Friday, January 14, 2011

Article #133 Eating the ELEPHANT

Most “seasoned” adults understand the importance of writing a life story to preserve the lessons that life has taught. But how many actually do? Very few! Why? We are paralyzed by fears and disbelief that our life is significant enough to take the time to preserve any record of it or maybe we feel overwhelmed by negative events that occurred: i.e. divorce, illness, misfortune, etc. Feelings of inadequacy to even begin such a daunting task can stop us. As one individual told me “I couldn’t do that. I can’t even spell ‘it.’” (Photo of my dad holding me at about age 4 shortly before his death.)

Overcoming these fears, takes courage and understanding of the value of each person’s life including your own. Doing genealogy research for over 50 years now, I’ve wished my deceased ancestors had taken the time to write down any of their life’s experiences. I long to know them better as I’ve struggled to compile their history from clues here and there. My own father died before I turned five years old and never wrote any journals, but he did write some precious love letters to my mom that she preserved. I treasure this correspondence written in his own handwriting as clues to me, his only child, of my father’s personality, hopes and dreams.

Could you take the time to give the gift of yourself to your family? It’s not something you have to do alone. Enlist a team to assist you. There are friends or family members who can help you with this task. Grandchildren or nieces and nephews with computers skills can help with organizing this project, scanning photos or self-publishing your life story. But YOU need to write it. That’s where eating the elephant idea comes in. This strange saying goes something like this: “How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.” The lesson is that anything can be accomplished if you begin and take small bites or steps.

Purpose is important, understanding first why you want to eat an elephant or start this large task. Dealing with your self-doubts is necessary. Negative voices that say “you can’t do this” or “no one is interested in your life” are just not true. If only you read your life story, it is worthwhile for the understanding that will come from what you’ve learned in this journey called “life.” It’s been said, “the unexamined life is not worth living.


  1. The whole experience of trying to write something, to come to know it and to find a voice for it, is a spiritual exercise. The arts are the arts are the arts are the voice of the soul. I admire what you do and know I need to try harder.

  2. I'm working on my husband's family right now and it's really hard because the principals are all gone. It's so important to get information before everyone has passed away.

  3. Interesting... the unexamined life is not worth living...I guess I would agree that it is important to look at your life and where you fit in....