Our first task as Vein-of-Gold travelers is to write a rather lengthy narrative time line. I have completed many time lines in my life. It seems most self-discovery processes begin with a time line. I've done so many of them, I've started to have a real hatred for them. All they have ever seemed to do is pull off all my carefully placed bandages and re-expose the wounds. I end up feeling worse about my life after I do it instead of better.
When I first heard about this narrative time line, I felt the same dread. I felt like turning around and running as far and as fast in the opposite direction as I could. But something in me said, "Give it a chance. At least read what the author has to say. Maybe this is different." After reading the section in the Vein of Gold about the narrative time line, I do feel more positive about this task. It seems different. It gives us the opportunity to write our story from our own perspectives. Instead of a newspaper reporter twisting my words and making me out to be someone I am not, I get to have MY say.
Using the metaphor of a journey, this time line is similar to packing your bags and clearing your calendar for an extended vacation. On this vacation, you want to bring with you only those things that reflect who you really are. You will sort through your closet picking out clothing that fits the real, authentic you. You will discover those things that need to be cleared from your calendar because they are really a waste of time. They are activities you were "shoulded" into, obligations you were made to take on based on the you others thought you were, or duties that fit the you you were several years ago, but not the you you have become.
While the narrative time line appears to be a daunting task, it will bring light and lightness to our lives. In writing about past events with the wisdom of distance, a new light will shine. Like a photographer, we will be able to reframe the shot so that the darkness is put in the shadows and the benefit or goodness or truth is the focus. Seeing events with the new, softer light of age will help us to let go of the grief, anguish, or disappointment we may have carried throughout our years and have compassion for the selves we were along the way. Dropping this unnecessary baggage will put a spring in our step and make the journey much easier. Instead of being a mule loaded down with tons of baggage, we can travel as lightly as butterflies and as simple as a hobo with her/her sparse possessions wrapped in a single handkerchief and tied to the end of a stick.
To ensure success in this first task, you may want to give yourself some structure. Set some goals, or set aside time specifically for working on your narrative time line. If you leave it up to chance, you'll never get around to it.
Julia Cameron suggests that we start by jotting a few notes for every 5 years of our lives. Then fill in some gaps by writing about the events noted. Finally, she gives some fill-in-the-blank statements to jog our memories even further.
This will be a three-step process. So you might want to start by setting a date to write your notes. This may take just a few minutes to a half hour. Remember you aren't writing complete sentences here. You just want a few words to jog your memory for later writing.
Next will be writing out the stories that come when you look at your notes. You won't have to include every tiny detail in your stories. Just enough to recapture the moment. This will require several sittings to complete. Maybe you want to spend one day on each 5-year period, no matter how long it takes. If you don't have that much time to set aside for this, maybe you want to commit to writing for 15 minutes to an hour every day until it is done. If you spend 15 minutes writing your morning pages, maybe you can spend another 15 minutes later in the day writing your story.
The sentence stems Julia provides will come last. They will likely bring up further information and help us see the connections, the patterns, in our lives. Again, you may want to complete the sentences for one 5-year period at a time. This may help you tie some loose ends together. If you want to do it this way, you will probably need at least an hour at a time.
Yes, this is a huge time commitment. Don't let that hold you back. Complete this narrative at whatever pace is comfortable for you. You can move ahead to the next task whenever you are ready. You don't have to be ready when everyone else is ready. Though we are all starting at the same time, we will all move at our own pace and progress to each Kingdom when we are comfortable and ready. If you take more time than others on this task, you will not be left alone to struggle through on your own. Those who move ahead will still be there rooting you on, providing support, and lending you a hand to hurdle the larger rocks and boulders, while also giving you a preview of what lies ahead.
Whether you complete this task fast or slow, it doesn't matter. What matters is that you give yourself enough time to rediscover the real you, reframe the negative view you may have of your past, and recycle your story into a story that truly fits.