family history nerd that I was, I geeked out over it. But my favorite portion of the exploding book was the life history section.
There were pages and pages of stories collected from my grandparents, my great grandparents, and even some of my great, great grandparents, my great, great, great grandparents, and two of my great, great, great, great grandfathers! I spent hours reading the very words they wrote about their own lives—feeling deeply grateful for being allowed a look into their personal triumphs and tribulations. I treasure these stories.
Over the years, I have been drawn to write my own. I bought books on “How to Write Your Life History,” took “Life History 101” classes, and pinned every “Six Easy Steps to Writing Your Own Life History” I could find. But I never got far. My life seemed so inconsequential. I never sent my father to war, never experienced a near-death drowning, and never grew up in a willow roof and dirt floor home like many of my ancestors. What could I write about?
Time and time again, I talked myself out of the arduous task. Ultimately, I decided I wasn’t interesting enough or “old enough” to have a life history. So I didn’t try. How do you actually capture your life onto paper? How do you compose what might seem mundane and unimportant in your life, yet what might be the very threads of your existence now—and put it into words?
A few months ago, it happened.
I found the Life History Workbook from The Refining Workbooks website and ordered it (to sit with my collection of How-To Life History books, of course) but then had the brilliant inspiration to host a Life History Ladies’ Night. I invited a group of women to purchase their own copy of the workbook and to show up at my house on a Tuesday night—after my littles were in bed.
We opened the workbook to the first section and started by filling in our timelines . . . and as one person would reminisce, it would spark memories for others to record as well. We wrote, and talked, and laughed, and grew closer together.
At one time during the evening, Erin said, “I don’t remember much. I’ve had four concussions in my life.” And we all responded, “Write that down!” That was the common phrase any time someone would tell a story—we would get so excited to hear their adventures, their triumphs over trial, the ends of their stories, and then we would encourage each other to write them down.
It was like play group—you know, where moms with young children get together and sit and visit while their kids run rampant. But this was without the chaos, and it included women of all ages. It was beautiful to bridge the gap of years—to hear how one young mom gave birth at home with a midwife in 2015, and how one elderly mother gave birth to her son, having turned his breached body with the help of her midwife in 1960! We shared first kisses and remembered first dates. We talked about our interests and hobbies. The things that make us US. And then we planned to meet again—once a month, until we’ve worked through the workbook and each of us has a collection of our own life history.
Everyone has a story. Isn’t it amazing? Every person has a life full of experiences waiting to be recorded. We might think our lives are boring and uneventful, but that night, our stories came to life when we began sharing them. As we put words to our past, we became validated in who we are and the events that made us that way.
We all have a story to share.
And every story matters.