“My life has been so ordinary, I don’t think anyone would be interested in reading about it.”
I often hear variations of this comment when people learn that I teach life story writing. I’m always sad when I hear this thought, because I don’t consider any life ordinary or uninteresting. I do realize that some lives may look that way at first glance, but with just a little digging, they take on amazing depth and dimension. Whether you think your own life is dull and ordinary or not, you may benefit from some of the thoughts I share with these people.
Document the ordinary. That which seems ordinary to you today may seem extraordinary and amazing to generations down the road. Just as I wonder how women a couple of centuries ago could keep their families fed without today’s ranges, refrigerators, plastic wrap and year-round produce supply, people a century from now may wonder how I managed without conveniences they will take for granted and I can’t imagine.
Dig a little deeper. Legions of people with outwardly ordinary lives have rich and colorful inner lives. This inner life may take the form of fantasy, for example, planning exotic trips they never take, always having the perfect come-back on the tips of their tongues, and so forth. It may take the form of personal ritual, for example, brewing a cup of tea with Spode china at the end of each grueling workday, or a special cigar on Saturday evenings. It may even lie in the future as you uncover unfulfilled wishes you’ve set aside so long you forgot you used to dream of them.
Change your perspective. Not long ago I sat with my tiny granddaughter as she explored a wooden bowl of small rocks I gathered from the banks of the Columbia River. At a glance a stranger may wonder why I keep this drab bowl of rocks around. Sarah found them fascinating. She tasted them. She noticed how different they look when they are wet. She poured them out and put them back in. She arranged them in circles. She fingered their smoothness. Infected by her enthusiasm, I took a few flat ones and made a Zen-type pile. The ordinary gains beauty when viewed through fresh eyes.
Perhaps those who consider their lives ordinary are crying out for reassurance and affirmation of their worth. I can think of no better way to get that assurance and affirmation than beginning to write about your life and sharing it with others.
Sharon Lippincott, aka Ritergal