I am working with a dear friend on writing her memoir.
As a child, she and her family lost their home and survived the bombing of Warsaw which began September 1, 1939. They fled to a family estate on Poland’s eastern border only to be deported to the Gulag when Russia annexed that part of Poland in 1940.
Her journey to Canada is remarkable. As is she.
It is because of her inspiration, I paint today. Along with her husband, they were integral to my story of surviving an abusive relationship. They have always stood with me, giving me love, friendship and an extended family to belong to.
We have been friends a long time and working on this memoir with her is a journey through history, the horrors of those war years and the aftermath, and so much more. There’s a love story, poetry written between two hearts separated by thousands of miles. There’s the tumultous years of raising a family. Standing with her husband as he climbed the ladder of success he promised to build to provide for his family. And there is joy. In particular for me, the joy of our friendship.
This morning, as I do every morning, I pulled a card from my DeepTalk deck. “What was missing from your childhood?”
The trite answer could be so many things. A feeling of safety. Of being unconditionally loved. Of feeling wanted…
Yet, if I step back from pulling out the response from the pocket of my ‘victim story’ I keep stored in my memory that I have been known to haul out to soothe the edges of life’s inevitable sticky moments, I see a bigger picture. A more wholistic view of my childhood that transforms me from ‘victim’ to a powerful architect of my life today.
I am who I am today not despite my childhood and all the perceived wrongs and shortcomings of my parents. I am who I am today because of my childhood. Because of everything that happened throughout my life that made me, me.
I like me. Heck. I LOVE me!
I am the most fascinating person I know, if only because I know myself, inside out, better than I know anyone else. Better than anyone else can know me.
And that’s the beauty of writing your life story. (or working with someone else on writing theirs)
It gives you perspective. An opportunity to reflect, assess, and claim the things that happened not as things that broke you, but things that broke you OPEN.
In that openness, you have the choice to build back better.
My friend’s story starts in the first days of WW2 in Warsaw, Poland. She and her mother are baking a cake for her father’s birthday. And then, the bombs start falling. Five days later, when they emerged from the cellar to view the carnage, their home was gone.
Today, my friend lives a beautiful life. Not despite the hardships. Not despite the losses and grief and sorrow.
Her life is beautiful because from that rubble, she chose to find beauty in all things.
It is one of the most remarkable things about my friend. In the over 40 years I have known her, she has always created beauty all around her. A gifted artist, her paintings shimmer with the beauty that is at the heart of who she is. Her home radiates the serenity that lies at the foundation of her nature and her friendships reflect the loving care she puts into creating all things.
What was missing from my childhood?
Nothing. It was exactly what I needed to become who I am today.
I am a brave woman touching hearts, opening minds to set spirits free to dance in a world of Love, joy and harmony.
A world where beauty matters.
This morning, I choose to say, Thank you my friend for reminding me through your story, what is important in mine.
This morning, I choose to give thanks for my childhood. It was filled with all the things I needed to grow up to become more and more me.
So much to unpack there …
One thought surfaced – one I’ve not had before; a question, really.
Is a memoir a conveniently and softly remembered diary of life, things as we wish they’d been, things that must go in, things that cannot be left out or set aside?
Whether we journal or not, the memoir is a blank canvas of choices, is it not?
The documentary film my brain would make of everything my brain has recorded from birth would bore many and put everyone else to sleep with mediocrity.
Amidst that muck, sludge, dust and dreary that is the whole life, has moments of grandeur and moments of worst times we wish we could reduce to only moments.
Moments in time separated by long distances of no import, like a stretched-out stream of dots and dashes.
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Good questions to journey with and live into Mark.
Interesting, the thought that popped into my mind stems from the question I asked my friend, “What is it you want people to know when they read this — her audience is her family, children, grandchildren, great grandchildren primarily and friends — her answer was, That I am Polish.
What does that mean, I asked.
It is a very deep question to explore — and becomes the thread that ties the story together. Whether her ‘whole life’ or the big story of deportation to travelling the world to find a home in Canada, the I am Polish remains the thread. Which I find quite fascinating as I do not have such a similar, strong thread of national pride. I am learning a great deal through the process and loving the exploration and the questions I uncover for myself (and for her as we take this journey) immensely.
Wow, interesting post. Love how you phrased it! “An opportunity to reflect, assess, and claim the things that happened not as things that broke you, but things that broke you OPEN.” So much wisdom there. Your project with your friend sounds interesting too!!😊
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Thank you Brian. It is a fascinating story — I feel so privileged to be able to work on the telling of it with her. I am both learning a lot and growing in self-awareness — which is always a gift.
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