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Research professor and author Brené Brown said it best, “vulnerable is brave.” Sometimes life is a little bit less than graceful. We stumble, fall short, or crash and burn. Pain can build slowly over time as an immovable truth becomes more clear, or it can strike quickly out of the blue. We humans have enormous, soft, beautiful and courageous hearts. We use them generously for love, hope, and forgiveness. With this huge capacity for love comes a huge liability for pain. We all wish this weren’t the case. We want our happiness, togetherness, wisdom and fullness to be all there ever is. If you are writing memories from your whole life here, you might be tempted to make it so, in retrospect. You can edit – write only the good, fond memories. And it is your book, so you may do exactly as you wish. But we would like to encourage a different path.

When you have been long lost in the woods and then found your way out – rejoice!

But also – share your map with others.

Look for the courage to write about missteps, heartaches and struggles in these pages. These are the strange mysteries of every lifetime. One gift of this lifelong record is to bring perspective to these painful times, a chance to learn about your ability to love, work and rebuild. Our heartbreak can only be as big as our heart.

We so often forget that our wandering or bumpy past can be an immense source of comfort and guidance to friends and relatives, even between generations, but only if we are brave enough to share it. When others know you struggled, it gives them fuel to dig deeper and continue to strive during their own difficult times. Do we have to pretend we were born wise? What true wisdom wasn’t hard-won? Here we can claim our embarrassing idiotic moments, bathe them in grace and see how we’ve grown wiser because of them.

Every story has a beginning,middle and end.
We only get to define the middle.

You also have permission to let go of secrets here, whether intentionally suppressed or purely accidental. Some things we were told not to speak of, others were never intended to be a secret, but they just happened so long ago. The four-year-old wasn’t told at the time about how grandma died, but he is all grown up now with a child of his own, and we didn’t really feel like mentioning it. Maybe a baby in the family was passed on to others to be parented, or an accident stole away your loved one. You can write these stories here. Were you told to forget about a short first marriage or a child who wasn’t to be, or a child who was still-born? When is the right time to tell these old stories? Let us remember and record those experiences here to acknowledge that they have indeed formed us.

We invite you to bring it out into the light here. You do not have to read this out loud from a podium, but you should acknowledge that what gets written here may be shared, even if only after your lifetime has ended. Please be gentle with yourself – gentle and honest. When you can, write the hard things. If that day is not today, wait and write them when you are ready. This book is patient – and kind.

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