Thursday, July 28, 2011

How You Tell Their Story Reveals a Lot About How You See The World

How I see the world:
  • Everyone is doing the best that they can. Once someone knows better they'll find a way to grow into it. That's what life is for. I cut them some slack because I won't ever walk in their shoes. They don't fit.
  • There's no one like me. I could be doing something very ordinary, but when I show up to do it it's amazing because I'm different. So are you.
  • There is no such thing as a dull, ordinary life.
  • Everyone wants to be heard. Ask someone his story and he'll tell you.
How my worldview influences my story:

When I piece together a story of one of my ancestors I use documents and the facts that I find for them. I've learned to treat hearsay like I would gossip. I run from it. Family stories of what a person was like can be inaccurate. Makes sense doesn't it? The people who tell the stories have their own perceptions with which they assess a person's motives and choices.

I use photos to discern who a person "is". Their countenance speaks volumes. The events in their town, country or the world influenced them, too. I take those into account. I also look for patterns like genetic strengths or weaknesses, or good or bad habits that get passed down through the generations.

The story is in how it affects me. How can I relate to this person? What bothers me? What experiences have I had that are similar and leave me asking why he made a choice I wouldn't have made?

Olga. Remember her?

My quest to tell Olga's story ( My Family History / "Booger Snots!" ) taught me some things about myself. I called her "aloof", "sarcastic", and a "tall-tale-teller". A new door to my soul was opened when I moved on to her son Roy's story ( Tears in Heaven: He Could Have Been My Boy ). I found out that I was slipping into judging her because of my frustration to "find" her. Once I added another piece to the puzzle of her life, namely losing her son in WWI, I could see better that I really don't know her at all. All I know is how I FEEL about her experience. I could go on and on. But I think you get it.

Want to hear something funny? Nancy, one of this blog's readers, commented on Olga's story when I posted it. She said, "Your Olga (or whatever her name really is) looks too ladylike to want to play hide-and-seek! She is very beautiful." I learned something about one of my readers. Nancy has a kind heart. She's not quick to judge. See how it works? I think it's fascinating! That one comment helped me so much.

The Most Compelling Reason to Do Your Family History

Family history takes us on a journey through time to places and people who, like it or not, influence who we are profoundly. I believe they deeply care about us and offer their lives to us if we'll find them. They give us a window to look through to times past; to lives we can dissect to find the lessons in them that are tailor-made for us. Some of them will lead us to emulate their example. Others will wake us up to break destructive behaviors like abuse of all sorts, both self-inflicted or by others, or seemingly little things like lying or gossiping. 

And it's my guess that they also hold up a mirror for you and me. At least that's my experience. I think they breath a sigh of relief when I let go of my preconceived notions of who they are and stop. Stop and see who it is I'm really talking about. Me. The only person whose brain sits inside the skull and behind the face looking back at herself in the mirror every day. The only one whose story I'll get right. The one who has found the value in asking, "who am I?" when I'm piecing together someone else's story.

  • Am I judgemental ?
  • Am I compassionate?
  • Do I think the best of people?
  • Am I trusting?
  • How do I define a successful life?
  • How do someone else's choices make me feel? 
When I notice something about myself that doesn't match the best "me" I can do something about it. That's the strength I find in my ancestors. I value their lives for the vicarious lessons I find in them.

I'd appreciate knowing if you've had experiences in your family history adventures where you've felt like you've learned something about yourself. 


    1. I liked this post, Betsy. I can't say a specific time when working on my family history helped me learn something about myself, though I think I tend to be non-judgmental of my ancestors. When I think of how hard their lives must have been and how little I know about their hearts, I can only believe they did the best they were able in the circumstances of their lives. I'll ponder your question.... Thanks for this post (and the previous one, too).

    2. I wrote a comment and it got "lost" somewhere - error #???.

      Anyway, I appreciated this post and I'll try to come back tomorrow to leave my complete comment.

    3. Nancy,
      There lives were definitely different!I'm always amazed at how learning about them leads me to discover more about myself. I don't know if I conveyed that very well! I really appreciate your input. It does me a lot of good to see and hear how what I say is heard by others so I can grow!

    4. I stopped back again to add my thoughts but I see that they actually posted. Who knows how that happened!

      I think your idea came through very well, Betsy. It was clearly written. Thanks for sharing.

    5. Beautifully written! I do look for parts of myself in my ancestors (the good and the not so good). I like to think that I don't judge them but I have--one of my great grandfathers. I've written a post about something he did that I will probably never publish (or rewrite it so it won't be so harsh). After I wrote it, I began to wonder what his life must have truly been like for him to have gotten to the point where his life really unraveled.

    6. Interesting isn't it Catherine? They all seem like characters, good, evil, and crazy, until we really try to get into their lives and minds and see what prompted their behaviors. It has helped me to have a lot more compassion for ME, never mind them!! LOL! Thanks for taking a minute to read and to leave a comment. Means a lot!


    What do you think? I'd love to know.