Conscious Aging III: Tell Your Story

Yes, tell it!  It’s one of your legacies and a pleasure in the process. Consider seriously reprising your story in writing, on video tape, in labelled photos, or asking for help from a younger member of your brood. No doubt it does take time and effort to reflect on your life, your gifts, your contributions and your trials and tribulations.  Let it be a worthy challenge to learn from your own trajectory through the years.  

Personally, I’m delighted to meet those who have illuminated their life stories for others, and now I am one. I’ve contributed my 133-page-thus-far life-story to the Johnson Family Archives. It clearly brought back memories and offered up previously unacknowledged life patterns.

Think about it!  I’m 81!  My generation’s life spans so many changes.  The list is long:  the days of prosperity following WW II, the woman’s movement, the Vietnam War, the Civil Rights movement, permission for same sex marriage,  breaking the glass ceiling for women, the technology revolution with computers and social media (with which I have a hard time keeping up), the polarization within our democracy, the Black Lives Matter movement, and the pandemic. And, I’ve probably missed a bunch.   Basically change is now constant and the aging of the extra sizable Boomer generation, as we speak,  promotes even more options for significance during our unanticipated gift of longevity.

If we do not gather our stories, many of the rich experiences in life, our excitements, our travails, our perspectives, and our wisdom will die with us.  I am one who wished I had asked my mother many more questions before she died. I am determined now to gather my story for my nieces and nephews, whose children, one day, may want to know “Who was Aunt Martha?”

A few years ago at my Senior Residence, I happened to be convening a gathering on the question: “How are we sharing our heritage with the generations that follow us?”

What an amazing meeting it was! One neighbor, Sister Connie, the youngest of 12 in her family,  had worked in Africa for 30 years as a missionary.  She was so appreciated in her region that a building was named in her honor.  Her many nieces and nephews, having reached  their 50s, were starting to ask, “what did you do over there?”  She decided to respond with a simple 30-page memoir….and, it became  a document in demand.

Another neighbor’s relatives had been gathering data on family history for many years. She updates a monstrous data base at the bi-annual reunions which draw at least 200 people. Given this family’s black heritage, all reunions are located where the youngsters can learn about the black history of their forebears. 

Another 80-year old neighbor had prepared, way back in 1984, her own book of history with pictures and text as a gift to each of her 5 children. A real opus and labor of love on display.

It was truly wonderful to have had this chance to learn more about our neighbors and to be inspired by each of their efforts.  For most folks, nothing is more important than telling a part of the unique life story which is theirs, particularly their navigation of their up and down transitions…. and having someone listen and care.  

For we who are older, I think it is an essential survival mechanism too often overlooked. 

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