Sayings and phrases

The prompt I gave to the group this week meant the sayings of loved ones emerged as a strong theme.  After the session was over, this got me reflecting on my own family which led to a great chat with my mum and stepdad about memories of phrases that they remember their parents saying.  (The best ones contained swearing but I won’t share those today).  Here are some other great ones that they came up with.  

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Autumn

Most of us said “leaves” when Lucy asked us to say one word we associated with Autumn.  We talked of their vibrant colours on crisp yet sunny autumn days, the feel of them underfoot, watching them fall and their distinctive Autumn smell.   Despite some wistfulness at leaving Summer behind, we shared memories of poetry, new starts at school, college or university, walks in parks, bonfires, days out, holidays and excitement at the start of the football season.  

Our recent experiences of Autumn included the joy of seeing a much-loved toddler pick up a leaf from the pavement and gaze at it in wonder, and the happy sound of children twittering like birds as they returned to school, after such a long time. 

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Reading

“Close your eyes, listen to this recording of the sound of rain on a window.  Imagine yourself, warm and dry inside a library.  What libraries do you remember being in?  Where would you like to be now?  Imagine that in this library, on the shelves, are all the books, magazines and DVDs that you’ve read during your life.  What has reading meant to you at different stages in your life?  You might want to go to a shelf and pick a book you remember enjoying.  Where were you?  What was happening at that time?” 

What a powerful opener Jolene gave to us, leading to us having so much to say to each other!  Just as the people reading in a library may, in their minds, be travelling in many different directions, those of us on the Zoom call had a variety of experiences to relate, and much to think about afterwards as we wrote up our individual pieces for this week’s post.

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Kindness

This group of people is a very kind one.  The natural inclination of us all is to support, listen to and get to know each other. We have created friendly, enjoyable times together from this and a kinship has been born out our shared experiences.  When I was reflecting on this recently, kindness seemed an apt next topic.

My personal experience has been that when people are kind, it can act as a mirror or sometimes magnifying glass to what is truly wonderful in life, ourselves and each other. Kindness can reconnect us to what’s important and it can also restore our hope and energy. In the session I shared the opening of a poem by Edgar Alan Guest who summarises this beautifully.

“One never knows
How far a word of kindness goes;
One never sees
How far a smile of friendship flees.
Down, through the years,
The deed forgotten reappears.”

Kindness is a state of being as well as an action, so to encourage people to connect with the emotions they feel in relation to kindness, I led a guided meditation that included positive wishes for the self and others. I then offered an opportunity to silently visualise and reminisce about kind actions that have been directed towards them during lockdown as well as in the past.  People went on to share, in pairs and then the group, moments of helpfulness, compassion, generosity and thoughtfulness that have stayed with them. 

It was a lovely session to be part of and I hope you experience some of the glow of warm kinship that exchanging these values and memories brought us.  I also hope that you are reminded of acts and moments of kindness that have shaped and influenced you throughout your life. Perhaps you would even like to share a memory of your own using the “Leave a Reply” feature at the end of this post?  We would certainly like to read it.

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Entertainment

Our spirits were so lifted, after we’d discussed entertainment, past and present, in the Zoom break-out rooms.  Nury, originally from Iran, explained how much he appreciates British humour, especially the old situation comedies he’s been watching on TV, such as Porridge and Only Fools and Horses.  It was lovely to hear his chuckles.   Thank goodness for television, social media and online arts, helping us now through the challenges of social isolation: a sentiment we all shared!

Family and friends featured strongly in our memories from our younger days, with or without television, playing games both outdoors and in.   Read on for our recollections of those simpler, more carefree times.  

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Celebrations

There was lots of laughter, and many smiles, as we shared our stories of a variety of celebrations and special occasions.  Some of us shared treasured memories of birthday celebrations in the past, as well as our experiences of the recent inventive ways in which we’d been able to celebrate birthdays in spite of the lockdown.   

We also described special gatherings of family and friends to celebrate retirement, weddings, anniversaries and Christmas, as well as bigger public celebrations, including jubilant crowds following a football triumph and even a traditional village celebration to mark the end of the bubonic plague, over 350 years ago!

Food (especially cake!), drinks, music and games played important roles in many of our festivities, as you’ll see in the stories which follow.  

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Routines and rituals

I am fascinated with this topic and spent the whole session grinning as I got to hear about people’s daily and weekly habits, routines and rituals.  I find the way we live our day to day lives riveting, especially during a time where our “normal” routines have been altered so much by external factors.   To me, discussing the patterns we follow can help us understand our own influences, values, way of thinking and lifestyle as well as give a glimpse of what it is really like to live in another’s shoes.

Through the session, lots of themes emerged as well as overlapping habits, people reporting “We have so much in common”.  Maybe you too, the reader will find cheer and comradery in learning about how people spend their days and it will allow you to reflect on the meaning behind your own ‘ordinary’ choices.

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Our treasured keepsakes

Jolene had asked us to choose an object from our homes to bring with us to the Zoom meeting, maybe something we hadn’t thought about recently, but which had a particular meaning for us. As each of the items was held up to the screen for everyone else to see, we heard fascinating stories behind the chosen objects. They had stirred powerful memories: of our childhoods, of the special people who gave them to us, the people and places we associated with them, the love, the music and the magic in our lives.

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Food for thought

The theme of food from past and present proved to be a powerful memory trigger this week. With our eyes closed, Jolene invited us to not only picture but to smell food from the past. Our subsequent conversations included many memories from childhood of food being grown, shopped for, cooked and of course, eaten! Our reflections went far beyond the meals themselves, being intertwined with memories of our parents or grandparents, their skills and the efforts they made to provide for us.

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How is it going?

Screenshot showing eleven of the participants in Stories of our lives

On May 23rd, we paused from our usual storytelling and conversation format to check in with each other, find out what everyone was enjoying and wanting more of from our online group.  It was a lovely meeting, where we celebrated what we had achieved together and collaborated to create ideas for the future, both in terms of themes and ways of reaching others who might benefit. 

Here is some feedback gathered from the participants during this session which I have extracted from the video recording of our Zoom conversation. We would love to read about what you think of our project so far. Read to the end to find out how you can share your thoughts.

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