Is it possible to weave a story of pain and despair into something beautiful, capable of inspiring others? The answer is Yes, if we are brave and open enough to change our perspective. Our angle of vision. Our perception. What’s done is done and already passed, but altering our perspective allows us to regain the trust that has been lost. It means changing our position on the ladder of awareness. Seeing from a different viewpoint.
When I first began writing my memoir I was all over the place. Despite the fact that my memory was extensive, I didn’t have a coherent idea of what sort of form the book would take. I didn’t have a through-line. My initial purpose was simply to write down my memories to see what I had. In order to do that, I had to put myself back into the experiences, return to the self that had once lived in that particular time and space I was seeking to recreate.
It was difficult to go back into the pain, relive the sorrow. My instincts for so many years had cried out against it. And yet somehow in the retelling, the stories stepped outside of me and onto the page. They came to life on the page when I was able to put the story outside of myself. The greatest payback of memoir has been finding a deeper meaning in events and situations of the past. Meanings I would not have known had I not taken the trouble to write down what happened.
As Baba Ram Dass said so eloquently, Everything changes once we identify with being the witness to the story instead of the actor in it.
I began my memoir when I was in my late forties, at a crossroads in my life. I firmly believe that you cannot know where you are until you know where you have been. To do this I had to get in touch with a deeper part of myself. And I had to go back to school to study writing, as I knew I would never get there on my own. Then, in the process of applying to college I realized just how vital it was to me that I churn out a book. It was nothing less in fact, than getting in touch with the blueprint of my soul.
Writing down our stories is a way of taking charge of the past. Of owning it, then putting it aside to live more freely, more fully in the present.
Along the way I felt there was a force working through me. I felt an energy, something I call the spirit of soul consciousness. Autobiographies don’t necessarily mean turning your life inside out to find hidden meanings. Not all writers wish to send a plumb line down to the depths of their subconscious. Yet for me the benefit was immeasurable. For me it was nothing less than putting my psyche in order.
Sorting out our experience is soul work. It reminds me of Psyche’s first task in the myth of Psyche and Eros, which was to make order out of the pile of seeds. Order out of chaos. At first it seemed impossible. But then the ants came to help her. The ants were symbolic of intuitive awareness. With writing we are creating a map of sorts. Where was I? When was I there? Why was I there? What happened? When we can bring our intuitive awareness into the mix, we are giving that map an added dimension, a deeper level of order.
I found the way forward became the looking back. And aside from sorting out “what happened when,” I made connections. I came up with an underlying reasoning that enabled me to tie things together in such a way that my life now had meaning and purpose I could only have dreamed about once.
Truth is always interesting. First we write for ourselves, then we write for others to read, and with each revision the story becomes richer, more vibrant, more real. And we become more real as we become more fully aware of who we truly are.
The sharing of our stories is when we really take off. In making them public, in reading them aloud, we are honoring our experience. We are also empowering others to take that leap of faith into their own lives. How can we know what we might touch off in another, what trigger or spark we might ignite. Truth is catching. When we open up, someone else sees that it is possible. And so we all move forward. We all grow.