Living the Story of Life

Dear Pope Francis,


Me in Times Square, the last time I was in New York (2012).

By the time this is posted to LTP, I will be in New York City for the first stage of the trip I mentioned last week. Because of the travel schedule, every post you read for the next two weeks will have been written before I left, and thanks to a little scheduling magic  they should all go up on the proper days without any more work from me. I had been asked by a few people if I was going to blog or e-mail updates about my trip. I gave it some serious thought and prayer, and realized that I shouldn’t blog this trip (as much as I may want to).

I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about the importance of telling stories, and how stories have shaped who I am. I think of my life as a story, and the people in it are characters who weave in and out of the different scenes and chapters of my life. All of this is very important for my self-understanding and finding meaning in the events of my life. However, in thinking about this, I realized that I need to be careful that I don’t spend too much time focused on how to tell the story, and not enough time living it.

One of my favourite quotes about writing says something to the effect of “the business of being a writer is ultimately about asking yourself, how alive am I willing to be?” (Anne Lamott). For me, this quote creates an important distinction: there is a time to live and a time to write. These times are related because what you write and how well you write is related to how you live. I get the impression that to live is not meant to be a frivolous thing, It is something that needs to be deliberately plunged into and embraced, with all its aches and joys, sorrows and celebrations. Where living is about sinking in, writing is about stepping back. It’s about looking for the meaning in the experiences of living, and connecting the dots. It’s about tracing the strands in the web of meaning to find the bigger picture, and then synthesizing those insights.
storybookRecently, much of my writing and living have been happening simultaneously. Usually this is a very good think, because it means that I am in tune with what’s going on in myself. It’s also a very natural process, because often I write to process how I feel personally about events (and that writing is much different than what I choose to share with people). However, I am finding that my life experiences are being coloured by my assumption that I will share them, so I look prematurely for the connections between events, and the greater patterns within my life, before things have reached their natural conclusion. I haven’t been respecting my need for personal writing, and the distinction between living and writing to share my story.
While the living and writing simultaneously has been fruitful, albeit painful by times, I feel as though I need to sink into living right now by focusing on the experience for the sake of the experience, rather than living the experience for the sake of a good blog post or Facebook status.

I suspect this trip will be eye opening and soulopening, and I can’t wait for the experience. I suspect that it will change my own life story, and I look forward to the time I can step back and share those stories, but for now I need live and record it for me.



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