If there’s ever a time of reflection and sense of community, Christmas is it – it’s when people gather together, memories flow and traditions are created or upheld. Yet despite the true meaning of the season and the romanticism of traditions, our preparations leading up to Christmas Day can be a lot of work and the results aren’t always what we envision, especially when it comes to the Christmas tree. Interestingly, the same can be said about writing life story.
Lesson #1: Don’t Compare
The first box of Christmas decorations that I open contains our artificial tree. We acquired the nine-foot-tall tree from my mother-in-law who had twelve-foot-high ceilings. It always looked so regal in the sitting room of her Victorian home, framed by the bay windows that mirrored the white lights on the tree.
Fast forward a few years and it now stands in our modest living room. Despite the treetop scraping our ceiling (thereby eliminating the opportunity to place a star or angel on its peak) and the removal of several rear branches so it can be backed up against the wall to allow pedestrian traffic, it nevertheless proudly serves as the focal point of our living room.
It is similar to the proverbial elephant in the room. You cannot avoid staring at it not only due to its immense proportions, but also because it is garishly decorated by two creative young kids.
The first year that it stood in our home I remember being disappointed. It looked nothing at all like the grand, beautiful tree that my mother-in-law decorated with color-coordinating ornaments. But since then I have come to love that tree, understanding that it’s not about perfection or even replicating others’ work; instead, it’s all about making it our own and serving a meaningful purpose.
It recently struck me that decorating our tree parallels with writing life story. All too often people think that their experiences – their stories – pale in comparison to those of others. Such thoughts can prevent them from writing, making them feel that their experiences are insignificant.
Yet look at the tree example. Even though the current location isn’t optimal for our fake spruce, it still serves a pivotal role in our Christmas celebrations. Similarly, your unique stories – no matter how seemingly mundane – serve an important role in your family’s history.
Lesson #2: Don’t Give Up
Decorating our tree is an all-day affair. The lights are a critical component of the overall desired effect and because the tree was manufactured before the advent of the pre-lit varieties, I spend a couple of hours painstakingly wrapping the light strands in and among each branch so that the cords don’t show. Part of it is a perfectionist streak in me and part of it is to carry on my mother-in-law’s tradition of how the tree should be decorated.
The time and frustration I undertake when hanging the lights can easily equate to writing life story. I anxiously stare at the tree as I flip the extension cord’s power switch, waiting to see if any loose light bulbs refuse to work now that they are intertwined in branches. There is nothing more tedious and time consuming than attempting to locate and replace recalcitrant bulbs.
Similarly, writing life story is not always a simple task and we may feel like giving up halfway through the job. But when we persevere, the end result is something beautiful to behold.
Lesson #3: Don’t Hold Back
As my children and I drape the ribbons and hang the ornaments, I share the memories associated with each decoration and of my childhood Christmases in general. They typically grunt or distractedly say, “Uh-huh” as I reminisce, but at least they let me happily prattle on as Christmas music plays in the background.
Even though my children don’t currently place great emphasis on my annual trip down memory lane, I believe that one day they will appreciate the stories. And even if they never do, the simple act of telling family stories brings me satisfaction and joy.
The same holds true for your life story. Even if you don’t think anyone will be interested in what you have to say, you should write your life story because it’s important to you and brings you joy. As added benefits, you will also document history and create an enduring legacy.
So don’t hold back. Tell your story and allow the meaningful glow of your words to emanate to others for generations to come.
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