Hitting the Bullseye
For most of my life I’ve thought of my father as a background person in my life. He was always around, eating dinner with the family every night, taking us on picnic and camping trips, and occasionally directing my sister and me to clean up the kitchen on nights my mother may not have bothered. He was handy to have around for help on math homework in high school.
But he was not much of a conversationalist, and much of our interaction took place through the filter of my mother. For example, she would tell me, “Your father doesn’t like thus and such,” or “Your father thinks you should do this or that.”
As I wrote The Albuquerque Years, I recalled all sort of things I did with my daddy as a very young girl. I “helped” him irrigate and tend the garden. I watched as he killed chickens for Sunday dinner. I rode in the basket of his bicycle to get fruit from the stand up the road. I rode on his shoulders. I learned how to take pictures. I tricked him with a fake yoyo on April Fool’s Day. I regretted that these memories of direct involvement seemed to taper off as I grew older.
A few minutes ago I began skimming a free pdf version of Paulo Coelho’s book The Way of the Bow that I downloaded from his website. As I read the description on page nine of Tetsuya stringing his bow, I recalled the long-forgotten yellow bows and arrows my father gave my sister and me when I was nine or ten. I don’t remember the occasion, but I do remember spending hours and hours over a period of years trying to perfect my aim.
With that memory dozens more came pouring forth, and suddenly I’m suffused with the most delightful realization that although he may not have shown it openly, he always loved me more than I would have imagined. I never doubted that — I was just not fully aware of the extent of it. This memory hit a bullseye in my heart! I’m simply aglow with gratitude and joy.
I doubt I ever would have stumbled across this discovery if I hadn’t spent so much time writing and thinking deeply about various memories. Individual stories were a good way to start this process, and I’m finding that going on to the next step of integrating those vignettes into a more comprehensive overview is deepening the results and insights.
When I first began what I now recognize as the practice of life writing, I had no idea that it would be come a lifelong pursuit. I thought I could just write a few stories — maybe even one hundred — and be done with it. I can no longer count the number of stories I've written, but the last time I did, the total exceeded seven hundred, and I've just begun to write. Now I realize that the longer I stick with it, the deeper I write and see, and the happier and more peaceful I feel. The positive effects reach every corner of my life, and I can’t imagine not spending time at least several days a week on this ongoing exploration.
Write now: make a list of memories of happy times spent with a special person in your life. Use this to write a paragraph or two or longer story about each memory, or as journal prompts.