Category Archives: Life

Be Curious, Not Perfect: The Art of Connection

Finding love on the Camino de Santiago. Blaise van Hecke

To be curious is a natural inclination for humans but for many as they grow older they seem to be less so. I’m not sure why this is. Is it about losing a sense of wonder, the child within?

It’s no secret that I turned fifty this year. I don’t hide my age and I have no qualms about growing older because I know what a blessing it is to be here, in good health. Not everyone gets to do that. My life is full of blessings. Too many to count.

To signify turning fifty, I went on a little adventure. I wanted to commemorate and give gratitude to all of my blessings whilst doing something for myself. On this adventure I learned so many things about myself and other people.

It wasn’t really a ‘little’ adventure. I walked across Spain on the Camino de Santiago carrying everything that I needed for six weeks. It still feels surreal to make that statement. For those six weeks I walked over 800 kilometres and went through a gamut of physical, emotional and spiritual transitions. I also met a lot of people from all over the world doing the same thing (I’m not the only hairbrained person). We were all pilgrims looking for something. Some didn’t know what they were looking for, but that question was often answered for them by the time they finished. I certainly didn’t know I was looking for anything, but I sure did get a lot of answers.

The most surprising thing that I noticed about my interactions with other pilgrims was the level of intimacy that was established so quickly after meeting each other. Complete strangers would tell me their deepest desires and secrets. I know it wasn’t about me being receptive to this because others expressed the same experiences. It made me think about why this happens. Was it something about the Camino that allowed people to feel safe? Was there some spiritual force at work?

People were always curious to know more about other people. This curiosity opened up conversations that were beyond the obligatory talk about the weather. On my first day I met a 32-year old German man (how old you are, where you come from and why you’re walking the Camino are opening questions with everyone you meet) who said that he was happily married with a young daughter but felt that something significant was missing from his life. His pain was palpable. I only saw him for a day or two because he was walking faster than me. I hope he found what he was looking for.

The daily inquiry from other people was very revealing. I realised that people wanted to connect with each other and the Camino allowed this to happen at a much faster pace. Not only were they looking for answers for themselves, they wanted to learn about what made others tick: Were they the only one to not feel satisfied with their life? Had they spent their whole life not looking after their body, mind, spirit? So many questions, so many imperfections.

The simple act of embarking on a journey to look for answers, to be curious about life, to want more than they already had was a repeated theme. Talking to a stranger about life somehow allowed for a connection in a safe place. It’s something that we seem to forget in our everyday life and it made me realise that humanity is capable of love, compassion, generosity and kindness despite the fact that there is so much of the opposite in the world today.

Blaise, the book chick.

Write for Your Life – part 3: The Big Picture

This blog will be continuing the life writing theme with the element of The Big Picture up for discussion.

Have you been writing? You hesitated. It’s interesting that vacuuming the house or doing the dishes becomes appealing when you should be writing. Procrastination is your enemy, so be mindful of this. Make your writing project part of your daily routine, it’s the only way to get it done. At least five days per week should have some time allotted to the task and before you realize it, you will have written a first draft.

After my last blog, you should have been able to map out a rough outline of your story. Don’t spend too much time on this because you need to get to work to flesh out the details by filling in the spaces between events. Eventually you will have a draft that you can step back from and assess. It will be far from perfect. Keep this in mind while you assess, otherwise you will be inclined to give up. No first draft is perfect. In fact it may be really dreadful but it’s something you can work with.

In your assessment of the first draft, you need to look at the big picture. As you read through it, make notes about what does and doesn’t work. Are there parts that need more detail? Have you waffled in another? Have you glossed over details because they are too painful, seem boring or you were lazy when you wrote them? I talked to someone in a workshop who was writing a memoir and failed to mention that he was married for several years because he didn’t think it was interesting. Most people would think that this was a significant event in a life. It also changes the reader’s perception of the story because he/she will imagine that a person was on their own when in fact they weren’t. It’s actually a false portrait of your life. If the marriage was not fantastic, that’s fine, don’t go into a lot of detail but you can’t completely omit it.

Blaise as a little girl. We don’t get the big picture.

There are many significant people that come and go from our lives. Our interaction with them affects the trajectory of our path in life. If you look at the image here of me, there is someone else in the picture. Aren’t you curious about who it is? You will start filling in my story from your own imagination. It’s my big sister and of course she is a significant person in my life, so she needs to feature in my life story. This might seem obvious to you but you’d be surprised how often writers don’t consider this.

In your reading of the first draft, you might have some aha moments about aspects of your story. Patterns may emerge or you might remember other details that have been long forgotten. This happens all the time and makes it hard to know when to stop writing because memories will keep appearing when triggered by another. That’s why it’s important to write several drafts in order to really excavate all those details.

If you visualize an archeologist uncovering the remains of a dinosaur, there will be painstaking work to uncover the bones. Bit by bit, the story of the bones is revealed. This is how your own story will evolve. Despite it being your own story, so much of it will be buried in your subconscious and will need to be ‘excavated’. Some of these memories may not be pleasant, so they may need more work to reveal than others.

Once you have gone over and assessed your first draft, start rewriting it with emphasis on parts that you think better demonstrates that ‘big picture’.

Blaise the book chick