Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Uniqueness in the Language That Is Ordinary

"Your life is unique." This is one line from lesson 3 in the course on memoir writing that I'm currently working through. It seems at first like a no-brainer statement. But the more you think about it, the more you realize the depth of that truth. 

In my "unique" life, October 8th was all mixed up with tasks, blessings, communications, worries, observations and a few opportunities to help other people with their unique lives.

Early this morning I read a piece written on the class blog by another student. The student was working on lesson 4, exploring "conflict." First the author composed a list of conflicts - any one of them was something that one or more of us could relate to - things like being bullied and teased at school, dad not being around... and then there was the chosen topic: "no running water."

While reading the details of what it was like for this person to grow up with no water or electricity and some of the desperate situations that were faced, my little tasks, worries and woes quickly fell into perspective.

We can help each other gain a fuller perspective when we share our uniqueness in the language that is ordinary. What is more ordinary or common in a life than something as elemental as water? Yet the story WAS unique.

Our lives are unique, but they are also similar. Each has a perspective that is unlike any other, but we can all relate to those aspects of life that we share. We can teach each other and learn from one another. 

The student who had to live without water or electricity has a wealth of strength gained from overcoming that a privileged person does not have; while the privileged person can show empathy, coming to the aid of one who has little.

the intellectual identification with or vicarious experiencing of the feelings, thoughts, or attitudes of another.

Your life IS unique. And interesting things can be learned from the "mundane."

So, dear reader, I challenge you to take just a moment to remember five unique experiences in your life that relate to water...

I'll go first:

1) My grandfather taught me how to swim, but when I was still a toddler, my mother would dip me into our backyard pool to cool me off  before a summer's nap...

3) Mom stored sliced carrots covered with water in a glass bread pan in our refrigerator. I would often stand in front of the open the fridge and drink the water from the corner of the dish.  

4) I had a dream once that I will never forget. In real life, my dad had a  shop in the basement with a big cabinet door that was also a peg board for hanging tools. In my dream, I opened the cabinet and saw huge swimming whales and porpoise in bright blue water.

5) Many years ago, when we moved into our new home we noticed that all the streets in the neighborhood were convex, except ours - ours was concave - and our curb was very high. I didn't know why until the first sustained rainfall. Our street is the one all the others drain into. At times, in just a few hours the water can rise to the top of the curb, making our street into a river.

Now you try. (I'd love to read them in the comments.)

The cool thing is, EVERYONE, has 5 experiences with water. You can relate to mine, and I can relate to yours.

Memoir Notes: Making a story out of our unique experiences in a way that others can understand and relate to, or learn from -- this is what makes a memoir.

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  1. Water
    1. Water was every where, frozen slabs of the Yellow China sea all around us. We were on a ship. A fire broke out, but the pipes were frozen. Miraculously we were saved from the looming catastrophe of the gasoline and bombs in the hold.
    2. Water again all around us. A river this time - and we on a river boat going up the Yangtze, fleeing from Mao's troops. The water carried us to safety.
    3. Water all over again around a ship taking us further away from Dad who stayed on in China.
    4. Water - deep blue water - carrying us home to an unknown homeland.
    5. Water - grey in the early morning mist. A grey line on the horizon - the place where she was born. A little girl's heartbeat almost choking her - the grey water would carry her home to see and feel and hear Grandma and Aunts whom she had only seen in black and white pictures.

    1. Alenqvist,
      That is so interesting!!! Thank you for sharing your 5 water memories! Please let me know if you ever decide to write this story. I want to read more.

    2. Your 'Water* memory link really gave me a push forward. I have started using that for my Essential memoir course (Milestones). Check it out. It was really a good thing you suggested. If I get through the story I would end up with 10 Water/Ship memories by age 10! Thank you!

    3. Your water memories are amazing! The ones I've read so far are full of the testimony of God's love for us. God will bless your memoir journey, Milestones.

  2. 1. When I first think "water", I think about spring water, because that's what we have here at home. It's cool, fresh, and oh, so good--but more than once after a long, hot summer, the water from the gravity-feed spring (meaning no pump at all), stopped running for a few days. I learned that having no water makes one appreciate having water.
    2. When I'm driving after a hard rain, there are places where water comes right up to both sides of the road. It makes me a little nervous to drive between the expanses of water during the day, and it makes me more than a little nervous to do so at night. Car lights shining over the water make it seem like there's no end to it.
    3. My mother used to carry buckets of water to her chicken flock in the winter. I remember looking out the window at her, in her brown wool jacket and head scarf, thinking it was such a chore. Now, I carry water to my own flock in the winter. I realize now that even though it IS a chore, it's also what helps keep my little flock alive during the freezing weather.
    4. Your comment about carrots in water, triggered memories of peeled potatoes standing in water. My mom peeled potatoes early on Sunday mornings, and left them in water so they wouldn't discolor. After church, they were ready to drain and boil.
    5. There was a small stream that ran along the far pastures--that stream was good for quiet dreams while leaning over it from a grassy bank, and for noisy, fun times at the local swimming spot a bit further along.
    Thanks for the memories, Becky!

    1. You are welcome...thanks for sharing them! I loved reading your 5 water memories, Meredith.

  3. 1) The smell of water from the hose on the bricks of our house on a hot summer day.
    2) Sitting at lunch with my mom and sisters watching my mom drink from the carrot water and wipe the water from the carrot on her lips before she ate it.
    3) Taking my kids to see the ocean for the first time.
    4) Going for a 5 mile run and it started to pour, I splashed through puddles as fast as I could to get back to the truck.
    5) The evening I rode my horse in the arena and was so frustrated he kept going to the gate and trying to rush out. When I put him back into his stall he ran to his water (an automatic thing) and realized it was empty, and had been for 24 hours. The valve had been shut off and not turned back on :(

    1. Lol on the carrot memory. I forgot about that!

  4. Hmmm... 5 water memories.
    1.) Playing in the sprinkler in the front yard during the HOT DRY SUMMER, as a child
    2.) Deliberately missing the bus and walking home from school with a group of kids the last day of school...IT WAS SO HOT AND SO FAR! Just before getting home, a man watering his yard, let us all drink from the hose. It was wonderful!
    3.) Swimming in the Gulf for the very first time in my life-- I was with my daughter on a mission trip
    4.) The following year swimming in the Gulf with my son-- again, mission trip...but this time the current was much too strong I thought I was going to drown...I was swimming and my son was near me, he was crying... about 15 yrs. Old...and I told him to get to the shore and not look back! I made my swim with determination, the waves pushed me down and when I went down, the bottom was close I hit it with my feet and jumped out over the waves and swam for shore! I was frightened...but grateful to God. My son hugged me so tight.
    5.) I have 2 glass bottles with sand and shells in the bottom, they are marked with dates on them. One holds water from the Atlantic Ocean (my mother collected it and she has since passed on) the other from the Gulf. Neither of them were collected by me.

    I thought that would be hard on the spot...but Nope. I've got water memories. ;)

    1. Oh, I could write a book with all these water stories! Thanks for sharing.


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