With all the interest in scrapbooking in recent years, people are keeping track of their lives through pictures. That’s okay, but it doesn’t tell us anything about their thoughts or feelings. People used to keep track of events through letters and recording important dates in the family Bible, but with email and instant messaging, we just are not a record keeping people anymore.
Biographies are written about famous people, but every life is a story unique to the person who’s living it. You might not have your face on the cover of a magazine, but each life has a beginning and a history. It is important that we give gratitude for the life we’ve been given, and what better way to express that gratitude than recording it.
The task of sitting down and writing your personal history is overwhelming. Some people are blessed with the ability to write and some are not, but I have a system for recording your personal history that anyone can do. I wish I could claim credit for creating it, but I wrote my own personal history many years ago using this system from a book I read. I’ve taught a few classes on it, and everyone agrees that there’s no easier way to do it.
1. Get an 8 ½ x 11″ spiral notebook. Mark the front of it with a magic marker or something creative so that you know it’s YOUR personal history. Think about buying one in a color that reflects your personality, whether it’s red, green, purple, or blue.
2. Using an ink pen, on the top line of each page, write a topic. I will give you a few suggestions, but this is YOUR history, so you can use whatever you want. At this point, all you should do is write the topic. Nothing else.
a. My name
b. My mother
c. My father
d. My maternal grandparents
e. My paternal grandparents
f. Elementary School
g. Junior High
h. High School
p. My husband
q. My children
3. When you’ve written at least 20 topics, go back to the first page.
4. Write just ONE sentence under your first topic. For example, if your first topic is MY NAME, you might write something like I did. “My name is Joyce Ann Moseley.” That’s it. Keep moving.
5. Go to the second topic, which in this suggested list is, “MY MOTHER.” Here I would write, “My mother’s name is Oletha Hayes.”
6. Continue through the book writing just one sentence for each topic. While you’re writing, if you think of other topics, just go to the back of your book and add them. You’ll be surprised how many other ideas pop into your head once you get those creative juices flowing.
7. Once you’ve written one line for each topic, you can sit back and feel pretty proud of yourself. Go fix yourself something to drink, or stop to look out the window! This is more than most people have ever done, and if you stopped there, at least your family would know more about you than they did BEFORE you started this exercise.
8. Next, go back to topic #1 and write whatever comes to mind. Using my example, I’ve already written “My name is Joyce Ann Moseley.” Now I would add, “I was born on October 5, 1949 in Kansas City, Missouri. My father is the one who named me. I’ve never really liked the name, and I don’t know where he got it. My mother just tells me that he wanted to name me Joyce. Unfortunately, he died before I got curious about it, so I can’t ask him why this name was special to him.”
9. For the next topic, which is MY MOTHER, I might take my first sentence, “MY mother’s name is Oletha Hayes,” and add this: My mother was born on January 24, 1920 in Hornbeak, Tn. She has two brothers and two sisters. Their names are Onan, Flavil, Inez and Laura and they were all born in Hornbeak, Tennessee.”
10. Continue through the notebook until you have written at least one more sentence on each topic. Try to write a short paragraph. Include names, dates and places.
11. Use your imagination and be creative. One of my topics is on The Beatles. I wrote: “I was sitting in front of the television at Joy Baldwin’s house the night that the Beatles appeared on the Ed Sullivan Show. This was their first appearance in America. You could hear all of the girls in the audience screaming, and we were screaming, too. Her parents thought we were crazy. I remember when they flashed “Sorry, girls, he’s married” when the cameras closed in on John Lennon. Joy’s favorite Beatle was George and she told me I couldn’t have him. I had to pick my own, so I chose Paul. Turned out that was a choice I’ve never regretted.”
12. That one topic started out as a simple “The Beatles” at the top of my page. My first line was “I was sitting in front of the television at Joy Baldwin’s house the night that the Beatles appeared on the Ed Sullivan Show.” It wasn’t until the third time I went through the notebook that all of this information was added, and if I were to look at it today, I would add even more, because now that I have lived to be older and wiser, I can see more meaning in that one single event.
I would encourage you to take these ideas and start writing your own personal history. It is my desire that as these thoughts come to mind that you will find joy in appreciating the simple things in life. If you find that some of them bring you pain, then take this opportunity to write about them. At one point in my life, it became important to me to write about a period of time that had been extremely painful to me. I created an outline of events, and then basically filled in the blanks with the history and dialog. That’s really what you’re doing here. The topic is your outline, and the blank page is your space to tell your story. If you find that you need more pages, then go to the back of the book and continue.
I can testify to you that in telling my story, I was able to see things through different eyes, and only then could the healing begin. It is my prayer that this exercise in writing your personal history will bring you joy, bring you closure, and bring you peace. May God bless you in your journey.
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