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Getting in Touch with Ourselves

October 9, 2021

Another Way for week of October 1, 2021

Getting in Touch with Ourselves

A writer friend of mine, Shawn Smucker, said this recently at the start of one of his email newsletters: “Whenever we take time to write out the things that have happened to us, we approach a kind of wholeness that, for most people, remains out of arm’s reach. But telling our stories puts us in better touch with who we are.”

Smucker writes mostly fiction with a bit of fantasy, but also has written numerous books telling the true stories of others—helping them preserve their stories. I’ve read at least four of his books, Light from Distant Stars, These Nameless Things, The Day the Angels Fell, and Break Away Amish, a true story he wrote with Johnny Mast.

But now I’m pondering this idea from Smucker about “telling our stories puts us in better touch with who we are.” Have you found that to be true? Or is writing too frustrating?

I am not a great conversationalist—sometimes it is hard for me to verbally put my thoughts into words and sentences, especially if I am speaking on the fly. As I get older, the word I’m looking for is so often hiding in my brain. I’m also on the introverted side, and while in this column I often write rather personal stuff, that works for me because my brain has time to process and rewrite. With the help of my trusty computer, I edit and rewrite until I get it right. Or at least, right enough.

In recent months as my sisters and I have met with some of the folks taking care of my mother in nursing care, I’ve learned I’m not very good at sharing verbally what we heard or talked about with someone else, such as my husband.

As another example, if I go to visit the doctor and come home and try to tell my husband what the doctor said, it’s rather fuzzy in my head—unless I take notes. I often take notes if I go with my husband to his doctors, and that helps us both. But in general, he is more of a talker, not a writer or note taker!

A few years ago, one of my sisters got our Mom a journal with writing prompts. Things like “what was your first job” or “what do you remember about your grandfather” and the like. Mom has written many things in it that I am anxious to read—but she has said she doesn’t want us reading those things until she is gone. So we’ve basically honored that, but with sneak peeks now and then. I am so glad my sister discovered this kind of journal for Mom.

Mom doing some writing back in August.

For 34 years now I have written a weekly column. It is a kind of journal. Recently, I was happy to go to my 50th class reunion, a year late (yeah, do the math, you know how old I’m getting). I was especially happy to hear from different classmates that they enjoy reading my columns. In Indiana it is published in their local paper, The Goshen News. A couple of honest ones said “I don’t always read it” but they claimed to appreciate it when they do. (Thanks, Gene, Galen, Jane and Jane!)

But my point here is to encourage either the writing or telling of our stories to a loved one (maybe a grandchild or friend’s child who needs writing/English practice). There are many journals to choose from. A writer friend, Trisha Faye, published one called My Family Heirloom Journal. This particular journal helps you keep notes on objects that have been in the family and passed down to other family members—a nice way to organize all those scraps of paper that your mother or father or grandparent may have jotted down and placed inside heirloom teapots or mugs. Even a gratitude journal will keep, in one place, your thoughts and feelings over months and years.

I would love to hear what this inspires you to do, or what you’ve done to keep family and personal memories.

Or perhaps you’re just not a keeper of old things, history, and memories? I welcome that feedback too!


Comment here or send to or Another Way Media, P.O. Box 363, Singers Glen, VA 22834.

Another Way is a column by Melodie Davis, in syndication since 1987. She is the author of nine books. Another Way columns are posted at a week after newspaper publication.  

  1. Some random thoughts here:

    I reviewed Smucker’s book, Light from Distant Stars:

    Doctor visits are usually challenging. When my son was diagnosed with a fistula, I remember my ears literally closing up at the news because I knew nothing about the problem, which was easily cured with surgery. I had to ask the doctor to repeat, repeat. My husband was on the road doing shows, I believe.

    Your mother’s journals are treasures. You can read the “pot of gold” without guilt sometime. Until then, you’ll have to be satisfied with “sneak peaks”! 😀

    • Oops, I thought I responded here but something must have happened to it. I will check out your review of Light from Distant Stars on Amazon.

      And I know the experience of closing up our brains somehow at bad news. Very interesting for you to pinpoint that problem. Thanks for sharing not only the experience but the why.

  2. From Ron Bruner: Your column in today’s Somerset Daily American (“Getting in Touch with Ourselves”) struck a chord with me. Family history (and genealogy) have been important to me for a long time. As a result, older relatives have, over the years, shared family heirlooms with me.

    Several years ago I started documenting information about family heirlooms (accompanied by photos) to preserve that knowledge for my two sons. My hope is that this written record will help them when disposing of my estate somewhere down the road.

    More recently I began writing a memoir called “Bits & Pieces of My Life” in which I have recorded memories of life events and activities during my 78 years here on this earth. If my grandfathers or great-grandfathers had done likewise, I certainly would cherish that personal information. In the near future I plan to publish the memoir in a small hardcover book believing that it will have a greater chance of surviving for unborn generations to read than will a digital file on my computer.

    Glad to know I’m not the only person trying to pass down what life was like “in the old days.” Thanks for your thought-provoking column.

    Ron Bruner

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