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After the Odyssey Presentation (Tapestry of Faith)

In "," a Tapestry of Faith program

Congratulations! You have presented your life story. You have told that life to a room full of people who support you and care about you. You have listened deeply to their questions and answered them thoughtfully and truthfully, with love and compassion. What a remarkable achievement!

After you have presented your Odyssey, put your manuscript aside and wait a bit. After a few days, review your manuscript. If your presentation was recorded, watch or listen to the recording. Looking back, what do you remember best about the experience of presenting your Odyssey? Do you perceive it differently, now that a few days have gone by? Take some quiet time to reflect.

In your journal, complete these sentences:

  • I learned that...
  • I was surprised that...
  • I was moved when...
  • I wish I had...

You may have completed the same sentences right after presenting your Odyssey. If so, compare your thoughts now, a few days later, with what you were thinking in that moment.

Put both your manuscript and your sentence completions aside and wait a few more days. If it helps you reflect, copy your sentence completions on a piece of paper and post them in your writing space or on your mirror—someplace where you can see and review them now and again.

What I Do Not Wish to Leave Undone

When you decided to tell your story, you planted a seed. Through your research, writing, and telling, the tree has grown and prospered. The next step is to pick the fruit it bears. Look again at what you have learned, at what surprised and moved you, and at what you wish you had done. It is time to consider those things you do not want to leave undone.

Read your Odyssey again. Listen to or view the recording, if one was made. Do this by yourself, at a quiet time with no distractions. As you listen, watch, or read, make notes. Date a new page in your journal and head it "What I Do Not Wish To Leave Undone." Your list can be as long as you wish. Compare your list to the earlier list you made during the retreat weekend. Have you changed your mind about any items? Which do you want to remove, and why? What would you like to add, and why?

Prioritize your list. Ask yourself:

  • In what order do I wish to do these things?
  • Which are the most important to me? To others?
  • Which are the most urgent?
  • Which will be the most fun?
  • Do any of the things on this list have time-related importance?
  • Do any of the things on this list need to happen before others can?
  • Do any of them involve another person or other people?
  • Which do I need or wish to do alone?
  • How will I know when I have accomplished or completed each task? What criteria will I use?

In the course of making these lists you may hit on an item that could be life-changing. Pay attention to your feelings as you write and prioritize.

Once you have written and prioritized your list, put it in a safe place for a week or two. Then take it out, review it, and make a new list of the three most important things you do not wish to leave undone, knowing you can always go back to the rest of your list later. On a new, empty, beautiful piece of paper, carefully write your top three priorities. Post this list in a central place in your home.

Structuring an Action Plan

When you are ready, take the list of your top three priorities off the wall and look at it carefully. Do you want to make any changes? Make a brief plan of your intended actions, a chart naming each item and listing the dates, time, places, specifics necessary to complete that action. Your chart should list:

  • What the action itself is—the item from your list that you do not wish to leave undone.
  • With whom names the person or people you need to contact to complete the item.
  • How lists any intermediate steps, such as making phone calls, acquiring materials, or doing research in order to accomplish your action.
  • When names the date or time you intend to do something, including any intermediate steps.
  • Where describes the place your action or any intermediate steps will take place.
  • Bring describes what you want to remember to bring along: a photograph, an old letter, a gift you may have been given or one you wish to give, a picnic—whatever you need and feel is appropriate.

If your priority list includes difficult or challenging conversations, or contacting people you have not seen in some time, think about what you will say to them before you call. Be candid about why you want to meet and what your hopes are for the outcome. Surprises are really not fair to other people! If the topic is a difficult one, it can be helpful to meet in a neutral setting, such as a coffee shop, where it is easier to be mindful of one's tone of voice and either of you can easily leave if you need to. If the meeting is likely to be a joyful reunion, choose your home or theirs, or perhaps a lovely spot you would both enjoy.

When you have accomplished one of your priorities, give yourself a gold star—really!—or another treat, such as dinner out with someone you love to tell them what happened and how you feel about what you have done. You may want to call a friend from your High Hill group and talk to them.

When a couple of months have passed, look again at your list. Ask yourself:

  • What have I accomplished on my list?
  • If I have accomplished some things, how does it feel?
  • What insights or knowledge did they bring me?
  • What, if anything, have I not yet completed?
  • Do I want to eliminate or further postpone anything? Why?
  • Do I want to add anything?

You may have discovered your list has items you do not, in fact, want to approach. Perhaps there is something you wish to add to your list. Either way, it's fine! If you are ambivalent about something, try discussing it with a member of your High Hill group or a friend who knows you well. Develop a plan for accomplishing any remaining or new items.

An Imaginative Postlude

Important accomplishments such as writing your life do not just end! T.S. Eliot wrote, "In every end, there is a beginning." As time passes, you may find it useful, or fun, or interesting, to reflect on or consider one or more of the following:

  • Take a quiet couple of hours for yourself and look through your family photo albums, boxes of photos, or digital files which you have collected through the years. If your Odyssey were to be published as a book, which photos would best serve as illustrations? Do you want to make copies of any pictures and add them to your manuscript?
  • If your manuscript were to become a book, what would your book look like? Would it have a photograph on the jacket? Which one? What would it say on the jacket flap? Who, of the people you know, would write endorsements for the back cover? Who, of people you do not know, would you like to have write endorsements?
  • If your Odyssey were to be made into a film, who would star in it? Cast your film and give it a title! Who would you want to direct it?
  • Would your song remain the same? Would you have it play over the titles in the movie of your life? Who would sing it, or would you use the original recording? If you imagine using a new, different song, what is it?

After a couple of months or longer, reread your Odyssey. Talk about your retrospective thoughts with a member of your High Hill group, or with a friend or family member. Do the same thing in a year!

Planning a Reunion

It can be fun, supportive, and instructive to have a High Hill group reunion. Perhaps your group will have made plans for a reunion at their last session. If not, you may want to initiate a one after a year has passed. Contact the group, and set a date, time, and place to gather. People may just want to sit, talk, and catch up. Or they may want a more structured experience. Here are some questions to guide your planning:

  • Will the reunion be in a house or a public place? If the reunion is not in a public place, will you consider having a caterer who cleans up? A pot-luck where everyone contributes and pitches in?
  • Will you invite friends and/or families to the reunion? Consider invitation parameters you can apply to everyone in the group, such as one guest per person, or families only.
  • Will you invite your facilitator(s) to the reunion? Will you ask them to facilitate part of the time?
  • What kind of agenda will you have, if any? A one- or two-item agenda can add depth to the time you spend together. For example, you might ask each person to tell about any progress made on their list of things not to be left undone or ask each person if and how they have revised or shared their Odyssey.
  • Will you have a formal opening or closing? Who will plan and lead it?

Be sure and save time to just hang out and talk. A fire in the fireplace, music playing, delicious food and drink, and meeting those amazing people whom you knew hardly at all when you first began, but now know well.

Sharing Your Odyssey Further

You may wish to present your Odyssey to another group, such as your family or friends. Presenting to your High Hill group was great preparation for telling your story to people who have known you for years. Think about the questions you were asked in your High Hill group, and consider whether you wish to make any corrections or additions to your manuscript because of them. Here are some considerations for planning an outside presentation:

  • Who will come? How you will invite them: an email, a written invitation, or a phone call?
  • Will you serve refreshments, and what kind? Consider having a friend or a caterer prepare snacks, or having a desert potluck that is managed by someone else. (You might ask a High Hill member to do this for you, in exchange for doing the for them!) You'll have plenty of preparation to take care of. Letting another person help will ease some of the stress.
  • If you plan to gather in your home, is enough space for everyone to be seated comfortably? If you do not have the space, consider asking a friend or family member to be your host. Your congregation may have a pleasant and spacious room you can use. If you live in a condominium with a meeting room or a neighborhood that has a community center, consider those possibilities. Imagine your gathering as you would most like it to be: the space, the ambiance, the lighting, the flowers, the temperature, and so on, and then go find the right place to have it.
  • If you plan to display photographs or other memorabilia, have the logistics of that well in mind—do not wait until the last minute. Plan to arrive early to set up your display. If you are renting or borrowing a space, make sure it will have the furnishings or equipment you need, such as an extra table, an easel, a bulletin board, or a computer and digital projector. If you want to have displays on the walls or windows, make sure you can do that. If you are going to present in someone else's home, talk over your display needs with them.
  • Many people who do Odysseys develop a "book" of their manuscript to give to family members and a few close friends. If you wish to do this, think about the binding, use of illustrations, special inscriptions to each person, and if you want to wrap each book in a special paper. Decide when you give these books. How will you present them? What will you say?
  • You may wish to have an audio or video recording made of your presentation. If so, plan for that and recruit someone to do the recording.

Closure for Yourself

Celebrate when you accomplish actions from your list of things you do not wish to leave undone. You may wish to invite others to celebrate with you. You might have dinner out. You might go for a walk on the beach or in the woods. You might meet at the local coffee house for a cappuccino. Choose the right place, and the right time, and go for it!

Congratulations, one last time!

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Last updated on Saturday, December 10, 2011.

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