The other day, I was speaking to my girls about their story. I was encouraging them to start journaling about their days.
Their response… “But mom, our day is no different than any other kids who are stuck at home and doing schoolwork online.”
And although they were right, I reminded them about Anne Frank and Laura Ingalls Wilder. Did their lives really look that much different than that of their closest friends at the time? Probably not. They each likely knew many, many others in the same impossibly difficult situations that they faced. They were just ordinary kids, facing extraordinary circumstances – but we remember them because they wrote it down.
We remember their story, not because it was outstandingly different from the others during the time, but because they captured it for us in such detail that we finally understood what they all faced.
Day by day, the most significant global event in our lifetime is unfolding. For most of us, we do not realize the magnitude of it. Many are spending their days, safely tucked inside their homes, watching movies, reading books and living at a slower pace. Yet, even this is worth capturing.
Journaling about these difficult times, what your day-to-day activities look like and what emotions are running through you has value. Your words will one day help another gain perspective as they face their own struggles. Your words paint a picture about this moment in time, the good and bad, as it unfolds in front of your eyes.
Today, I encourage you to begin to document your story.
Here are 5 simple ways to do so:
1. Start journaling. Free flow words about your day and how you are feeling. It doesn’t have to be structured or pretty, just start.
2. Create. Dig out a blank canvas, piece of paper, or even a broken-down cardboard box. Lay out the emotions and challenges you face through paint, collage or pottery.
3. Create a bullet gratitude journal. Simply bullet out 10 things you are grateful for every single day. It can be as simple as a cup of tea to end your day or a phone call from a friend.
4. Take photos. Document what you house looks like during this time. Is it tidy and neat? Chaotic and messy? Take a photo of your dog curled up on the couch or the spring buds sprouting on your trees. Photography captures the fine details we tend to miss in the everyday.
5. Interview your family and friends. Connect through a video call or letter. Ask them fun easygoing questions about their favorite things or get into deep conversation about their life and their greatest joys, challenges and heartbreaks.
These are just a handful of ideas of how you can capture and share your story. Even though almost everyone in the world is facing this epidemic right now, each of our stories are vastly different.
Your story is worth capturing, it is worth documenting and keeping for future generations. Your story can only be told by you. It’s time to seize it.
Do you find that dates trip you up? Like you are wading through the grief just fine until you look at a calendar or the season changes and you realize that time of year is rolling around again?
This time of year — mid-February through March — has been tough for me for a very long time. For starters the weather is so hit or miss, bouncing between sunshine and a snowy, muddy, dreary mess. Compound that with a list of hard events that have occurred at this time over many years and it becomes down right depressing.
Almost every day I am reminded by a photo that pops up, or a date on the calendar of the awful hardships I have witnessed during these dates. And it hurts, easily bringing tears to my eyes and leaving me feeling anxious.
Remembering the feelings of fear 14 years ago as I went into preterm labor with our firstborn while my husband was still deployed to Iraq. Then the news of my grandpa’s colon cancer diagnosis weighing down on my already troubled mind.
The uncertainty and inadequacy I felt six years ago as I watched my baby son fight for his life battling RSV on a ventilator.
The helplessness and urgency I felt three years ago watching my sister fight for her life against an abrupt cancer that was spreading like wild fire.
When this time of year comes around I often find myself mentally marking off the days, sometimes even hours or minutes that we received terrible news, that procedures were done, or when hard conversations happened. Trying to hold back tears while remembering the pain.
I know I’m not the only one. I know that for most people living through grief or a traumatic situation, dates are triggers. And it seems like many people react one of two ways: they re-live it making them absent minded and unable to function well during this time or they bury it so deep that they do not allow themselves to think about it. And as I am sitting here processing these dates on the calendar once again, I know I have coped both of these ways in the past and neither of them served me well.
I think it is valuable for us to step into that painful moment every once in a while. Reflect on how difficult it was, cry the tears, maybe even beat the tar out of an inanimate object. We were made to feel all these emotions, the pain, the sadness, the anger. There is value to remembering how hard that period was. It is a reminder of the strength we have inside and it renews our empathy for others.
But once we step into that moment and hash through it all, we then need to remember to step back out and open our eyes. Take a good look around you and inside you to recognize how far you have come. Recognize what God has done for you. The God Things He has placed on your path to remind you He was right there through it all, and still is. We were also made to fill the emotions of gratitude, grace, grit and joy that come with being present in today.
For me, I remind myself that the doctors were able to stop Aleigha’s preterm labor. That my husband made it home safely from Iraq and in time to see her birth. That my grandpa’s cancer was removed with surgery and he spent many years adoring his first great-grand daughter.
I remind myself that my son survived and overcame every single obstacle in front of him. That despite all the hard times and hospital stays during his first couple years of life, he is a smart, thriving kindergartener today.
And I am comforted by the thought that even though this time marks Angie’s diagnosis, it also marks the moment we quit taking life for granted. It marks the moment we became thankful for every minute we have with our loved ones. Ultimately, it marks my gratitude that my sister moved into Heaven, the home we all long for one day.
When these dates show up on the calendar, it is hard to pull your mind away from the scene of it all and refocus, but once you do, it provides peace and a healthy way to cope. It renews hope and strength.
These dates hurt. They will forever remind me of heartbreak and hardship. I will continue to honor the memory of the hard days because they made me stronger and helped mold me into the person I am today. But, I am making a choice not to live in those hard days forever. I will fight for my peace. I will fight to live in the present. And, I will fight every day to make joyful memories of these dates to balance out the hard ones.
Faith over Fear.
Hi! I'm Jessy, one of the co-owners of Purpose + Grit and co-authors of the book Faith Over Fear: Walking Angie Home. I share my life with my husband Kyle, our three kids, Ally, Charley and Rad and our German Shephard, Roxy. You will usually find me with coffee in my cup and paint on my clothes, tackling one of my many projects 15 minutes at at time.