Discover Your MyStory Life Themes

Allow me to invite you to a very simple and effective way to identify your Life Themes, those recurring situations and KINDS of events that form the “stuff” of much of your life experience within your Life Story:

  • Reflect and write a LIST significant events that have “shaped you as the person you have become.” This does not have to be an exhaustive list, and the events or situations on your list do not have to have been earth shattering, just significant.
  • After you have composed your list of significant “shaping” events or situations, read back through this list several times, and SORT these events into KINDS of events or situations. (For example: Family, Travel, Work, Education, Spirituality, etcetera).
  • Reflect on the TYPES of events you have identified, and assign your own personally meaningful NAMES to these Kinds of Events. (E.G.: Disappointments, Relationship Matters; also can still include standard sorts of names like Family, Relationships, Romance, Work, etcetera).
  • These personally meaningful, recurring types of events and situations are (at least some of) your dominant LIFE THEMES.

Make a list of your LIFE THEMES in your MyStory journal, or you can save them in a file on your computer.  Over the next year or so at this blog site we will be exploring several common Life Themes and I invite you to journal or write your personal memoirs about events and situations that have been significant in your life in relation to the Theme (or similar theme for you) being explored.

The MyStory principle we are exploring is our tendency as humans (i.e. Homo Narrativus) to frame our Life Theme shaping experiences AS STORY, as narratives, with meaningful narrative structure, plot, characters, messages, spiritual principles, and lessons to impart to others based on our own life experience.  Consider those thematic events about which you have tended to tell the ‘same story’ over and over again, refining the story to ferret out deeper meanings and messages, both for you and for those with whom you might choose to share your most meaningful MyStory tales. This is part and parcel of your Legacy that you may pass along to your loved ones or to posterity.

images are from pixabay.com

As Joseph Campbell has emphasized, your life (your MyStory) is mythic, even Epic, because it is imbued with meaning and lessons for your own growth. As you grow from reflecting on your pivotal life experiences, you are ever more able to help others find meaning in their own Life Themes, as well.

Now too, a SECOND level of identifying Life Themes, which I would recommend you could apply after the tried and true method above, is to work backward from those stories you tend to retell and embellish, asking what sort of THEME does that story reflect in your MyStory that may just not have made it into your list from the above method.  For instance, while Pets have been a HUGE Life Theme in my life, in the process of listing biographical shaping events, it is possible I could overlook these while focussing more on obvious themes for me like Family, Education, Relationships (which might include with my pets), and Spirituality. But when I think of very important shaping events, losing my dog Elly, for example, is a huge event I would want to make sure to include in my MyStory corpus of stories.

So for this week, I invite you to explore and discover your own MyStory Life Themes!

MyStory Pet Tales, II

What about your own MyStory pet tales? What gifts and lessons have your beloved animal Soul companions brought to your life? Are there some stories about your pet Friends that have been meaningful episodes or chapters from your Life Story? I invite you to journal, write about, or share with a loved one—human or otherwise—about your special, MyStory pet tales.

Indeed, I invite you to start a new journal, which you can call MyStory, for you to explore and collect some of the most meaningful tales of your life’s journey in relation to your major life themes.

Since Pets has been such a prominent theme in my life, it will take this and maybe a few more posts about my pet memoires to explore the underlying mystery of MyStory in relation to at least some of my other-than-human loved ones.

Here’s a story that definitely belongs in my corpus of MyStory Pet Tales”

“Yellow Eyes”

Some thirty years ago while I was completing doctoral work in Arizona, I was preparing to teach an anthropology module about hominid evolution when I had a very significant past-life ‘story dream’: a dream with a fully developed narrative.

In this dream, I am an archaic homo sapiens boy walking along in an open veld. I only have a rudimentary language, with some basic nouns and verbs but little or no syntax. I look up and think “sky” then “storm,” seeing that the sky is a greenish hue. (BTW It was only long AFTER this dream that I ever learned a green sky could precede tornadic weather.) To my right then in the dream I see “cave” up on a cliff side, and I scramble up the cliff to take shelter from the storm in the cave. Clouds darken and the storm rages outside the cave. I sense a presence and look around me in the cave, seeing a pair of eyes: “yellow eyes”, “tiger”; also taking shelter from the storm. We are each wary of one another but we seem to make an agreement not to harm one another while waiting for the storm to pass. As soon as it has abated, I step backward to allow the Tiger to leave the cave, eyeing me again on her way out.

As I am waking from this dream memory, another, seemingly later life incident flashes also in my awareness. I am a young African man walking along on a jungle trail. A lion leaps to attack me from my left, but at the same time a tiger leaps out to repel the lion!  As I am waking, I am thinking gratefully again: Yellow Eyes!

Emily

These story dreams truly felt like they were “past life” memories.  Then, flash way forward as I have shared loving and deeply meaningful relationships with a series of feline companions in this life who each, so it has happened, have had yellow/ gold eyes: Chela (13 yrs.), Ariel (20 yrs.), and currently Emily (now 14).

I had these dreams while beautiful Ariel was in my life: a female tortoise-shell calico.  The story about how she and I found each other is as significant as my archaic Yellow Eyes dreams. It also started from a dream story:

I am (in this dream) leaving a castle grounds where I have been visiting my former philosophy professor mentor who had recently passed away. It was this professor, Dr. Antoinette Paterson from Buffalo, who had introduced me to my beloved cat Chela over 13 years prior.  As I go to close the large, wrought iron gate of the castle grounds on my way out, I look down and see this beautiful female cat walking toward me. She is black with orange splotches and white on her paws and on a blaze under her chin. We recognize each other very familiarly and I kneel down to greet her as she comes over and jumps into my arms.

After waking from this castle dream, I went to campus where I was then in graduate school.  The first person I saw on campus that day was my then Anthropology professor-mentor PhD advisor, Betsy.  The first words out of my advisor’s mouth to me that morning:

Betsy: “Linda, can you take a kitten?”

My answer: “Only if she is black and white with orange splotches!”

Betsy: “One of them is!”

I went over to my advisor’s home and of all the litter of kittens she had acquired, one was timidly hiding out in a dresser bureau drawer. When we looked at each other I knew right away, this was Ariel.  The orange tiger striping on her forelegs and crown had similar patterns to my earlier Chela who had passed away about six months before. And her eyes: yes, they were golden.

images (except my Emily) are from pixabay.com

During cold weather (or relatively cold, in Arizona) or when I would need to leave Ariel on her own for several hours, I would prop up a firm pillow on my bed under a blanket so Ariel could cuddle up either by my side or on her own in this Cave for warmth and shelter.  After my archaic homo sapiens dream, I would sometimes address Ariel while she was in this Cave as Yellow Eyes.

So what MyStory messages do I take away from these dreams and experiences with my beloved cat Friends? I believe in reincarnation and that animals are Soul, too.  Pet reincarnation, for me, is quite real. I feel deeply blessed and ever grateful.

A MyStory Life Theme: Pet Tales

Preface: In my previous post I introduced the topic of a new book I am working on, called MyStory (or, YourStory/ Mystory or simply Your MyStory, TBD). Each chapter explores Life Theme events that have punctuated a person’s life. I am trying on several of those themes from my own MyStory here in the blog while developing the manuscript. Hope you enjoy! – LKW


If you value in a relationship unconditional love, loyalty, mutual commitment, trust, loving companionship and lifelong cohabitation, live with a pet soul companion, or two or more.  This I have learned from a lifetime of living with my pet Friends.  Human relationships may come and go—such is the sometimes-capricious nature of free will and the obligations each individual has to their own goals and interests which may shift over time—but bringing a pet home is a commitment with benefits and responsibilities for a lifetime of loving companionship and adventure.

I have benefitted from so many spectacular ‘pet’ relationships that it is not possible to select just one or two to focus on as I reflect on the value and lessons from these connections. Recently I have outlined an entire book that I would like to write to cover this theme of my other-than-human animal Soul companions.

But I would do well to start here and now to spotlight my current pet family of Sophie (a ‘golden’ Shorkie/ Shitzu-Yorkie) and Emily (my orange-white golden-eyed female tabby).

Photo by Anne Lyon

Sophie has accompanied me on seven cross country trips between Colorado Springs and upper New York state, the last of which in 2018 moved us—with Emily too—Back East after over forty years, for me, Out West.  Since then, Sophie and Emily have moved with me two more times until we have arrived in our current rental house in my original hometown village in Western New York.

I am grateful every day, every moment, to Sophie and Emily for their constant love and companionship, especially through moves to locations where I have had few if any immediate local human connections.  As a singleton, retired but still working remotely person living “alone,” I have never actually been or felt alone due to our loving family.

When Sophie was 7 (now 12), she was diagnosed as diabetic. On that day, on hearing the somber news, I actually fainted in the vet’s office and ended up at a hospital, having collapsed ostensibly from dehydration but really from the shock of awareness of my dear friend Sophie’s dire need for special care to save her quality of life. But over time, Sophie’s health condition has proven to be a gift or at least a mixed blessing. We had a terrific vet in Colorado and good friends who helped me research and develop a homemade diet and care plan that, after plenty of trial and error and readjusting after each of our Big Moves, works! (Sophie’s diet, which I have blogged about, will be a chapter in my book!). I cook all of Sophie’s meals from scratch, including a litany of supplements and eye care treatments, and managing her diet along with our daily walks and regularity of routine have helped me improve and manage my own health conditions, plus our unconditional interdependence and love has no parallel.  Right this weekend Sophie is recovering from stitches to her eyelid because of my mistake in trying to trim some hair over her eye (know better!) that nicked her eyelid.  Not fun for either of us, but as with other incidents in our times together, we will get through this with deep love and reciprocity.

Photo by Pamela Flynn

Emily, too, is such a special, loving, quiet, healing cat friend. Initially she and her brother Arthur were feral.  Rescued by a good friend in New Mexico who already had 10 pets, one frigid New Years weekend, my friend Madeline lured them from the subzero desert night where coyotes and loose dogs roamed, onto her enclosed porch, with warm milk and an electric blanket they could sleep on. The next day I drove with them back to Colorado Springs.  Arthur, who was his more petite sister’s guardian angel on earth, survived here only 5 years. He developed a blood clot after dental surgery that took him from us. Gradually Emily has grown into her own mature (14 now) loving self, a constant source of daily cuddles and purr mantras and a regular visitor to Zoom sessions especially with my spiritual community  in New York since Covid-19.

Images (other than photos above) are from Pixabay.com

Animals Are Soul, Too (by Harold Klemp) is the title of a book I enjoy.  Sophie and Emily teach me about cross-species spiritual companionship every day and in many ways.  Truly I cannot imagine having made the recent moves I have needed to make without my Sophie and Emily family. I am many times blessed and grateful. Many other pet friend Souls have come before (and earlier with) them in my life, each with their own amazing tales of love and companionship. But my current family unit of Sophie-Em-and me has brought, on the whole, great joy and comfort to our lives.  Home is where the Heart is, and together we have forged our own way Home.

Turning a New Leaf: Discover YourStory

One of the people with whom I piloted the Life Mapping tools provided in Your Life Path: Life Mapping Tools to Help You Follow Your Heart, and Live Your Dream, Now! (Skyhorse, 2018) was a brilliant young man who gave himself the fictional name Thomas, as he was about to embark on his graduate studies in Philosophy and Anthropology.  To begin the life mapping process I ask people to list and describe significant shaping events from their life and then to sort those events into types of situations or events as their Life Themes.  Important to the self-discovery goal of this life mapping process is that people are to identify and name these Life Themes themselves.

Thomas named one of his recurring Life Themes as Revealing Myself to Myself. These were critical breakthrough moments of awareness for Thomas when he could finally understand a valuable life lesson. Overall, I have found that the simple process by which “life mappers” are able to identify and recognize the significance of their own recurring Life Themes is always self-revelatory, as it exposes meaningful threads by which a person has woven their own mythic Life Story.

So my next major book project, as a third installment in the self-discovery based Life Paths series (Your Life Path 2018; Better Endings 2022), I am calling Your MyStory; or alternately, YourStory or just MyStory (n.b., blogging confers copyright to the title). After guiding the reader through a few simple steps to identify and name their own Life Themes, I will invite the reader to journal memoirs around these key themes that have punctuated their lives, from past to present to future.

Everyone has certain stories about episodes from their life that they find themselves telling and retelling, over and over again.  We embellish these ‘signature’ tales over time, refining their message to impart basic principles we have gleaned from our experience that we may wish to share with others.

As I have presented earlier, I regard the human species as Homo Narrativus. We are, at heart, Storytellers. We live our lives in episodic moments and reflect on our life experiences in mythic terms. 
So, these stories that we tell and retell build a narrative corpus of interconnected tales. 

images are from pixabay.com

For this next year or so I will be introducing and inviting you to journal your own memoirs about a series of common Life Themes. I will also share a process by which you can discover your own versions of these themes and/or discover unique ones. Each, in fact, you will find to be uniquely yours in how YOU have framed the theme and how you assign meaning to your own Life Story episodes.

YourStory reveals your MyStory, see?

Next time then, I will begin with a Theme very near and dear to my heart: Pet Tales.  Reflecting on this theme I realize I could (and might just) write an entire book around this one theme. I have been an animal lover and Soul pet companion all this life, and I have learned many life lessons about unconditional love from my other-than-human animal Friends. 

Thanks for your patience, and for reading!

Discover your Through Line

Path, Rural, Nature, Road, Countryside

We have been exploring Life Story narratives. We each have one; it is the dynamic, ever emerging story of your life! Life stories are as rich and full of meaning and drama as the most daring adventure tale or the most profound mythic Quest.

You are the author, editor, and the key protagonist, along with your significant relations, of your own epic tale. This week let’s add an authorial tip: find your Through Line. A through line is a simple statement that concisely encapsulates what your entire book or story is about.  When editing a story, keeping your story’s through line in mind can guide you to remove extraneous material from your text. The rule of thumb is: if a passage does not advance the plot and reflect the through line, leave it out.  This brings a more refined and compelling focus to your story, keeping it true to the storyline or plot structure you are meaning to convey.

What might a through line look like for a life story narrative; particularly, yours?  To discover the through line of any story, you can ask, ‘What is this story all about, in a nutshell?’ A through line should be concise, no longer than a single clause or sentence. 

Arrangement, Butterfly, Aesthetics

For example, consider the movie Castaway (one of my favorite ‘transformational story’ tales). What is it all about, in a nutshell?  I would say (and it could have a different meaning for you): “A man has a life altering experience from being stranded on a remote island as a ‘castaway’ for five years.” This through line makes sense of the entire Castaway story: what Chuck Noland’s life is like before the plane crash that strands him on a remote island; how his life experiences on the island challenge him and lead him to develop a capacity to be a resilient survivor who values life at all costs; and how his life has been altered by his castaway experience once he returns to ‘civilized’ life.   This storyline also carries a universal message when you consider how ultimately we are each alone with our own deepest challenges.

Message, Bottle, Cork, Letter, Scroll, Castaway, Rescue

So, what has your Life Story been about (up to now, at least), in a nutshell? You might revisit last week’s blog asking you to give a Title to your Life Story, and phrase your question around that title, or simply encapsulate how you think about your Life Story to date from your present perspective. You might also want to give yourself a heroic name to cast your through line in a third person format; this can help to bring you to a level of oversight or objective insight about your life AS story.

For example, the title I gave to my life story last week was A Merry (Carousel) Ride. My through line could be:  Jeannne (cf. Joan of Arc) learns to ride the Ups and Downs of life, always seeking to find Balance and Meaning, linking Heaven and Earth as a spiritual adventure.

Horse, Carousel, Carousel Horse, Fair
images are from pixabay.com

That is my quest, in a nutshell. How about YOU? You may use the Better Endings Story Seed prompt in the right panel to contemplate and/or journal about your own Life Story narrative. I welcome your feedback and comments on your own engagement with this tool.

A Better Ending for Your Life Story? Make It Epic!

Chalkboard, Story, Blogging, Believe, Blackboard, Chalk

How might you express the plot structure so far of your Life Story? Could you give it a title? What would that be? Based on where you have been, who you are now, and the direction your Life Story appears to be taking, give a title to your overall Life Story based on your present point of view.

It may help to use a Life Metaphor as a title. For example, one of my favorite life metaphors is Life is a Carousel Ride (hence the blog banner). So I could call my life story A Merry Ride. I like that!

Is your Life Story more like a Roller Coaster, a Grand Quest, or maybe an Open Path? Using a life metaphor or some other descriptive phrase, give a title to your Life Story to date.

Vintage, Book Illustration, Literature, Shakespeare

Now then, what about adding a Better Ending? Make it epic! When you look ahead at the story board of your Life Story, what would you like to write in to express how you will follow your bliss, attain fulfillment of your life mission or purpose, and Live Your Dream? Remember, you are the author, editor and the key protagonist of your own epic tale!

Give a title then to a later (though not necessarily the final) Life Chapter for your personal life journey quest. As an example, mine might be: “Making a Difference.” (This is because for much of my life I have been asking of my own accomplishments, “What difference does it make?”)

Cloud, Sky, Heart, Blue, Love

Reviewing or telling your story AS a Life Story narrative can help you to recognize where you are at now in relation to where you are intending to arrive as you unravel the many colored threads of your amazing life experience. As Martha Graham is famous for having reminded us all (I used to have this pinned on my office bulletin board):

“There is a vitality, a life force, an energy, a quickening that is translated through you into action, and because there is only one of you in all time, this expression is unique. And if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and will be lost.”

Hot Air Balloons, Adventure, Balloons
images are from pixabay.com

So, Make it Epic! It is YOUR life to live, your story to tell!

Hook Your Wagon to a Star

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When I was in graduate school in Buffalo, I had a little yellow Puch moped for transportation. When I would ride as needed in heavy traffic, I used to remember a ine from Bertolt Brecht’s Mother Courage:

Hook your wagon

to a Star.

“Hook your moped to a Mack Truck!” I would substitute mentally, hugging the wake of a large truck for security on the road against faster moving cars whose drivers often would disregard my little moped.

There was a principle involved. ‘Hooking my moped to a truck’ meant, to me, living in tandem with Spirit. Active choice plus faith in helping to bring about the most positive potentials of any life situation have carried me along on this journey, so far,  through relationships with people, my animal friends, and places I could not have foreseen and yet now, I will never forsake or forget.

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So, again, having recently set out on an unknown highway to encounter places and people unknown, I must trust in Spirit, surrender my fears, be grateful for what IS, and enjoy the adventure.

In the process I am relearning some basic lessons: acceptance of change, gratitude for what is permanent, willingness to forge ahead, one small footstep at a time.

I am also unlearning now. This new process has only begun, yet I am already unlearning what had only seemed most solid; peering ahead to where I had assumed was No-thing. Yet here it is, I am, Life is, even Love is, yet not at all as I had imagined it might be. Spirit leads me onward–not necessarily forward as I would have expected, yet onward inexorably nevertheless.

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images are from pixabay.com

I do not know what lies ahead; I must simply release what was before yet carry forth, not memories so much as a dim awareness of the certainty of love itself, of life itself as Spirit. New life birthing yet of the same indelible fabric that weaves through us all.

Thank you to all who have shared with me to any extent this lifetime of human (and broader!) experience. Thank You with love for all you Are!

Your Life As History

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Monday I felt I just had to go out to find the film Julie & Julia, as it is an appropriate parallel story for an enterprising author and for any blogger, of course. I streamed the movie and found the most relevant element for me to absorb was about the long process Julia Child undertook to transform American sensibilities in relation to more than just French cooking.  She was introducing a style, literally making palatable an attitude as well as a culinary revolution akin to the sexual liberation movement that developed in tandem with this European flair.

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What is a writer or an artist if not an innovator and somewhat of a provocateur? Julia’s persistence over many years of developing her talents and composing her book, Mastering the Art of French Cooking (1961), served her well (not a pun! well, maybe so).  She merged American gastronomic desires for nouveaux choses with traditional rural French cuisine in a manner that freed not only the taste buds but as well the fertile imagination of Americans after WWII had already begun to open up for us new territories of European philosophical thought and literature/ culture. Spiritually I must infer this was no accident. Julia Child was the right person for the task she undertook with her grace and fortitude plus her special brand of loving, even lovably awkward humor.

Bridge with Buildings and Fireworks

The parallel mythic aspects of Julie and Julia in relation to my own current life activity are obvious to me but that’s personal; not worth expounding here. Her perseverance and persistence despite the opposition she first encountered to a new approach that blended sensibilities rather than merely presenting one style in a didactic way offers lessons for many of us.

It was telling to see how Nora Ephron (screenwriter) drew parallel mythic connections in her screenplay between Julie Powell and Julia Child’s lives quite explicitly, fusing two historical epochs of an American in Paris from 1944-1961 with New York City in 2002, just after the 2001 Twin Towers disaster.

Our own story can merge with history itself in fundamentally useful ways. Julie Powell’s blog about cooking all of the recipes from Julia Child’s book in a year sparked the imagination of readers ready for a fresh inspiration to go beyond routine with a license to revitalize their passions. Powell actually worked for an agency helping victims from the Twin Towers attack to recover their own lives, so it is fascinating how she was led to intersect her own life and imagination with the life and times of Julia Child. Are there any accidents? I believe in co-incidence instead.

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So, where does your Life Story stand positioned in the ongoing flow of human history? I know, that’s a big question. But of course our personal life history narratives are and must be understood at some level as products of History itself.

But how to unpack this? Just a brief musing (I invite you to write your own reflections…):

Born in 1954, I experienced the 1960’s while in highschool in Lewiston, New York. I started a Human Relations Club there to honor and punctuate the death of Martin Luther King, Jr. within a mainly “Lilywhite” community. This along with a 10th grade class by one of my best early mentors (my English teacher, Mr. Scelsa)–in which for half the year we studied the Black literary Renaissance–led me to develop a sensitivity to issues of diversity in all forms. This was at a time when openness to new ideas was beginning to flourish. The Beatles, Simon and Garfunkle, and my next and lifelong mentor (who knows whom he or she is…) led me to want to be a writer, to make a contribution, to “make a difference” really in any way I might. So that led to 21 years of college, studying literature/philosophy,linguistics and cultural anthropology and then moving on to university teaching. These multidisciplinary threads and historical influences have coalesced to an interest in the interplay between cultural psychology and personal cognition, with the notion that we can free ourselves from self-limiting thoughts and behaviors, if we so choose.

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So, what about you? How does your Life Story intersect with History? What are the consequences?

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I welcome your insights and stories!

The Chapters of Your Life Story

 

Kaleidoscopic Butterflies

Summarizing what we have explored so far with this sequence of weekly Life Mapping topics and tools, if you have been participating with the weekly tools you have so far reviewed your Origin Story, engaged in a Vision Quest, and you have had opportunities to identify and reflect about your current Life Metaphor, your Shaping Events, yourTurning Points, and your recurring Life Themes.  All of the insights you have gained from these reflections have laid the grounds for you to discover, this week, the distinct Life Chapters of your Life Story, to Now.

Chapter one

Our lives are of the same stuff that Myths are made of or, as I prefer to say, Myths are made up from the stuff of our lives. That means that you are the central protagonist of your own “life narrative”; each of us is unfolding according to our own dramatic Life Story.

To identify the contours of your Life Chapters, I invite you to first simply list very brief descriptions of your Turning Points chronologically across a page (be sure to use a big enough page to represent these in one visible sequence). Place below each Turning Point representation the age you were when each of these Turning Point events occurred. Creatively, you could use computer clip-art or images cut out from a magazine to represent your Turning Points sequentially across a page, then place your Age at that event below or beside each image.

Next, simply use a ruler or a sheet of paper to draw vertical, solid or dashed lines right beside or through each Turning Point, from near the top of your page to the bottom.

So far, then, your mapping of Turning Points might look something like this:

Life chaps

Now then, I invite you to reflect upon the periods of your life experience that have occurred BETWEEN each of your major Turning Points. From Birth to your first Turning Point experience, for example, what was your life about? Think of yourself as the Author–as you are!–and of this series of events as your Storyline. Be creative and assign CHAPTER TITLES to each of these time frames occurring BETWEEN your Turning Points. Then you can simply create a new mapping that keeps the age demarcations shown on your Turning Points map, but this time place the LIFE CHAPTER titles between each of the Turning Point boundary lines.

So now, your mapping of Life Chapters might look something like this:

LC3

Of course, please be open and flexible to use your own creativity in designing how you might best represent or depict your Life Chapters. Maybe you prefer a pie-chart, or a Spiral, or a pictorial collage of your own design.  This is YOUR composition, so feel free to modify and to elaborate in a way that is meaningful to you!

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(To catch up on previous tools, please see the right panel invitation for any of the past 7 weeks, or click on dates for the past 7 weeks on the calendar below; or you may enter a topical search cue.)