Memoir: Your Life's Journey is Your Living Legacy

A butterfly lights beside us like a sunbeam,

And for a brief moment, its glory and beauty belong to our world…

But then it flies again, and though we wish it could have stayed…

We feel lucky to have seen it.

-Anonymous

In the scope of the universe, a human being’s life journey is very much like a butterfly’s life, valuable, fleeting, and beautiful.  Even though we may wish a butterfly could stay longer to appreciate its beauty, we still feel a sense of awe just to have seen it in that brief, fleeting moment.  Much in the same regard, when we share an encounter with a fellow human being, we are impacted by that person, as they are left with something from us in exchange, just by our existence.

You may be wondering what butterflies have to do with your life journey, writing a memoir, and/or creating a legacy. Life is short, we are here but in passing, and so your existence and your life journey are of value and importance.  This article addresses the importance and value of your life in ways you may not even perceive.  Your life’s journey is full of rich impactful moments, and these moments of experiences, enlightenment, and learnings are founded in your growth of wisdom, thus creating noteworthy recollections by means of a memoir.  You may even choose to leave this memoir abundant with those nuggets of anecdotal wisdom and life reflections as a legacy to family and friends.  First and foremost, you must believe in your own self-worth and that your existence in passing was of value in a myriad of ways.

When we reflect on a butterfly’s life pattern, metaphorically, we can easily see how we, as human beings, also “fly” from here to there, landing on different “flowers” which are our experiences with others. Herein lies impactful moments, whether happy or sad and the power to learn and grow.  When we interact with people, we touch other lives in ways we may not even be aware, just by our own unique existence.   When we become aware that we do indeed have an effect on others, then no matter how “minor” we think something we do is, it has long-lasting effects, whether we are conscious of it or not.

Memoir: Your Life's Journey is Your Living Legacy

Understanding the value of this effect can be seen through a scientific phenomenon that Professor Edward Lorenz presented over 50 years ago, known as the “butterfly effect,” [1] and he stated that, ” … when an occurrence happens, such as a tornado, the effects could be felt from a butterfly flapping its wings on another side of the world prior to the tornado.” [2]  Being a mathematician and meteorologist at MIT, his experiments were conducted to simulate future weather predictability.  He was fascinated by the phenomenon that something could have an effect on the other side of the planet.  He discovered that everything has an effect on everything and that nothing is too light or insignificant to not have an effect.

During one of Lorenz’s simulations, he discovered that by rounding off just one variable, the tiny alteration drastically transformed the whole entire pattern his program produced, and led him to a powerful insight about the way nature works, that: small changes can have large consequences, (also known as “sensitive dependence on initial conditions”),[3] coming to the conclusion that forecasting the future can be nearly impossible, due to the variables that exist, and because, everything affects everything else.

As you read through this article, you may be inspired to contemplate your life, but mostly that you recognize the true value of your unique self, and how you’ve impacted and affected others. Valuable things to include in a memoir!  We are all part of a bigger system we call nature, with qualities and characteristics that we can all learn from and admire.  Nature is a great teacher of life.  We are part of the cycle of life and death, and everything in between and beyond.

It becomes easier for us to see the value of our own life’s journey when viewed through nature’s lens.  The universe expands and contracts,[4] as do we.  It’s the phenomenon in nature that no matter how small an action is taken on one side of the world, it has an impact on something else, across thousands of miles.  Every life has a sense of worth, even though it may not be as simple as a butterfly’s life.  Life can sometimes be challenging and depending on how you view your own life and self-worth, impacts what effect you have on others.

Nature has an innate wisdom, a built-in system that enables life to continue through what we call, “seasons”. [5] Everything is perennial – anything sad or unpleasant that we go through does come to pass in time.  We hold the memory, but we have also moved on with life – life pulls upwards towards living. As each season has a purpose, each of our experiences also has a greater purpose.

Nature’s cycle of seasons teaches us how interdependent all of life really is. The beauty of flowers has value in their winter dormant state, as they wait for the slight change in daylight and weather to awaken anew.  The beauty has not diminished because they’ve lied dormant during the depths of winter – as if doing “nothing,” as if absent from having an impact on anything.  If the nature of a butterfly’s flapping its wings has an effect across the world, then how can we say that our existence and actions have no effect on this planet?

THE IMPORTANCE OF VALUING YOUR LIFE JOURNEY AND LIVING YOUR LEGACY FROM A PLACE OF SELF-WORTH

THE IMPORTANCE OF VALUING YOUR LIFE JOURNEY AND LIVING YOUR LEGACY FROM A PLACE OF SELF-WORTH

As humans, we may tend to judge ourselves and our worth in believing that we have little value that may have actually made any real impact in other people’s lives. However, this is the farthest thing from being true.  Doing “nothing” is doing “something”, and, can mean more than we think.

When we do not feel our own sense of self-worth, we diminish the feeling on the possible impact we have on others.  Sometimes we don’t feel we are “enough” or think we don’t have anything of value to offer anybody.  Comparing ourselves to others, such as Gandhi, Nelson Mandela, Mother Teresa and others, we reduce our sense of worth and value in what we might have to offer the world. We couldn’t possibly matter in the scope of the universe, because we live in our own little worlds, doing our own little things, and doubt that our lives have any impact on anyone else’s.

Butterflies don’t have to “do” anything other than being themselves and spread pollen from one flower to another.  And the impact is HUGE!  Some flowers wouldn’t even exist if it were not for butterflies, birds, and bees.  Did you know that butterflies are the #2 productive pollinator in the world?  Bees are #1.[6]

What the analogy of the “butterfly effect” means to me is that no matter how “minor” we think something we do is, it can have long-lasting effects, whether we are conscious of it or not.  Being an individual human being, it’s important to know that we hold particular qualities, values, and perceptions of life that no one else does.  Living your particular life journey is unique, not only in the way you perceive the world but in the way in which you express what your experiences are.    Capturing your essence can be vital in feeling worthy, realizing you make a difference, just by being you.  A friend of mine, Toni Bua, used to say, “In a million other galaxies, on a thousand other stars, there will never, ever be another you!”

THE VALUE OF WORTH, SELF-WORTH IN LIVING YOUR LEGACY

THE VALUE OF WORTH, SELF-WORTH IN LIVING YOUR LEGACY

It’s the small things that can be big. A kind word or gesture and listening to another person is holding space without judgment. There is nothing ordinary about having walked the earth, having a purpose, serving to inspire, even for five minutes.  Maybe you don’t really know how you’ve impacted someone’s life.  Maybe you will come to realize at one point in your life that you did have an impact along the road of life, and so age may allow you to see life from a different perspective.  Many people think they have done nothing special, however, just living is special and purposeful.

It’s alright to think that you have value and that you are already a living legacy, just by being your unique self, sharing your gifts, talents, and qualities that makeup who you are.  You have qualities that endear you to others. It’s how you treat others in your everyday actions that count.  Sometimes we take those actions for granted and dismiss them as just “normal” behavior.  We don’t even see ourselves as a vibrant, impactful, positive living legacy.

A legacy can be defined as a gift or bequest that is handed from one person to another after a person has passed away.[7] In the context we are addressing, legacy is about passionately immersing your whole self into your life in a way that you embrace your uniqueness, making a meaningful, lasting and energizing contribution, (big or small) so that your gift of being will be given to all whom you touch, ensuring that your life will have a life beyond your own, outliving and outlasting your time on earth.[8]   In sharing what you have learned you are offering a universal gift that can be used by anyone at any time.  It can be small or larger than life.[9]

Being your own living legacy only requires you to step outside yourself and give your entire heart for one moment to something you care about.  Lifelong legacies have a string of these single moments that lead them to be known as, one whole life. These makeup noteworthy experiences to write about in a memoir. The Native American Indians teach their children the “7th Generation” principle that says, “in every decision, be it personal, governmental or corporate, we must consider how it will affect our descendants seven generations into the future.” This principle was so important that it was codified in the Iroquois Great Law of Peace.[10]  It would be great if we adopted this philosophy more, looking at the grand picture of life itself.

YOUR MEMOIR

YOUR MEMOIR

Writing your memoir is a way for you to capture the nuggets of interactions and experiences that were “taken for granted” in your life. Remember, that it’s alright to view how the qualities you possess impact others. A brief exchange at the grocery store check-out, or perhaps something you said or did at work with a colleague that put a smile on their face or changed their lives.[11]

Never underestimate the power of your actions. With one small gesture, you can change a person’s life, hopefully for the better. We cross other’s people’s lives for a reason – hardly anything is random or coincidental.

FRAME OF MIND

Yes, there are people in this world who are not kind, who are distorted in their thinking. We see them bullying and hurting others for no good reason except to vent their own anger. As a compassionate, caring human being, it is unfathomable and incomprehensible how a human being can do so much harm to another. However, whenever someone does something to hurt someone, our nature is to gather round and help each other through the traumatic experience with compassion and love, and we may even choose to donate in order to help the victims.

Let’s think about legacy as a series of small gestures you can make on a daily basis. Here are eleven legacy making gestures to consider as gifts on your life journey.

ELEVEN LEGACY-MAKING GESTURES

1)  Showing kindness.  Show it unconditionally, and compassionately. Just remember when someone showed kindness to you is enough to remember how you felt.  Never underestimate the power of genuine kindness, coming forth from the bottom of your heart.

2) Being there for someone and offering your time is a beautiful gift to give. Time is the only precious resource we have that is never replaceable.  Give people you love the joyous gift of your undivided time with love. Even volunteering will bring others a sensed value and worth because you gave them time.

3) Be resilient, by showing your strength and positivity when an unforeseen challenge hits you upside the head.  You can allow yourself a moment to whine by yourself, but then be done with it! Be the role model you want to see. Ask how and what you can learn from a challenging situation. Sharing your learnings with others are the nuggets of insight that you give them.

4) Be vulnerable and open to sharing yourself with others.  Trust that someone will hold your heart with delicate hands, and, of course, be discerning.  When you open yourself to others, you give them permission to do the same.  Remember, “tears are to the soul what water is to a plant.”  Don’t hold back the tears if they are welling up inside of you.  A good cry cleans the cobwebs.

5) Laugh A LOT, even in the face of adversity.  Laughing at oneself is healthy, even in the most serious situation – laughing ’til you cry feels so very good and is good for the lungs.  I look at it as a great breathing treatment.

6) Create and hold a vision for your life’s journey.  It doesn’t have to be huge.  It could be anything from smiling more to feeding starving children. It’s inspiring, both to yourself and to others who may feel the same way.

7) Be engaged with your life.  See how your joy factor skyrockets when you are passionate about doing something you love to do. Your passion is contagious, inspiring others to recharge themselves as well.

8) Be a good listener.  There is nothing more honorable and respectful than being genuinely interested in another human being.  When they share themselves with you, and you are genuinely interested, there is great value in feeling heard by someone who really cares.

9) Be impeccable with your word.  Don Miguel Ruiz holds this as his first agreement in his book, The Four Agreements. [12]  Honoring your word to yourself and to others means living with integrity, being accountable, responsible, and owning your own actions, beliefs and choices.  This prevents the disease I call, “finger-pointy-itis” when you blame everyone else for you feeling miserable.  All that brings is excuses, denial and more misery.

10) Take action in what you want to see happen in your life – fears are but illusions.  Set goals and then go for them with excitement and passion.  When you do, your vibration resonates out to the universe, and if you believe in the Law of Attraction,[13] then you know it’s not what you say, it’s what you think and feel that matters.  Paulo Coelho writes in his book, The Alchemist, “when you really want something, the world conspires to make a dream come true.”[14]

11) Love plays a very important part in living your life as a legacy and passing on this message.  I always say, “It’s your life.  Enjoy the journey.  And, remember to bring love into everything you do.”  First, love for yourself is an honorable gift you deserve to have, and actually, it’s more important than anything else.  If you love someone without loving yourself, it would not be unconditional, and unconditional love is love without reasons except love itself.  Love for the sake of love is the best feeling of love, without any reasons attached.  (I love!)

RELATING LIFE EXPERIENCES THROUGH LIVING YOUR LIFE AS LEGACY

Whether you are retired, inspired, at peace, at the beginning or end of life, wherever you are, relating your life experience in a naturally flowing way, without any bitterness or resentment, is a gift.  The question is, how do you determine your value and growth through the day to day “ordinary” things?  How do you extract meaning and importance from doing what you perceive as, “nothing” in your life?  You can begin by sharing some anecdotal examples from your day to day life experiences.

Here are a few examples of what you can focus on:

  • What are you thankful for?
  • Who are you thankful for?
  • Who are people in your life that have thanked you for something you did?  (No example is too small.)
  • What did you do to help someone else?  (Don’t take this part for granted.  It may have been something you think was small, but to the person, you helped, it made all the difference in the world.)

THE IMPORTANCE OF A MEMOIR

Defining “memoir” is a collection of memories that an individual can write about; moments, both public and private, that took place in the subject’s life.”[15]   In reality, a memoir is all the things that happen to you in life, whether you believe they were important or had value.

You may be saying to yourself, “Why would I write a memoir of my life?”
“I’m just an ordinary person.”  “I don’t have anything to write about.” “My life is boring.”  From one ordinary person to another, I have thought about the very same things.  Then after the birth of my three beautiful grandchildren, I began sharing my stories as they grew and adapting the small nuggets of wisdom to their understanding.  I am becoming more and more comfortable that I do have something of value to share and it grows daily – my love for them inspires me constantly.  I love listening to all of their experiences in life, school, and believe me, I learn so much from them, as they do from me.

One of my favorite questions I have asked them is, “What was the one new thing you learned today, that you didn’t know yesterday?”  At first, they said, “nothing”. Nothing is also a bad habit of not seeing things and filtering them consciously.  I persisted and they dug into the subjects they learned that day and came up with that one new thing.  As time went on, it became easier for them to stay in that conscious learning that sees and gives value. They would teach me what they learned and felt good about sharing their new discoveries.  Therefore, we would do well to eliminate thinking about our things as “nothing”, because they really are something!  Then, they began to tell me what they learned about themselves as human beings.  Our interactions are such rich experiences!

HOW TO WRITE A MEMOIR

 

HOW TO WRITE A MEMOIR

Now that we’ve “rejected” the word “nothing”, we can now view things in the perspective of worth, value, and perhaps with an awareness that we leave behind something that fills people’s hearts with memories that are heartwarming.

Writing a memoir is different than writing a biography or autobiography.  A biography or autobiography tells the story “of a life”, while a memoir often tells a story “from a life,” such as certain events and turning points in your life.[16]   Memoirs are filled with selected anecdotes from your life as a way to pass down your personal legacy through storytelling, rather than a literary work of art or historical document.

Writing a memoir is not just about you, it’s about finding a sense of familiarity with your genealogy or family tree that helps others to find their own place in the world.  And, through conducting a life review,[17] it helps you recollect memories and possibly to come to terms with your own past.

You may be a single person, or a parent without children, or a parent, grandparent with children and grandchildren.  It makes no difference.  Who you are, how you live your life, and what you leave behind, is your living legacy.  Everyone you have come into contact with has been impacted and touched by your life existence.  Maybe you came from an abusive background, or maybe you came from a tough neighborhood. Your resilience and how you came to live the life you love in spite of that is inspiring.  The journey of how you came to a place in your life where you carry a sense of well-being and joy, are noteworthy essentials for a memoir.

When you share your truth, other people can perhaps identify with a truth in their own life.  Truth is the truth with transferrable universal principles which are timeless, transcending cultures, religions, genders and age.  Who can argue with kindness, fairness, justice, respect, honesty, integrity and service? Remember, even though you may be the subject of your memoir, it’s not just about you. It’s about the lives you impacted, those who impacted your life, a rich legacy to whoever reads it.  How will they be enriched, entertained or enlightened?  What you want to leave is synonymous with how you want to live.

You do have something special to share with others.  I would even say many things. The process of writing a memoir can be quite revealing and be healing all at the same time.  It is a chance for self-reflection, a place to express your values about life through your life experiences.

Writing a memoir may be an opportunity to express the love you have for certain people, or an opportunity to ask for forgiveness, if need be, or sharing remorse or other human emotions you might be experiencing. When you pass on whatever wisdom you have to someone else who receives it, it’s the greatest gift that you can give to another and receive in return.

THE PURPOSE OF WRITING A MEMOIR AND WHERE TO BEGIN

THE PURPOSE OF WRITING A MEMOIR AND WHERE TO BEGIN

Let’s talk about the purpose of writing a memoir and how to begin. Here are some important points to remember.

  • Through the process, you get to recognize your true value.
  • You get to appreciate every kind word you have ever said, every act of kindness you have ever made as imparting your precious wisdom to others with a sense of grace, honor, dignity, and regard.
  • You get to revisit the “ordinary” moments and see that they may have meant more than you thought.
  • You get to leave a piece of you behind, a way to remember you.
  • Even though it’s about you, it’s relatable to others. Anyone could go through the same things.
  • YOUR story is unique because YOU are unique.
  • Tie your anecdotes with lessons that you learned.  Don’t be afraid, to tell the truth.  The more introspective and vulnerable you are, the more effective your memoir will be, and the more people will be able to identify with it.
  • Show your experience, rather than “tell” your experience, by using dialogue, description, conflict, tension, pacing, everything that would move you in describing the scene in detail.
  • Don’t worry about the timeline or if your stories are out of order.  Just make sure that whatever anecdote you are using fits the point of what you want to say.  You could start with a significant memory of your life, even from childhood and use that as a springboard for clarity you got later one.
  • Definitely show how you’ve grown, distinctly making a difference of where you were to where you are today.
  • Keep your point of view in the first-person, sharing the problem or challenge and express both your outer (what happens) and your inner (its impact on you) story.
  • If you want to include people that have hurt you, this is where you have the choice to either identify them by a fictitious name or openly say who they are.  The important is to relate without bitterness and criticism, but showing how the experiences formed your resilience, tenacity, and courage.
  • Be brave – if you have the courage to talk about your foibles and such to others, make sure you keep the notion of honor, dignity, and regard in the equation.  You don’t want to throw people under the bus, just to make a point.
  • Read other people’s memoirs to get an idea of how to engage your reader immediately.  Jerry Jenkins read over 50 memoirs before he began writing his own.  You can see his top ten on his website. [18]
  • Don’t be afraid to start and stop.

You can do this long-hand, typed on the computer, record it, videotape it or even dictate it to a ghostwriter.  Steven Hawking could only use his eyes to communicate before he died.  Certainly, we can use what’s available to leave our values, family history and legacy.

SUMMARY

As humans, it is easy to see the dynamic between what we think and feel, judging our self-worth, and believing that we have little value that actually makes an impact on other people’s lives. The value that doing the small “nothing” in life means more than you think.  Your life matters.  You make a difference just by being alive.  You impact others with your actions, words, and deeds!   You leave your mark upon the hearts of those you touch.

Just as a butterfly, you are unique and beautiful in your own unique and beautiful way and your being has value. This is your living legacy.  Capturing the essence of your life stories into a memoir is a way to assure that your life stories and lessons carry on benefiting other people’s lives.  It’s passing the baton of one life legacy to another.  We are temporary beings, living lives just as the butterfly’s, fleeting, beautiful, and blessed.

It’s your life.  Enjoy the journey.  And, remember to bring love into everything you do.

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References:

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Butterfly_effect

[2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Butterfly_effect

[3] https://www.technologyreview.com/s/422809/when-the-butterfly-effect-took-flight/

[4] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Tbbb1veGAx4

[5] https://www.livescience.com/25202-seasons.html

[6] https://www.google.com/search?q=do+butterflies+pollenate+flowers&oq=do+butterflies+pollenate+flowers&aqs=chrome..69i57j0l5.7815j0j7&sourceid=chrome&ie=UTF-8

[7] https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/legacy

[8] http://meridianlifedesign.com/about-legacy/what-is-legacy/

[9] http://meridianlifedesign.com/about-legacy/what-is-legacy/

[10] https://www.mollylarkin.com/what-is-the-7th-generation-principle-and-why-do-you-need-to-know-about-it-3/

[11] http://www.tahoeepiscopal.com/doc/insp_archive1.html

[12] https://www.goodreads.com/work/quotes/376130-the-four-agreements-a-practical-guide-to-personal-freedom-a-toltec-wis

[13] http://www.thelawofattraction.com/what-is-the-law-of-attraction/

[14] http://paulocoelhoblog.com/2015/03/06/todays-question-by-marc/

[15] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Memoir

[16] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Memoir

[17] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Life_review… A Life Review doesn’t have to occur only in a near death experience.  It can be a series of questions that spark memories you want to share with others.

[18] https://jerryjenkins.com/how-to-write-a-memoir/