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Memoir is my favourite genre of story. I love to delve into good storytelling, to see where people have come from, what has shaped them, what they’ve overcome, what resonates for me in the same way. There’s an element of curiosity in it for me but also it makes me wonder, maybe I could endure what they have been through too and survive. Maybe even thrive.

In the same way, a good health practitioner will give you time when you sit down, to tell her not only why you’ve made an appointment to see her that day, but also what brought you here.

She’ll want to know if you’ve been here before and what else is happening around you when you’re here. What is it about your environment, actual, relational, spiritual, that may have affected where you find yourself?

Most importantly what do you believe about yourself in relation to these external factors?

I posted yesterday about writing to heal. Writing is my favourite thing to do. I remember writing books as a little girl, about ballerinas and secret gardens with mysteries hidden in the vines. I was obsessed with Trixie Beldon and Nancy Drew. I used my best cursive to write my books and carefully covered them with contact.

As I got older, I journaled my heightened teenage emotions and embellished the drama creating my own sort of fantasy life. As an adult, I started to write about body image and the impact unrealistic expectations were having on my mental health.

As cringeworthy as some of these earlier offerings may be, I was writing to make sense of my world, to learn more about what I was thinking and feeling. Using narrative to shape and frame my identity. To understand myself better.

Perhaps this comes from being an only child of a single mother, with only a few extended family members. My world was turned inward, I felt big feelings – I feel big feelings – and needed a way to make sense of them.

For the last few years, I’ve been writing about the tectonic shift that was leaving church and God as I had always known God. The end of my 17-year marriage is the only other life event that has caused the ground to give way beneath me in the same way. I started from the beginning in the telling of this story and traced life moments and events, I could see how they formed my thinking and informed the beliefs I had about myself and the world.*

Like so many people with similar stories relay, it was devastating to realise I could have been free but was trapped as a result of my own doing. The need for belonging was so strong, it keep me attached to an ideology, a community, a way of thinking, seeing, believing that was harming me. Self-compassion now allows me to see belonging as the powerful driver of inertia. It served me until it didn’t.

When given the choice between belonging or authenticity as Dr Gabor Mate speaks about, we choose belonging every time. Choosing authenticity is a painful disruptor of our peace on the way to freedom.

All of which is to say, write it all down. Trace the arc of your story. Start at the beginning, note key events and things that come back to your memory regularly, even the small things, it all matters. It’s all part of it. It’s brought you here.

Make a hot drink, get out an old-fashioned writing pad and pen and draw a map of your life. Where are the key places? Who are the key players? What have you absorbed from your culture, religion, family dynamics, school environment, music. See if you can see some themes emerge.

You can stop at any time, take some deep in and out breaths to calm yourself if things get a bit wobbly.

On the blog next week, I’ll give you an outline to take it further.

Beautifully, we get to write the next chapter.

Go gently.

*You can read that story here It’s called The Sentimental Non-Believer, On Loving & Leaving God.

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Download 'Melancholy': an excerpt from "The Sentimental Non-Believer."

Melancholy is a reflection on the way Easter used to feel and how it feels now.