The Gift of Storytelling

In January, I turned over a new leaf … more accurately, a new page! I’m planning to spend more time on writing. This is not really a New Year’s resolution but a realization that the years are flying by and I have limited time left.

It is very gratifying when I get a chuckle or positive comments from my siblings, fellow writers or even strangers who have read or heard some stories I’ve written. Even without positive comments, I find writing often helps me by clarifying some of my ideas and beliefs. As well, it challenges me to learn new ways of expressing my stories creatively—like Japanese poetry forms or film. Most importantly, it encourages connections and reinforces relationships with family and friends.

As I get older, I find many physical challenges are now beyond my abilities. I know that there are plenty of examples of people in their 70s who take on challenges like climbing the Chilkoot or kayaking or paddling down a wilderness river, or snorkelling on some tropical island. Those activities were once on my “bucket list” for future adventures, but reality has set in and other priorities have moved in to replace them.

I’m not being morbid, but I know that I have only a limited amount of time, mental capacity and energy left. I’ve recently realized that I want to focus on the things that bring me satisfaction, that challenge me mentally and hopefully provide enjoyment for others as well. Am I being selfish? Possibly … but I will leave others to judge that if they wish.

I came to creative writing later in life, during my retirement. With more control over my personal schedule, there’s more time to devote to the things I enjoy doing—like writing, watercolour painting, snowshoeing, walking, camping and gardening, as the weather allows. Recently I pared down some of my volunteer and leisure-time activities to focus my time and resources on writing, storytelling and sharing family stories in a variety of ways. My writing is mainly for my family and friends, but occasionally there are pieces I share with a wider audience.

As I grow older, I reflect on what I want to leave behind. Hopefully I’ve contributed, in little ways, to creating a better and more-caring community with others. Many times I feel helpless to influence the political and social environment, although I still take part in voting and making my views known. Writing provides an outlet to rant, if I wish (even though I may not actually send the letter or opinion piece to the media or politician), and it helps to clarify my thinking and the values I believe in.

You may be fortunate to share the company of young people in your circle of friends and family. What do you think are important “life lessons” and stories to pass on? Is it a cultural practice or a skill that you learned as a child: beading, sewing, identifying animal tracks, ice fishing, building a snow fort, and storytelling? Maybe there is a story about a family member’s resilience and courage. Perhaps it’s a traditional story, passed down through the generations, that teaches an important value like respect. Or could it be a favourite childhood memory? These are all legacy gifts you can leave for your family and friends.

I receive joy from sharing childhood memories with my siblings and others. It triggers more stories from them, which often provides a different perspective on the same or similar incidents. We each find meaning in our stories. What stories do you want to share? And for whom will the story have special meaning? Will you write them yourself or ask a friend or relative to write or record them for you?

When all the Christmas toys have lost their appeal and the batteries have run out, what gifts of story can you offer? What potential storyteller needs a listening ear?

Hopefully, you carve out some time to listen, to write and to share.

Happy storytelling and a happy and healthy 2023! May peace be with us all.

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