I am a teacher. So here’s a lesson—one that took me a long time to learn.
Do you remember playing “Gossip” when you were a kid? It was a game where one person whispered a “secret” into the next person’s ear. Then the second person whispered the “secret” into the third person’s ear and then third person passed it along to the fourth. When the “secret” got around to everyone in the room, the last person would reveal the “secret” that he heard. Then the originator of the “secret” would reveal what she actually said. And you know what?
The two secrets were never, ever the same.
So a “secret” that started out as innocently as “I love my mother and would never lie to her if I could help it” could wind up as sinister as “I shoved my lover into a wood-oven pie tower. Fire in the pit!”
See the difference?
In a game like this, the only person who knows the real “secret” is the person who started it.
And that’s you.
All of life is like a game of Gossip. We hear a story one way and remember it another and retell it in yet another. Then the next person hears the story we told (which is already three versions removed from the original), remembers it another way and retells it now in its sixth incarnation.
It doesn’t take very long before the story bears no resemblance to the original.
If that story was yours, it’s not anymore.
There’s only one way to insure that your stories will survive in their original, definitive versions. You have to take charge of them.
If you keep them inside, they will be lost forever. If you trust that others will keep them for you, they will be lost forever. If you think about writing them down, but never do it, they will be lost forever.
People will remember your stories their way, not yours—that is, if they remember them at all. So, if you don’t take charge of your life stories, what survives of them will be distorted over time. Eventually, they will disappear.
And so will you.
Oh my. This has taken something of a dark turn, hasn’t it?
The lesson I’ve been working toward is this. If you don’t do it, no one will. And even if they try, they’ll never get it right. So take charge. Right now. I mean it. Right now—this minute. Choose one thing, one small thing about yourself to commit to paper and save forever.
Try this. Pick one thing that you do deliberately. It could be something you choose to wear (or not wear), something that you choose to eat (or refuse to), a place you like to go (or hate to go), a pastime or hobby that you engage in, a way you like your living room to look, how careful you are when you drive, how you manage (or mismanage) your time, what kind of pets you keep, how you discipline your children, what you do for a living, etc. Just make sure that it is something that you do because it is your choice to do it, to do it a certain way or to not do it at all.
Having trouble choosing one thing? Be ruthless. It’s too easy to put off writing because you can’t settle on one thing to write about. That, I’ve discovered from experience, is a lame excuse, a procrastinator’s ploy, a cheap way out of doing something that you’re not sure you can pull off. Make a list. Then flip a coin, throw a dart, close your eyes and point, draw a slip of paper out of hat or throw them all on the floor and see which one the new puppy pees on. Do whatever it takes. Give yourself permission to A) take the time out of your busy day to do this B) not worry about what anyone else thinks C) believe that you are worth it. Commit yourself to that one small thing and forget all the rest—for now.
Then sit down in a quiet, clutter-free spot (good luck with that), and start to explain yourself in relation to the one thingthat you’ve chosen. Tell the story of why you do that one thing the way YOU do it. Describe the thing, describe yourself doing the thing, describe the feeling you get when you’re doing the thing, describe how you feel when you’re not doing the thing and describe what all of this reveals about who you are. (If you don’t know where to start, then the subject is still too big. Break off a piece of it, set aside the rest and try again.)
When you’re done, you’ll have a snippet of your life—saved. Your way. In your words. The wood-oven pie tower never had a chance.
NEED MORE INCENTIVE?
Imagine your great-great grandchildren someday reading your words, seeing a bit of what they’re made of and making a connection—with you. Gives me chills.
Do it. You can. And you should.