Abundant Living Conference, March 2, Camp Allen Texas
This past week I was a presenter at the Abundant Living Conference held at Camp Allen Conference & Retreat Center, a beautiful site located in the Piney Woods about an hour north of Houston. This three-day conference gathered some 200 people that ranged in age from late 50s to some in there 90s who came to explore aging “as a spiritual journey”. To “grow mentally, socially, and creatively.” With sessions ranging from yoga and dancing to the “Spirituality of Aging” and “Finding Your Passion in the Second Half of Life”, these seniors were looking at what might be next for them as they closed out the phases of careers, families and ‘making it.”
I presented along with Teri Miller, a MS and OTR with the Alzheimer’s Association, Houston & Southeast Texas Chapter. While I spoke to the general idea of doing a personal history; what they are, what forms they come in, what types of resources one needs for each format, Teri spoke specifically to the benefits of doing a personal history for those suffering from memory loss which I discussed in a previous blog post, Personal History Projects with Memory Loss Patients.
While we suffered from some technological glitches (the center’s adapter for the projector didn’t work with my brand new laptop), we managed to do a great presentation supported by my Powerpoint slides.
One of the highlights of the presentation was an paired-share exercise we had the participants do. With one person interviewing the other, the goal was to have each partner identify a turning point in their life and distinguish the story around that event. What choices were they faced with and which path did they choose? How did that decision impact the rest of their life? Who knew about the turning point and what did they know? How old were they? What other things happened because of the decision made. Each partner interviewed the other about this turning point and took notes which were given to their partner at the end of the exercise. Our hope was that this would provide a cornerstone for each participant to begin working on their own personal history.
The noise level in the room went up considerably as they delved into this exercise and it took awhile before I could get the room quieted down at the end. I think they really enjoyed doing this and we asked several people to come up to the room and share what they uncovered. There were some really great stories shared. One thing Teri and I recognized is that sometimes people need permission to talk about themselves. We live in a society that recognizes certain storytellers but also puts the lid on too much sharing. In many contexts it’s considered rude to talk about oneself and one’s past. Giving people permission to share is a component that I hadn’t really thought about but is integral to the process of creating a personal history. I have talked to plenty of children who want to do a history of one or both of their parents only to be told no, we’re not interested. This now gives me a distinction to direct further questions to and see whether perhaps this isn’t in the way of them wanting to talk about their personal memories.
Stefani Twyford is a personal historian sharing life stories, connecting generations and preserving legacies. To learn more, visit her web site, find her on Twitter as @stefanitwyford, visit the Legacy Multimedia Facebook Fan Page, or send her an e-mail.