Written by: Ellen Ryan
“You’re a wonderful kid, Ellen!” my friend Naomi said to me when I was 65. My grandchildren would find it tough to believe that I was a ‘kid’ to anyone – but I quickly calculated that Naomi was 30+ years older than me.
Telling the story about our friendship is part of Naomi’s legacy and part of how I teach about resilient aging. Naomi began writing poetry in her early 80’s – she wrote for almost 20 years. It’s never too late to write for your life. We became friends in a writing group – doing fast writing in response to prompts and then trusting the group to read aloud.
Click here for Naomi Wingfield’s book of poetry, Light All Around Me.
Writing for Life begins with keeping a journal or a diary (or doing Julia Cameron’s Morning Pages) or by writing letters/extended thoughtful email messages. We pay attention to our life by keeping track of the days or months: events big and small, the weather and how it influences life, travels near and far, people close and passing through, thoughts important and apparently trivial. Life review, an important component of healthy aging, fits well into journaling as an association leads us to remember earlier events or an upcoming celebration prompts us to reflect on the impact of a loved one in our lives.
This mindful behaviour helps us harvest the lessons of our lives so that we can use our experience with the up’s and down’s to adapt better to future challenges. Writing about our lives privately often leads to sharing with others – through a writing group, conversation, legacy letters, and writing memoirs.
This winter Hamilton Aging in Community is featuring Writing For Life events: a winter term of senior-student partnerships for Memoir; Memoir workshops already given, Journaling workshops coming up (Feb 23, Mar 2), and our Memoir Fest on Friday, March 26th.
The Memoir Fest will feature readings of memoir selections by senior volunteers from the Intergenerational Memoir Project. Students will be introducing their partners. Plan to join us in this intergenerational gathering to celebrate good stories and resilient aging.
For Future Reading from my website: Writing Aging & Spirit
Resources on Writing Life Stories
Ryan, Ellen (2020). My Pilgrim Shadow: It’s All About the Light
Download this life story (see pp 27-29)