Our Days Are Built With Stories

As many of you get ready to embark on Week In The Life™, I want you to think about this statement:

Our days are built with stories. 

Often when I begin documenting my week I'm hyperfocused on writing down the schedule of our day. Stuff like the times we get up, the times we eat, the time I leave the house to take the kids to school and the time I return home to sit at my desk.

I still plan to do that to some extent this year, but as I alluded to in my post earlier this week, I also really want to be conscious and intentional about the micro-stories that make up a day or seven in a row (remember that was a term Aaron first used wwith me when he was talking about what he wanted to remember from our Dave Matthews adventure).

Each of our daily actions is often just the tip of a story pyramid. Those of you who took my Hello Story class are familiar with the concept I focus on in that workshop which is simply this, "tell me more."

Tell me more about the why. Tell me more about the who and the where and the what. Don't just tell me you had a cup of coffee, tell me what you had in it or what you left out. Give me more details that will paint a clearer picture of the life you are living right now.

And then give a little more.

Consider these stories:

The story of why you wake up to an alarm on your iphone at 5:45am each morning. The story of why you wake up at different times each day, rarely following a set routine. The story of how your child runs into your bedroom regularly (at least for the last week) in the middle of the night for comfort from the fierce monsters in the dark.

The story of how your 12 year old now makes his own breakfast each morning but you still pour cereal (dry with no milk most days) for your 5 year old.

The story of why you drive each kid separatlely to school in the morning and how you treasure the time in between drop-offs when you get to select the noise in the car (NPR, please).

The story of why you don't exercise. The story of why you do and how that fits into your day. The story of how you think about it every day but still don't choose to put yourself first.

The story of how you take your coffee and how you hate those little disposable plastc cups in your single-serve coffee maker but how you love a hot cup each and every time.

The story of the moments of longing you feel at random points throughout the day. For something different, for something complete, for something you once had (or think you did).

The story of the moments of gratitude that pull you out of the mental funk - where you literally shake your head as a means of erasing the mental spiral.

The story of how you walk into your office building each day and are, like clockwork, greeted by the same older gentlemen who looks you in the eye and smiles or who barely acknowledges your existence.

The story of why you often skip lunch or why you eat the same thing at the same time each and every day.

The story of the things on your desk. Bills to be paid. Invoices to be filed. Hand-drawn ideas to be added to the bigger list. Lists piled on other lists, some things crossed off with a thick black pen, others with a thin red marker, but many simply waiting.

The story of your commute. In the car. On the bus. On the train. Is it long or short or beautiful or do you wish it away for some other life?

The story of the things you are working on - work stuff, life stuff. What's rattling around in your brain during these seven days in your life? What is consuming you? What do you wish you were consumed with?

The story of how you walked past a family in the grocery store, smiled at the Mom as she wrangled a toddler into the cart, and wondered what their lives were like.

The story of what you are reading. The story of what you are watching. The story of how you have so very little time for either. The story of how Candy Crush is your saving grace after a long day of stress and arguments and discomfort.

The story of waiting for your oldest child in the parking lot of the middle school and saying a silent prayer for a report of a good day, a happy smile, a sparkle in his eyes, a conversation - however brief or rote.

The story of homework, or the lack of, and a comparison to your experience growing up.

The story of how multiple times throughout the day you quickly contemplate dinner options but never settle on anything specific until the kids are past the point of needing to be fed and how you decide that popcorn, cheddar chesse and apples is always a very good idea.

The story of how your daughter recounts her kindergarten day in all it's glory and how the cast of characters seems to multiply exponentially as each day goes by.

The story of the hilarious amounts of junk mail you receive and how it's a sign of the times we live in.

The story of how your cat plops down on the hardwood floor after a long day adventuring around the neighborhood and meows until you rub his belly.

The story of why you chose one path instead of another on your evening walk becuase you know one includes more flowers.

The story of what's in your refridgerator and how you feel about it. Do you care a lot about what you eat or a little? Do you plan all your meals in advance or fly by from moment to moment? Is there very litttle in there because you regularly eat out? What's your favorite snack to reach for right now and why. Tell me more.

The story of your lonliness.

The story of your exuberant joy.

The story of your current fears and how on particularly bad days you imagine you are the only person on the planet with these fears and on particularly good days you know they ebb and flow and you'll work through them just like most other people do.

The story of the movie of the day, carefully selected via a negoation betweeen the 5 year old and the 12 year old.

The story of how you drink decaf tea with a touch of milk at the kitchen table after the rest of the family has gone to bed and how you give thanks for the real life you lived today.

What stories will you tell next week? 

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93 thoughts

  1. Esk74 says…
    10/23/2014

    Wow.
    Never even considered that WitL might be a good idea for me... And settled for a compromis: taking photos everyday at the same time (maybe even in the same room), to show how little, or how much, those seven days change for our family...
    But this... reading the above... shows me that it could be so much more.
    Wow.
    Need a little time to process this.
    Thank you so much for this input.
    Wow.

    Reply 0 Replies
  2. Kristyjammo says…
    10/23/2014

    I am so looking forward to next week. It's ironic, because since 2012 I have had feelings of resentment guilt sadness longing pain grief and an emptiness that just isn't ignored at this time of year. 5 ivf cycles into our journey of infertility and I was pregnant in our second trimester, so excited hopeful thrilled and for me terrified something would go wrong. My husband said I was crazy. Something had gone wrong and our little baby boy was terminally ill he passed away in utero two weeks after the diagnosis. We are now 9 cycles down 3 years of treatment and no further along 6 losses in total heavy hearts hopeful minds but, I something to look forward to next week a week that normally rendered me immobilised with sadness.
    My kit arrived to day in Australia and I was jumping around the house music cranking and spent hours on setting up making notes preparing my space my mind my heart to document the week. We have an extraordinary week ahead (we don't celebrate haloween) but have an amazing fishing tournament we are participating in with our boat. No doubt the week will have highs and lows but that is the journey and I can't wait to document our week.

    Reply 1 Reply
    1. mtercha says…
      10/23/2014

      I'm so very sorry for your losses. Just wanted to say enjoy your special week, and the joy of the documentation. Michelle t

  3. Lize says…
    10/23/2014

    I just realized that there's never a bad time to do week in the life. I thought this date wouldn't work for me. My husband just left (two days ago) to work on a project in Mozambique for a year (we'll see him every two months), and I thought I wouldn't want to document this time. But I've been writing him e-mails and it really changed my perspective on journaling. I want to document our everyday so as to give him a sense of home. I love this idea of micro stories and the stories behind the stories. Brilliant post, Ali.

    Reply 2 Replies
    1. amytschubert says…
      10/23/2014

      Yes! I love this. How you deal with being apart is SUCH a big part of your story!

    2. Divinemsq says…
      10/23/2014

      I think this is a great time to do WITL! What a great way to document this time in your life & in the life of your marriage & family!

  4. sunnychick says…
    10/23/2014

    Um wow Ali, just wow. Now I'm thinking....

    Reply 0 Replies
  5. jenniferd says…
    10/23/2014

    Such a great post. Thank you for sharing so much of yourself with us. Thank you for encouraging us to not ignore what is real. :)

    Reply 0 Replies
  6. picki56 says…
    10/23/2014

    I am taking this on for the first time ever and I'm so nervous! I feel like Monday through Thursday is so overwhelming in my life right now that it will be tough to document or remember to document things. But it's because my life is so full right now that I want to document it.
    This post has really given me a lot to think about as I get ready. Which, btw I haven't even begun to do yet!

    Reply 0 Replies
  7. hgauvin says…
    10/23/2014

    Wow! You definitely have me thinking now. I'm just finishing Me The Abridged Version with Cathy and am starting your class as well as 30 Days of Thankful and I was thinking it was going to be too much all at once. But you know what? I think I work better under pressure. After this post, I can't imagine not taking this class.

    Reply 1 Reply
    1. AliEdwards says…
      10/23/2014

      Hi :). I just want to clarify that Week In The Life is not a class. I'll be sharing my words and photos and my process here on the blog as I usually do, but there is no specific class with instruction.

  8. mtercha says…
    10/23/2014

    Thank you so much for your inspiring words. You can't begin to know how much this project means to me. Michelle t

    Reply 0 Replies
  9. sarahboirin says…
    10/23/2014

    thanks for sharing Ali, you are a powerful writer.x

    Reply 0 Replies
  10. roos1111 says…
    10/23/2014

    Hi Ali,
    Thanks for this post. This just week I was thinking that maybe next year I won’t do Project Life, but a Project Story instead.

    I have done several years of Project Life now, some are finished, some not and one is in the making. And even though I realize that the daily documentation from now will turn into a part of our story in the future, I would like to focus more on the stories that are not told yet like memories from the past, or the deeper meaning or story behind my life now. So, I am thinking about creating ‘story cards’ where I can put in a photo, add a story and put that in digital page protectors.

    I realized that I have focused so much on documenting daily life the last few years, but that I miss more of the story behind it, just as you wrote.

    I wish that there was just some kind of community, or Facebook group, where you could read more about the stories from other people. Just to get inspired. Something like 'Dear Photograph'but more focused on stories, even without photos.

    Reply 6 Replies
    1. jiles says…
      10/23/2014

      this is a really neat idea!

    2. Esk74 says…
      10/23/2014

      Funny that you wrote this here. Because that is exactly what I've been struggling with for the past year... In 2012 and 2013 I did weekly Project Life, but after two years, I felt like the stories were missing. So this year I did 'Project Life by theme', hoping that this would make a more storyheavy Project Life. But it doesn't. It doesn't tell enough of the story. It even tells less of the story, because it became more of a highlight-album... (Ofcourse that has everything to do with the way I "build" my album, and what a do and don't write in it, I am aware of that, but somehow I couldn't "build" it any other way... Very frustrating...)
      I need a Project Story too... But until now have absolutely no clue how to make this happen... Ideas are more than welcome!

    3. clspillane says…
      10/23/2014

      Oh my! Project Story?! I love this idea.

    4. chemgirl says…
      10/23/2014

      I believe that what you are describing is scrapbooking. Scrapbooking before Becky Higgins made it all about pocket pages, buying journal cards and corner rounders. When we were less compelled to keep up with documenting the daily, we were documenting the stories. My sister often says that she thinks that Becky may have ruined scrapbooking, because, now, there are so few real stories out there. I, too, have been considering ditching the PL for more story-based scrapbooking, and following along with Ali as she guides us through a few weeks and months of recording the daily, in the form of WITL and DD. I truly appreciate that Ali is always trying to integrate more "traditional" scrapbook pages in her albums....and wasn't it here that we first started using pocket pages anyway??? ;)

    5. northcarmen says…
      10/23/2014

      Chemgirl, I must respectfully disagree about Becky Higgins "ruining" scrapbooking. Each of us chooses how we document. The year that I did Project Life (2012), I found I was telling more of the "micro stories" and also some of the "big picture" stories than ever before, because I was more intentional about regular documentation of our lives, and because the pressure of creative design wasn't there for me. I would also say that I have seen many layouts (non-pocket page) that have no words at all -- some of them are my own. With Project Life, I didn't fear "ruining" the design with my journaling.... - Carmen.

    6. Pinkpea14 says…
      10/23/2014

      Very interesting points around here. I sure will print Ali ' s post and keep it close during WITL...lots of wonderful inspiration.
      I have taken the stress out of PL by not needing to take a photo every day and having only one page protector with photos and stories. I thought yesterday that I want to do a day in the life at least once a month...we will see.

  11. jenlevin says…
    10/23/2014

    Oh Ali! I so love the way you write. I could read your words all day. More than that though, I love how you invite us to think about and see the special stories of our lives. You are a wonderful teacher. For that I am forever grateful. ~Jen

    Reply 0 Replies
  12. simplypearl says…
    10/23/2014

    seriously ali. this has got to be my favorite post from you, maybe in the history of ever and i've been following your blog a long time.

    thank you for that. this is my 4th year doing WITL. it's my favorite album every year. with 4 kids under the age of 7 (one being a newborn), my life changes year to year, more like month to month. this post has me thinking about the documentation that will be included this year. maybe your kit album should've been bigger so we could include more journaling AND photos??? :)

    from the bottom of my heart, thank you for the inspiration.

    Reply 0 Replies
  13. JayEssJay says…
    10/23/2014

    I think this post just pulled me over to the dark side... I was on the fence about committing to WITL this year. But as I am currently 26 weeks' pregnant, this will be one of my last chances to tell these pre-kid stories. Now... to come up with a plan!

    Reply 1 Reply
    1. jenniferd says…
      10/23/2014

      YES!!! Tell those pre-kid stories. I didn't tell those stories and now I wish I had. Life changes so much, in awesome ways, and it's easy to forget the little stories of the past.

  14. Ekaterine says…
    10/23/2014

    Dear Ali! I don't know. You're just so amazing. It's not just a brilliant post, it's true art. It touched so deeply inside. Made me feel all sorts of feelings. THANK YOU from the bottom of my heart.

    Reply 0 Replies
  15. scrappychick says…
    10/23/2014

    Amazing post! I have done WITL since 2010 (or longer). I love how this gives us a glimpse into our day to day life. After doing a few of these projects, it starts to seem the same. Thank you for the idea of digging deeper. You always find a way to bring out more story in me!

    Reply 0 Replies
  16. jlrude1970 says…
    10/23/2014

    Thanks you, thank you thank you!! I now have a whole new perspective on this project! Gonna do some thinking and jot down ideas to prepare and get my head in the game! So excited!

    Reply 0 Replies
  17. wandergirl says…
    10/23/2014

    This got me thinking :) when you break your day down this way -- yes. Our days are built with SO many stories. Thank you for the inspiration.

    Reply 0 Replies
  18. skiiru says…
    10/23/2014

    Spectacular! I am passionate about this kind of more-telling, too, and your post is the perfect illustration of it. And now I am doubly-excited about WiTL, so THANK YOU. Mission accomplished!

    Reply 0 Replies
  19. amytschubert says…
    10/23/2014

    This is beautiful :) I'm so grateful to my husband for being willing to take photos and record his stories of his day. He has an interesting job and it's a huge part of our life right now.

    I'm not really a kit person, but I grabbed this year's kit and I'm hoping it helps me finish (still haven't done my book for WitL2011)

    Reply 0 Replies
  20. themorningdew1 says…
    10/23/2014

    Ali,
    Wow! This post and the previous one have given us soooo much to think about. It is going to be such an exciting week.
    Also, any chance we can get a digital template in the 3x8 format in the store, pleeeeeaseee? Thank you.

    Reply 0 Replies
  21. himyriam says…
    10/23/2014

    Like all the commenters above, WOW. You give me goosebumps!! I have always loved your blog, but this post tops it all. You truly are the rainbow in my clouds. Thanks for sharing, thanks for pushing the envelope. You rock!

    Reply 0 Replies
  22. hlgray73 says…
    10/23/2014

    Absolutely amazing, and it has convinced me to really move forward and try this again. You are SO GOOD.

    Reply 0 Replies
  23. pam_garrison says…
    10/23/2014

    you're awesome. xo

    Reply 0 Replies
  24. xo_leahnicole says…
    10/23/2014

    Thanks for the encouragement. I have probably participated (to some degree) with WitL every year since you began sharing about it on your blog. Most years, I end up with some photos and my daily sheets. Last year, I actually printed the photos and slipped them into my PL album. Not once have I completed this project, mostly because at some point I began thinking it's just a collection of photos, no big deal.

    Your post today changed my perspective a bit. Although I don't have any children, I still love to go back through old journals and planners (and even some passed notes from middle school) and reflect on the person (child, woman) I was at the time. By changing my perspective on WitL a bit, I think I can come up with a project that I will complete AND enjoy coming back to.

    Thanks!

    Reply 0 Replies
  25. vicki_dalton says…
    10/23/2014

    I'm so glad you think outside the box

    Reply 0 Replies

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