Writing today to heal a lost yesterday

We grasp our lives in a narrative.  In order to have a sense of who we are, we have to have a notion of how we have become, and of where we are going.”    Charles Taylor (1989)

June Alexander

I am sitting in a coffee shop with an elderly life-writing client, who is discussing his memoir progress.

Writing was a major survival and healing tool for me in reintegrating my healthy self from the deadliest of mental illnesses, severe and enduring anorexia nervosa. Today I share my journaling and self-help skills with others, and today’s meeting is a tick in my client’s “wellbeing” box. Several months into writing his story, he is discovering there are many benefits in writing and sharing with a mentor.

My client is learning it is helpful to talk and write about normal things, like dreams and hopes for loved ones but that he also needs to address past struggles that even today may simmer within.

Releasing sorrows onto the page

As we grow older, we are constantly learning to be grateful for what we have and to do the best with what we have got. We each are our own prime caregiver and writing can help us to stay on track.

Even the happiest of conversations can invariably trigger memories of loss – of relationships and family times that illness or other life circumstances have denied us. The grief of irretrievably lost moments may linger. We might manage to suppress the memories for most of the time as we go about our daily life, but at special times like Christmas, and birthdays, or certain dates of the year, or indeed at any moment due to a trigger in our environment, the memory gates may open, allowing the pain to flood back. Events in the past cannot be changed but we can write about them in a way that allows us to release the hurt onto the page, and create a sense of peace and closure within.

At every age, we know that adequate, regular nourishment is vital for our wellbeing; we know we need our sleep, our exercise, and social connection. As with everyone entering their senior years, we note we tend to reflect in our quieter moments. Sometimes, any residual trauma and sorrows due to stressful life experiences can provide obstacles on our healthy-self path. The good news is that we can develop writing techniques to address those experiences and re-package them into a form of liberating acceptance that benefits our overall health.

Writing to work out what matters

Sitting here in the coffee shop, I muse to my client that I am in the happiest phase of my life. The pages of my many journals over more than five decades document a life that has been far from perfect. This bothered me once but now I am happy being imperfect.

Through my writing, I practice not caring. Not caring about things I cannot change (we cannot control the thoughts, feelings, and behaviors of others); not caring about the negative voice that occasionally intrudes, not caring about being a little late for an appointment, not caring about what I look like when I rug up to go for a walk along the beach, not caring about what others think when I talk to my cats as though they are bosom friends (they are), not caring about the cost of purchasing books as treats for me (I deserve them), and not caring about drawing on savings to travel (always a wellbeing boost).

Through writing, I practice caring about conserving my energy for healthy-self and for people who want to self-improve and make a positive difference. I care about doing what I can and letting the rest go. If I have a problem, I write about it until it loses its power and goes away.

Exploring life through words

I reach out to trusted others through writing, whenever I feel my healthy-balance needs reinforcement. Sharing with trusted others through writing always helps sort things out.

I engage locally and globally through sharing my passion for healing through life-writing. I love mentoring people in recording their stories, for everyone’s story counts.

The difference now

The difference now is that I know it is okay to feel anxious sometimes, and it is okay to make mistakes. The difference now is that I have writing skills to nurture and help my healthy-self find solutions. I continue to learn that “well, that is not for me” and give myself permission to try something else. I continue to explore life. Every day provides an enriching learning experience. Life is more than good. It’s absolutely fabulous.

My life-writing client smiles. This is his story, as well as mine. Our shared reflecting has given him fresh inspiration for writing the next chapter in his memoir. He will email the first draft through in the next week and we will meet again soon.

Mentoring – Writing Your Story

Would you like help in creating your timeline and writing your story? As a writing mentor, I offer understanding and guidance in expressing what you want to say with the written word. The process of writing your story can be very therapeutic. To arrange mentoring assistance, write to me at june@junealexander.com

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