Monday, July 1, 2013

Leaving a Written Legacy: Why I Think You Should Be Writing About Your Life


 Over coffee with friends recently the discussion was meditation and the question arose from one friend to another "Do you keep a journal?" The idea being that sometimes new thoughts, ideas, or solutions to problems come while meditating. My friend's response surprised me, "I don't like to write my thoughts down; it makes me feel vulnerable."

I thought back to late spring 2009 when I published my first Facebook note. It was about how the underlying message of all these make over shows is that you just aren't good enough the way you are. I'd been journaling for years and had books and books of private writings. But as soon as I hit "publish" of my little note I broke out into a cold sweat. Panic flooded my brain and I felt a most uncomfortable feeling that I wanted to get away from desperately.

Vulnerability. I felt painfully exposed.

I tried to find a way to delete it, but once it was posted I was unable to retrieve it.

I felt sick.

I actually had to lie down (which seems funny now, considering some of the things I've shared with you since then).

As the day wore on, I began to get positive comments. People agreed with me and my niece said "Why don't you stop reading so much and write a book?"

Oh. I was publicly exposed and vulnerable and it didn't kill me.

As my mind returned from that memory and came back to the present moment in Starbucks, I looked at my friend and said, "The world needs to hear what you have to say."

My blog partner wrote that to me once and it stuck with me. I explained my revised thought process to the reluctant journaler:

"Maybe the world needs to hear what you have to say. What if all the people whose books and words we read hadn't shared with us what they learned? What if we all had to start from scratch to learn about life because no wise person who ever came before us had bothered to write anything down? What if you have some great wisdom that your child or grandchild needs long after you're gone? Can you imagine the gift your words of hope and encouragement might be to them? What if you have some great insight or lesson to pass on that only you are capable of relating to others? What if you pass from this life and all the lessons you learned on your journey are lost forever? My old journals are filled with lots of anger and sadness on once page and blissful contentment on the next. I look bipolar. But I tended to write when I was experiencing extreme emotion. The regular writing on my blog gives a more accurate picture. I was tempted recently to go through and rip out the negative pages, but isn't that what some future reader may need most? Knowing that even on the darkest days there was hope, challenges were overcome, strength was built in the darkness is a lifetime worth of wisdom all by itself."

I'm pretty convincing when I need to be.

Another friend, a devout Catholic, agreed with me. She explained how much strength she gains from reading about the lives of the saints, their personal struggles, how they overcame them.

The other part of this naturally, is that I know my coffee partner to be someone who is interested in learning, growing, and becoming a better person. I have no doubt that the world really does need to hear what she has to say. Some people are on a path of self exploration and constantly seek wisdom and understanding. The responsibility of those people to pass on what they've learned should weigh more heavily upon them than upon those who are just muddling through life, but I dare say, even the muddlers are not completely without knowledge to share.

Perhaps your writing isn't eloquent but reads more like a road map for others.

Avoid this path. 

Go this way in times of trouble. 

Stop here and take a break, it's going to be important later. 

Don't miss this view. 

I got stuck here, but you can go another way.

I took this road. Here's where I ended up.


If all you could manage were a few signposts, they may be just what a future traveler will need. This life is hard. Sometimes it's painful. Sometimes it's joyous, hilarious, and fun. It isn't such a bad idea to set a bottle afloat off into the future with this message:

I was here. Here's what I learned...

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