Among the billions of people on this planet, there is something you can be sure of: there is only one you. And while you may share experiences with others, your life-and your story-are unique. Your life may not be exactly as you thought it would be at this stage of your life, but it is important.
Author Josephine Formosa's Celebrate Your Life Now! A Journal of Your Life Experiences helps you discover the uniqueness that is you. Although you will read about others' lives, you will come away knowing your experiences create first-hand knowledge that cannot be equalled by anyone else. Chapter-ending questions help you discover that knowledge and share it with others.
You may think your life is ordinary, and what you have learnt from life is not worth writing, but if your life has been worth living, it is worth writing about. Celebrate Your Life Now! A Journal of Your Life Experiences shows you how. Why quote from the wisdom of others, when you can speak from your own life experiences?
|Publisher:||Balboa Press Australia|
|Product dimensions:||6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.44(d)|
Read an Excerpt
Celebrate Your Life Now!
A Journal of Your Life Experiences
By Josephine Formosa
Balboa PressCopyright © 2015 Josephine Formosa
All rights reserved.
The Journey of Self-Discovery Begins with the Question, "Who Am I?"
When I was a young girl, I would say with confidence, "I am ..." without considering the factors that had shaped my identity.
The word I referred to me, an independent individual, a freethinker. I hadn't considered how religion, family, and society had shaped my identity.
The question "Who am I?" started a journey of ongoing self-discovery. To discover who I am has been a monumental task, which has required me to challenge the very systems that had shaped my identity.
To experience myself as broadly and as deeply as I could, I had to sift through and, at times, reject the teachings and values deeply embedded in my character.
I had to step into the unknown, taking the risk that I might not be able to return to the world I had known and would remain an outsider.
I mentally and emotionally wrestled with the ideas that had shaped my mind until I realised that something had to shape my world. I could not be born into a societal vacuum any more then I could go throughout my life without being given a name. Even if the name was unsuitable, at least it was a form of identification that could be changed.
I have been born into a world that is abundantly rich with stories. Everything has a story: the galaxy, the earth, nature, and people. These stories are an inextricable part of my life story and have given me insights into who I am.
A person's story is like a jigsaw puzzle. The more pieces assembled on the puzzle, the more one understands the story.
There are many missing pieces of my childhood and my family's history. The pieces I do have are versions of events based on the experiences of others.
Unlike a character in a novel, whose story is crafted by an author, my life story is dynamic; it changes with new pieces of information and with reflection. I have come to accept that parts of my story may remain a mystery.
Experiencing life through the minds and hearts of others has given me a deeper understanding of myself. The stories I have heard are generally presented in pieces; information about people and events. Sometimes their memories are sketchy; names are forgotten and locations confused. Only the parts that are important to the storytellers are told, leaving me with unanswered questions and fragmented stories.
Experts can offer methods and tools that can fast track me towards discovering who I am. These methods can be informative but can't be a substitute for self-knowledge gained through experience and personal reflection.
This journey has not defined me, but it has tempered the arrogance of youth that asserts, "I know." It has confronted the ignorance of adulthood, which proclaims, "I judge because I know." And it has soothed the anxiety of middle age that says, "I am no longer certain about what I know."
To judge my actions and those of others is part of my human conditioning. But on what basis do I make my judgements when all I have are pieces of stories?
Perhaps if I had been born into a non-religious family of a different culture, I would have a different character. Who knows! What I do know is that the qualities I exhibited in my childhood are present today and that the activities I most enjoyed, I still enjoy doing.
Since childhood, I have had a love of books, the arts, creativity, and learning. I have an affinity with nature, value kindness, and believe in fairness.
These are not qualities that have been embedded or fostered by religion, society, or my family; they are inborn.
It is through my heart that I discover my true nature, that part of me that has remained untouched by the influences of others and the passing of time.
What I love about this world and what I love about my fellow human beings reflects the truth of who I am. Perhaps instead of asking, "Who am I?" I could ask, "What have I discovered about myself that gives me greater empathy towards others?" and "What have I discovered about others that helps me to understand myself?" I continue to ask the question, "Who am I?" and listen for answers. My journey stops when I become attached to an answer and can no longer ask the question.
The day was warm. People were lying on the grass enjoying the sun, and others were sitting in the shade on wooden benches. Tourists stood in front of the fountain with its sculptures of Greek gods, posing for the cameras.
The park was alive with stories, but the white pages on Rachel's notebook were blank. Her fingers tapped on the table. She picked up the pen and doodled. She was due back to work in ten minutes, and the only marks on her page were floral shapes.
Rachel looked across the park at Saint Dominic's Cathedral. Her mother and her mother's mother had been baptised and married in the cathedral. It was a family tradition.
"Excuse me," said the elderly woman standing at her table. "My name is Molly. I was sitting at the table over there, and you remind me so much of my friend Cara. I had to come talk to you."
Rachel noticed the walking stick. She stood up and moved the chair for Molly. "I'm Rachel. Would you like to sit down?"
"Thank you." Molly looked at the notebook. "I'm sorry if I've interrupted you."
"You're not interrupting."
"Do you like drawing?"
"Yes. But I'm not here to draw. I'm here to write." "So, you're a writer?"
"Not a professional writer. At least not yet."
"What do you write about?"
"I'm interested in people's lives. You know, their struggles and how they overcome them. I think it's through our challenges that we discover our strengths."
"I hope you don't mind me saying this, but you're very wise for someone so young," said Molly.
Rachel smiled. "I come here when I need inspiration. I look at the people in the park and wonder about their stories."
"Cara wrote wonderful letters. She wrote from the heart about her struggles and her joys. She lives in England. We've been writing to each other for years. We first met when I was on holidays and ..."
Rachel looked at her watch and frowned. "I'm sorry, Molly, I've got to get back to work." She jotted down her details. "Here's my number; please call me."
Two months had passed, and Rachel had not received a call. She was sitting in the Garden Café, writing in her notebook, when Molly rang.
"Hello, Rachel. I'm sorry I didn't ring you sooner," said Molly. "I've just returned from England. Cara was very ill. I was able to spend some time with her before she died."
"Molly, I'm so sorry."
"I mentioned you to Cara. I told her that you write and that you are interested in people's stories. She said you might find a story in her letters. Would you like to read them?"
"Yes, I would love to read them."
They met at the Garden Café. Molly gave Rachel a bag containing forty-four letters in chronological order; a letter that Cara had written to Rachel and a jewellery box.
"Cara asked that you read all the letters she had written to me before you read the letter she had written to you, and then open the jewellery box," said Molly.
"She wrote me a letter and gave me a gift. I wish I could thank her. I feel sad that I'll never meet her."
"Well, maybe you'll come to know her through her letters."
Rachel sat on the bed, holding the jewellery box. She moved her fingers along the soft green velvet and sighed. Reluctantly, she placed the box in the drawer.
There were so many letters, so Rachel decided to start with the last letter and then randomly select the others.
Rachel removed the letter from the envelope. Cara's handwriting was difficult to read. She reread the last sentence. "My dying wish is to see my daughter, Hope. But it is my penance that I will not see my child."
"Penance, penance," whispered Rachel.
She picked up the first batch of eleven letters, untied the ribbon, and pulled out the sixth letter.
Cara and David were on their honeymoon in Paris. The letter briefly outlined the landmarks they had seen while on their trip.
Cara wrote, "David is a wonderful man; I feel as if my heart is slowly mending. But in the back of my mind is fear that I will lose him." Rachel jotted these words in her notebook and turned off the lights. She laid in bed thinking until she fell asleep.
The following morning she opened the drawer and looked at the jewellery box.
Her mother, Anne, knocked on the door and entered. "I've made breakfast; come downstairs before it gets cold."
Rachel sat quietly looking at her breakfast. "What are you thinking?" asked her mother.
"I was wondering what it might be like for a mother to die without seeing her daughter."
"Why are you wondering about this?"
"Sometimes ideas pop into my head," she said and promptly ate her breakfast to avoid a discussion.
It was Saturday. Rachel sat in her room, determined to read all the letters. Her mother was gardening, and her father was out for the day.
She opened her notebook and jotted down the significant pieces of the letters, the ones that told the story.
"I was sixteen when Hope was born, an unmarried mother. I brought shame to my family, and they disowned me. I stayed in a church-run mother and baby home. On Hope's second birthday, the nun told me a couple wanted to adopt my child. My heart shattered."
Hours passed. Rachel kept reading and making notes.
"Dear Molly," the letter read. "You are the only person who knows my story. I could only tell you my story in small pieces over many years."
There was a photo of Cara in the envelope. Rachel walked to the window, drew back the curtains, and looked closely at the photo.
She raced downstairs with Cara's photo in her hand and opened the family's photo album. She removed her mother's photo and placed it on the table next to Cara's. "Curly red hair, green eyes, even the same smile," she whispered.
She searched for baby photos of her mother and scanned each face, looking for similarities between her mother and other family members.
Rachel went to her room and, from the drawer, removed the jewellery box and the letter. She sat on her bed and read the letter.
"Dear Rachel, it's okay if your curiosity has gotten the better of you and you're reading this letter. When I was eighteen, I bought two identical gold crosses, one for my daughter, Hope, and the other for myself. Although we have never met, I feel we have a connection. My dear Rachel, may God be with you and bless you. Love, Cara."
Rachel opened the box. Inside was a gold Celtic cross with a tiny emerald stone in the centre. Her mind was racing.
She heard her mother's footsteps. Quickly she placed the letter in her notebook.
"I thought you might be hungry," said her mother, placing the food on the side table. "You've been writing. May I have a read?"
"Not yet, Mum," she said, closing the notebook.
Rachel looked at her mother's Celtic cross with the emerald in the centre. "Mum, who gave you that cross?"
"My mother gave it to me when I was seven. It was on the day I made my First Communion."
"Grandma gave it to you."
"Yes, your grandma gave it to me. You look worried. Is something wrong?"
"I'm writing a story about a young girl who falls pregnant, and she's forced to give up her child for adoption."
"That's a very sad story."
"I'm considering whether the adopted child should be told about the adoption. Or maybe it might be better if the child never knew. What do you think, Mum? If you were adopted, would you want to know?"
"I've never had to consider such a question. I don't know. What's this?" asked her mother, picking up the jewellery box.
Rachel grabbed the box, "Oh, it's a surprise. You can't open it now."
Anne gently stroked her daughter's forehead. "My daughter, the writer. You look so stressed."
Her mother walked towards the door, turned, and smiled. "I'm sorry I couldn't answer your question. Rachel, you're the writer; it's your decision. Let me know what you decide."
What stories have you heard about yourself? What stories do you tell about yourself? ____________________________________________________________________
How have these stories defined you? ____________________________________________________________________
What qualities do you most value in yourself and in others? ____________________________________________________________________
What ideas do you hold about yourself that you need to let go of? ____________________________________________________________________
Fairy Tales Are an Initiation into Adulthood
As a young child, I loved reading fairy tales. I eagerly accompanied the lead characters on their adventures, experiencing their struggles and, finally, to my relief, their happy endings.
There was a formula to the storyline; the lead character would face a series of unexpected mental, emotional, and physical challenges until he or she developed the qualities needed to meet the challenges. Unknown to the character, the development and attainment of these qualities were the goals.
The stories took me on an imaginary and magical journey far removed from the mundane existence of a child's daily life. Some of the themes embedded in the stories highlighted the challenges I was facing in my childhood. I would continue to experience these themes throughout my adult life.
I didn't know it at the time, but those fairy tales were introducing me to the idea that life is not without its challenges but that challenges can be overcome when you discover and develop your inner strength.
Fairy tales explore ageless themes such as abandonment, isolation, vulnerability, the search for love and security through relationships, and the search for personal identity.
I wonder whether the tales with harsh storylines were really suitable for children. They did, however, help me to improve my reading speed, as I couldn't wait to get to the happy endings.
It was easier to deal with challenges through a character in a storybook, as there was some emotional distance. If the emotional tension got overwhelming, I could always jump to the end of the story or close the book.
My experiences have profoundly shaped my character and my life. Some life lessons I keep repeating. Initially I thought I was a slow learner until I realised that some lessons are multi-layered and have a number of levels. They need to be learnt one level at a time, the way a child learns a subject at school.
In my life story, the reward has been the adventure of living (learning about life, others, and myself) rather than achieving goals, although I have achieved a number of my goals.
Just like a fairy tale, my life story consists of characters that support and oppose me. Without these characters and the situations we have co-created, I would have a different story.
As an adult, I can better understand those moments when the lead character in the fairy tale seemed to be overwhelmed by his or her challenges. Those moments when the character lost hope and wanted to give up.
The lead character didn't start out as the hero or heroine. He or she didn't initially appear to have any outstanding qualities. The latent qualities needed to be discovered. Weaknesses (lessons) required time and practise to transform into knowledge and strengths.
On this planet are billions of people. Each person is the lead character in his or her own life, drawing to himself or herself the support characters needed to co-create his or her own life story.
Unlike fairy tales, real life doesn't promise happy endings. I have learnt that happiness is like breathing; it is experienced in the moment.
The authors who wrote children's fairy tales believed that children were strong enough to endure the harsh experiences of their beloved fairy tale characters and smart enough to recognise the morals embedded in the stories.
Fairy tales were more than entertainment or a form of escapism; they were an initiation, a form of apprenticeship, for the challenges that would be a part of my life story. When I was younger, I resisted and questioned the challenges that had dogged me. Parts of my story I rejected, denied, and wanted to erase. I have slowly come to accept that every experience is part of my life story.
Once upon a time ..."
Margaret lost count of the number of times she had read those words to her five-year-old daughter, Faith. Her favourite story was Cinderella. She had heard the story so many times that she could recite it almost word for word.
"Mummy, when I grow up, I'm going to marry my Prince Charming. He's going to be just like my daddy, and I'm going to live happily ever after."
"One more page, Faith, and then you have to go to sleep." She lowered her voice, reading the words at a hypnotic pace, hoping to lull her daughter to sleep. Faith yawned; her eyelids fluttered, but her eyes would not close.
Margaret closed the book and said in a gentle but firm voice, "We'll continue this story tomorrow." She kissed her daughter, dimmed the lights, and left the room, leaving the door open.
Excerpted from Celebrate Your Life Now! by Josephine Formosa. Copyright © 2015 Josephine Formosa. Excerpted by permission of Balboa Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
Chapter 1 The Journey of Self-Discovery Begins with the Question, "Who Am I?", 1,
Chapter 2 Fairy Tales Are an Initiation into Adulthood, 18,
Chapter 3 Parents Are Not Angels, but Neither Are Children, 35,
Chapter 4 Master Chef, Crummy Life!, 52,
Chapter 5 Expect Expectation!, 69,
Chapter 6 Experience List or Bucket List, Which Would You Choose?, 87,
Chapter 7 I Am a Born Time Traveller, 103,
Chapter 8 We Are All Architects, 118,
Chapter 9 The Last Time ..., 134,
Chapter 10 Letting Go and Surrendering to the Unknown, 150,
Chapter 11 When Does a Mistake Become a Lesson? When I Choose to Learn!, 167,
Chapter 12 Forgiveness ... What Does It Mean?, 185,
The most important story - is your life story!, 199,