PART SIX - ONWARD JOURNEYS
"I don't know whether you can look at your past and find, woven like the hidden symbols on a treasure map, the path that will point to your final destination."
- JODI PICOULT
There is no denying that our past shapes us – it makes us the people we are, forms our views on the world and teaches us valuable lessons. It provides a multitude of experiences, events, achievements, relationships, journeys and memories – our very own multi-coloured, super-sensory, wide-screened epic production starring… drumroll… US!
Throughout Part One of this course you’ve journeyed in to your past, shining a spotlight on yourself at various stages and ages, re-visiting significant places, hearing old, familiar tunes, becoming re-aquainted with friends and relations, and, I hope, uncovering some forgotten treasures. So before we jump across to Part Two of Remember Me, and look at how all this information can be used in your own life celebration ceremony, it’s important to just pause here a moment – to think about how this experience has made you feel, what its revealed to you about your life so far, and were there clues to how you’d like that life journey to continue? Because my sincerest wish for all of you is that you have a life ahead of you to enjoy, before that life is commemorated.
So in this final section, we’re going to take stock – we’ll go through what you uncovered about your life so far, the highs, lows, and lessons learnt. Then we’ll give some thought to what may have been missing – the things you haven’t done, experienced or expressed - as well as the things you want to do more of, or enjoy again. We’ll come up with some future goals, ideas for sharing your life lessons and perhaps write your own manifesto. Finally, some positive thoughts to see you on your way as you embark on the next stage of your life story, and prepare to take the brave step of looking at your own life celebration and the legacy you want to leave behind.
However long you’ve spent on Part One of this course, whatever format you’ve compiled information in, and however much you’ve contributed, you will, I hope, have something to look back on now. Because, as well as being a wonderful collection of stories, memories and memento’s encapsulating you and your life, you have at your fingertips the answers to what will make you happy in the future – what will continue to give your life meaning, the direction you want to head in, and some priorities to take forward, so you can make the most of the time you have to come.
So I suggest you return to each section you’ve completed and, as you look through, remind yourself of the following…
- When were you happiest? What made you happy at this point?
- What were you doing? Who were you with at the time?
- What reminders do you have of them?
- When were the low points? What happened?
- Why were they difficult? Who else was involved?
- What changed?
- What have you been most proud of? Were these moments shared with others?
- What made them so significant and meaningful to you?
- What reminders do you have of them?
You At Your Best
- When would you say you were at your best in terms of what was happening in your life, what you were doing, how you behaved, how you felt, how you looked, what you believed in at the time and valued most?
Using your answers to Happy Times, Difficult Times, Proudest Moment and You At Your Best, you can identify where your life’s highs and lows have been, what went right, what went wrong, the unexpected curveballs thrown, the strokes of luck, the good, the bad, the beautiful… and how you faced up to it all.
Be sure to highlight – big and bold – those answers because, frankly, this information is gold dust. Having sifted through the years you’re left with these valuable nuggets that not only keep you rich in happy and proud moments, they are also a measure of what matters to you, lessons in avoiding the pitfalls that snagged you before, and reminders of how to stay true to your authentic self. So let’s look at how you use this information going forward…
As well as wanting to use my skills and experience to help everyone have a meaningful funeral ceremony, my inspiration for putting together Remember Me also came from a genuine desire for people to feel good about who they are, their unique place in the world, the lives they have lived, and their lives to come. And, now you’ve reflected on your life so far, we can ask that all-important question… what do you want to do with whatever time you have left?
More of the good stuff
The answer is pretty obvious isn’t it? You know what’s made you happy in the past, what’s inspired you, who you’ve enjoyed being with. Why not do more of the same? Well, I appreciate it may not be as simple as that. If you were happiest as a care-free 17-year-old backpacking around the world with your mates, and now you have a job to do, a mortgage to pay and family to look after, that might not be so easy to plan in. And, anyway, you may be perfectly happy with your life as it is and not looking to ‘recreate’ moments from the past or spend time with old school friends.
BUT you can acknowledge what it was about those happy moments that had such a positive impact on you. And, if those things, ie. discovering new places, taking time out, feeling the sun on your back, spending time with friends… still resonate with you, think of achievable ways to incorporate them into your life on a more regular basis.
Playing to your strengths
You’ve thought about your talents and skill, your qualities and characteristics, your values and beliefs… are they being put to good use? Look back at Section Five and remind yourself what makes you… you? What are your strengths? What sets you apart? Are talents being wasted? Beliefs being compromised? Beauty being hidden?
For some of you, the answer to a happier and more fulfilling rest of your life may not lie in what’s happened to you already. It may, actually, be found in what hasn’t happened to you at all… yet. There may be things you haven’t done but are longing to do. Things you want to experience or express that just haven’t been realised or come to fruition. There may have been missed opportunities, wrong circumstances, or simply that the time wasn’t quite right. But now it is…
Seize the day... or simply enjoy it
When you looked back on your life, saw photographs of yourself from years gone by, did you think “where has the time gone?” Well, time has a habit of going by, and it appears to speed up the older you get too! When I was young I remember being impatient – wishing I was a teenager when I was still in single figures, wishing I was working when I was still at school, wishing for Christmas again when the decorations had barely been put back in the loft. My mum always said the same thing to me “Nicola, don’t wish your life away”. And she was right.
Life is so precious, and it’s precious because, at some point unknown to us, it ends. So life needs to be savoured, appreciated, enjoyed, and lived. As the artist Francis Bacon said "Begin doing what you want to do now.We are not living in eternity. We have only this moment, sparkling like a star in our hand and melting like a snowflake.”
If you’ve decided to do more of the things that make you happy, then plan them in. But be realistic about what you can do and when. ‘Seize The Day’ doesn’t mean fitting all your dreams and goals into the next 24 hours. Just make small steps towards them, and each step will, eventually, get you where you want to go. But remember there is no right or wrong direction to head to from here. In fact, you don’t have to head anywhere at all. Looking back on your life can simply be an interesting interlude – a pause for thought. And that’s absolutely fine.
Knowing yourself is the beginning of all wisdom.
PASSING ON YOUR WISDOM
The one thing you can guarantee in life is that you never stop learning. Whether it’s from the experiences of others or your own mistakes, there are lessons for us right up until our last breath. And that’s a good thing, right? It’s what makes our journey so interesting, and also allows us to have an impact on the lives of others and on the world itself. Hopefully, in a positive way.
You have lived and learnt. And, all being well, you will continue to do so for many more years. And that means you know a lot… you really do. You have a vast, rich, interesting, colourful store of information and experiences that will be useful to others. Whether that knowledge includes initiatives for world peace, or baking the perfect sponge cake, you can contribute to the well-being of others in some way. So have a think about how your knowledge and experience may benefit others. This could simply be within your own familiar circle of family and friends, or out into the wider world.
You may also want to come up with you own Manifesto – as I have – based on, not only your knowledge and experience, but what matters to you. Something that reflects your values and beliefs. If you feel strongly about something, put it out there. Your voice is as valuable as anyone else’s and there are more platforms than ever to speak out from.
May I just say… well done you. Because, however much of Remember Me - Part One you’ve completed, you have taken the time to think about who you are, where you’ve come from and why you and your life matter. So if this experience has left you feeling good about yourself and your place in the world, and given you some ideas for the future, then that’s just great. In fact it’s better than great – it’s fantastic! I appreciate that recalling past events, looking at old photographs, hearing emotive songs, may have stirred some strong emotions at times. But hopefully, the overwhelming feeling is a positive one.
You may have ended up with a wonderful digital edition of your life story that you can share with the world. Or you may have a little notebook or memory box that will now be tucked away for safe keeping. What you now choose to do with all this information is entirely up to you. Whatever form your life story and notes have taken, and however private you want them to be for now, I would suggest that you let your loved ones know that, somewhere safe, you have this information. And, if you are happy for all, or some of it, to be put towards a celebration of your life after you’ve gone, then Part Two of Remember Me awaits you…
Alternatively, you may not want to wait until you are gone for a celebration of your life to take place. You may want to throw a party and celebrate while you are still here! And why not? Although if you are in good health and your party doesn’t fall on your birthday, you may need to do some explaining. But that’s OK. Just tell your guests “I’m celebrating my life and everyone who has played a part in it”. Then all you need to do is have a night to remember…
A final thought
“Happiness is not
a goal. It’s a
by-product of a life well lived.”
- Eleanor Roosevelt
We all want to be happy don’t we? It’s the feeling we aim for, the state we hope to achieve, the sometimes elusive, utopian place we head off in search for. But I think that ‘search’ for happiness is a bit like someone turning the house upside to find their glasses, when the glasses are sat on their head. As Eleanor Roosevelt said “Happiness is not a goal. It’s a by-product of a life well lived.”
So if you embrace your life, celebrate who you are, appreciate how far you have come and approach the future with enthusiasm, curiosity and gratitude, then happiness will not only follow you on your journey of life, it will carry your bags, shine a light on the path and always find you a room with a view.
I wish you happy travels … x
The next steP...
If you enjoyed doing this course and would like to take the next step of planning your own life celebration ceremony, then click below for Remember Me – Part Two.