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Our Life Stories: Getting Fierce with Reality

By Marirose Lescher

The author and educator Parker Palmer exclaims that at 76, he is “on the brink of everything!” Palmer picked-up the term “brink of everything” from a colleague who likewise exclaimed that her six-year-old daughter was “on the brink of everything.” Isn’t it amazing that we can be on the brink of everything at six or 76, that life is always and inevitably calling us forward, and in and out, all at once? How shall we proceed?

At the age of 85, Florida Scott-Maxwell wrote in The Measure of My Days, “You need only claim the events of your life to make yourself yours. When you truly possess all you have been and done … you are fierce with reality.” One way to proceed then is to become “fierce with reality”—to claim our lives as our own by telling our life stories. It is this process of telling about our lives that gives clarity to vague thoughts and that brings order and meaning. Perhaps we can release unhelpful narratives, discern our values, and find what it is that we really hope for at the brink of everything.

Our storytelling is not isolated or insular. We are formed within the larger context of culture and shared values. We are shaped by the earth we inhabit, the families we are born into, the paths we have taken, the friendships we have made along the way, and the archetypes and myths that have claimed us as their own. We find in our life stories that there is no “me” without a “you,” and that our place is already marked in the family of all things. Telling our life stories makes the bonds of communities, families, and generations explicit. Others can learn from, and be inspired by, the truths that we express.

When I was writing my father’s eulogy last year, my brother asked that I include the story of my father’s uncle, Paul Maloy, who briefly pitched for the Boston Red Sox, and was released from the team to make room on the roster for Babe Ruth. While this story was not seminal to my father’s life, it is important for my brother’s son, Billy, who was then a pitcher for the University of Pennsylvania and has now been drafted by the Detroit Tigers. Billy knows that he steps into a family lineage of athletic excellence in baseball, tennis, volleyball, and track. He knows that he steps into a tradition drawing on the timelessness of human experience to guide, inform, and teach about being on the brink of everything.

The What’s Your Story (WYS) project here in San Miguel de Allende takes up the invitation to the “brink of everything” and being “fierce with reality” by guiding and facilitating the telling of life stories in narrative and recorded forms and in personal letters. You will find more about WYS at whatsyourstory.com.mx.

 

 

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