I am beginning a new memoir project, whose tentative title is Making Peace, Finding Peace, Seeing Peace, Giving Peace. Here are my project plans.
I recently turned 70, an age younger people often consider elderly and generally past it. I am blessed, however, to be active and lively—as are many others my age and older. I am even inclined to be a bit of a Peter (Petra?) Pan. I do understand that more of this life is behind me than ahead, and no one gets to my age without suffering loss and regret. Although I am happy and so busy with activities I enjoy that I sometimes don’t sleep enough, I look back on my life so far and see vast swathes I wish I had lived differently. And the future is, of course, filled with unknowns. And so I want to examine my life from my current place within it, exploring how I can better understand and reframe the past, find greater serenity, meaningfully serve others now, and embrace what life still has in store. I would like for my new memoir to encourage readers to see and value their own lives; I want to bring them hope, courage, and peace of mind.
The central question of my memoir is this: How can I make, find, see, and give peace now—at this point in my life—and in the years to come?
In the area of making peace, I will explore my need to make peace with
- Never having married
- Never having children and grandchildren
- Not sustaining the kind of meaningful career I hoped to have
- The men (the “Rogues”) I dated
- Having not been the daughter that I wish I’d been and that my parents deserved
- Not standing up to bullies in my life
- Aging and its unknowns
- Feeling less-than
- The possibility of rejection
- Not keeping up with my study of literature and earning a PhD.
- Not becoming a successful writer
- Not keeping up with my music
- Going in many directions without finding my purpose
- My weaknesses
I will examine the areas of finding, seeing, and giving peace in the context of
- Nature, the Earth, and Creation
- Empathy for others
- Encouraging others
- Giving pleasure through my abilities
- Creating without achievement expectations
- My conviction that life is ongoing
- Teaching in settings still open to me
- Learning without achievement expectations
- Exploring and sharing ideas
- Spiritual life
- Seeing more of the past’s great gifts
- Mutual respect—honoring others and not belittling myself
Themes and Underlying Beliefs
In the course of my memoir, I hope to illustrate, explore, and establish ways to implement more fully these beliefs about paths to a serene and meaningful life:
- Know that it’s not too late.
- Know that you’re not too old.
- Cultivate your own individual style.
- Be yourself; let others do the same. And avoid trying to find your satisfaction vicariously through someone else’s life.
- Be able to articulate your values and beliefs.
- Each day, use your creativity, interests, and talents in some way.
- Write/Draw/Dance/Play music . . . to satisfy yourself, not for anyone else’s approval.
- Embrace this truth: If you try to do something according to someone else’s opinions—in place of your own—you’ll probably either not like the results or give up before finishing.
- Acknowledge that if you’re procrastinating, there’s something wrong with the situation. Figure out and address the problem.
- Learn something new every day.
- Learn for the pleasure of learning.
- Have a sense of purpose in life and keep that purpose shining in your heart and mind.
- Understand that your sense of purpose doesn’t have to be flashy, obvious to others, or highly specific (such as “become a bestselling author” or “sing Aida at the Met”).
- Develop and keep routines and traditions that support order and meaning in your life. Include time for meditation and reflection.
- Notice the interesting small details in nature and all of life.
- Keep a journal so that ideas, impressions, and memories don’t fade and days don’t get lost in the tide of years.
- Practice being fully present in the moment.
- Define the present moment as meaningful and interesting.
- Discover the positive potential and lessons in difficult situations.
- Value your blessings while you have them, and not just in hindsight.
- Do the best you can and then let it go. Don’t rehash the past by asking, “Did I really do my best and try my hardest?”
- Once a situation is past, forgive everyone for everything (which does not mean letting bad situations recur).
- Realize that other peoples’ behavior makes sense from their frame of reference.
- Don’t try to change other people, but allow for the possibility of their changing. (Your example is more powerful than your arguments.)
- Believe that no matter how hard others try to make you feel inferior, you are an equally important and valuable human being.
- Minimize contact with energy vampires and other people who don’t make you feel good about yourself.
- Don’t allow yourself to feel like a child who has misbehaved. You acted as you did for a reason, even if you will look at the situation differently next time.
- Look for and take opportunities to give honest encouragement.
- Recognize that encouraging others doesn’t mean trying to please them to win their favor.
- Don’t allow yourself to act out of fear of rejection or criticism.
- In relationships, act from the beginning according to the principle of mutual respect; it can be exceedingly difficult to change the relationship dynamics later.
- Identify a mentor to help you strengthen your confidence, courage, and dedication to your values and life focus. A mentor can be someone you admire but don’t know personally.
- Find and seize opportunities to see life from others’ perspectives and situations.
- If you’re lonely, reach out to someone to whom you could give pleasure.
- Be aware that reaching out to and helping others can take many forms, including writing and other creative endeavors.
- Don’t value helping strangers above helping family members and other loved ones: both kinds of service are infinitely important, so serve where and how you can.
- Realize that if you fail to honor your own fundamental needs, you won’t be able to continue helping others over the long haul.
- If you are doing an assignment or task for someone else, first accept it consciously as something you are choosing to do, and then put your own stamp on it.
- Accept that getting stressed won’t lead to greater punctuality/perfection/approval than will staying calm.
- Strive, in your own way, to advance justice and kindness.
(The above list was posted earlier as “Forty Guidelines for Becoming a Classic.” Now I will try to explore these beliefs in more depth.)