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home : education : schools January 16, 2018

12/26/2017 12:09:00 PM
Our stories
By Sue Stafford

A statistic the other day on the news caught my attention. The average lifespan in the U.S. dropped for the second year in a row to 81.1 for women. Based on that, I can expect 7.5 more years at least. If that time goes as quickly as the past seven-and-a-half years, I'll be done before I know it.

The beginning of a new year is a good time for some self-reflection about my remaining years. What pops to the surface is, I want my remaining time to make a difference, however small.

I have always loved people's stories and, in a variety of ways, that's what my life has been about. Prior to moving to Sisters, I worked in multiple fields of counseling and therapy helping people understand their stories and hopefully access some healing.

My current endeavors include teaching a 10-week guided autobiography class. The class encourages participants to take stock of their lives and the meaning of events, people and experiences. Stories are shared with others in a small group setting where members gain an appreciation for the direction life has taken and for the courage and creativity they and others have shown in facing life's challenges.

With my freelance writing for The Nugget and The Bulletin special projects, I have the honor of hearing people's stories and then sharing them with a larger audience. In this column, I open my world to you readers and share some of my own story.

Our stories help us articulate and understand our deepest, most meaningful experiences by utilizing our intuition, imagination and creativity. By drawing on the power of metaphors and symbols in telling our stories, they are enriched and, accordingly, those stories enrich our lives.

In both my counseling practice and my autobiography classes, I have watched participants gain a new appreciation of themselves and their lives as they reflect deeply, and see more clearly who they truly are.

To know who I am is enriched by exploring my past and setting hopeful, yet realistic, intentions for the future. By enriching my own story through reflection, I am able to achieve reconciliation with my past, with the good and not-so-good, and to embrace all of my experiences that have shaped who I am today.

When sharing my stories in the safe container of trusted listeners, I am more easily able to see their meaning with the help of others' eyes. I grow stronger and am sustained so that when difficulty or fear arise, I see those challenges in a new context, which enables me to accept with grace and learn from the happenings of life.

I have found time and again - not only for myself, but while watching others plumb their depths - that when we share our stories, we allow others to enter into our lives and experience our truths. In the process, we learn that our joys and sorrows, triumphs and tragedies, struggles and successes are so similar, allowing for a degree of intimacy with and respect for one another to flourish.

Understanding and embracing my story is not something that happens automatically. It requires my courage and desire to make meaning and discover my deepest truth.

I am at the stage of my life when people often desire to understand "what's it all been for." Making meaning, and possibly amends, can help make for a peaceful ending to one's time on this earthly plain. Contrary to poet Dylan Thomas, I do desire to "go gentle into that good night."

As 2018 rounds the corner, I know the time left to me is rapidly shortening. My greatest desire is to live my remaining days in a spirit of peace and generosity, making each day count, and leaving something of lasting value behind in my community.

This next year will see me teaching more autobiography classes, continuing to write for the newspapers, and jumping fully into a new endeavor with four other Sisters women. We have established the new Three Sisters Historical Society, a 501(c)(3) public charitable corporation in an effort to bring to life the rich and colorful history of our beloved little town. We invite public involvement in this undertaking. Hopefully, I will have a small part in leaving a legacy in Sisters Country that will inform current residents and tourists as well as generations to come.

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