This morning I have been thinking about Neil Reid’s comment about having a story, but not being that story. It’s been helpful today as the events would give anyone the impression that I am incompetent with regard to getting through the days without shattering. More importantly, it would give me that impression.
I forgot a doctor’s appointment. I rushed through the shower and drove a half an hour before I learned it was a telephone appointment. I waited another half an hour in the parking lot for the call before driving home again – still waiting for the call. At home, I return to two open browsers and a total of 13 tabs open, most of them have half-finished comments or orders or form fields. The details of my life are slipping through my fingers. E. says I left the water running in the kitchen sink.
The doctor finally called and says I need better sleep hygiene. I want to burst into tears. And take a nap.
Now, I’m drinking mint tea. Taking deep breaths. Reminding myself that this morning is not who I am. That taking a nap is not an option. That I have to go into work in two hours. And it will be okay.
Sometimes I wonder if this is what grief feels like? When there is a great big hole in your life and everything left is tender – the bloated paleness of vulnerable. What happens when you carve out an entire plot line in your life’s story. I wonder if that’s not actually a characteristic that separates genre fiction from literary fiction. We can move cities, or countries and begin a new chapter. But ending a plot line half-way through is maybe worse than an unhappy ending? All that stuff that came before? Yeah, no. That’s irrelevant now. New theme. New inciting incident. New goals. And it will be no surprise that we’ll repeat this “fresh start” from nothing again.
Real life. There’s no escapism. An honest bumper sticker.
I honestly don’t know if any of this pertains to me. I have never planned beyond my reach, really. And have so often loved being taken by surprise.
The first time in Rome, I sat outside the Sistine Chapel crying. One of my colleagues thought I was having a religious epiphany of some sort. I tried to explain it to him, but he assumed it was a hormonal thing.
Really though, it was probably the first time I was grateful for having gown up in trailers and Good Will clothes much of my childhood: I never even dreamed I would be in Italy, looking at the artworks I’d seen in books. I dreamed of New York City in only the vaguest of ways.
When I was in high school I drove to Lexington along to see Vincent Van Gogh’s sunflowers for real. I was sixteen, I think. And astounded. It was like walking through the looking glass to see them in 3 dimensions. I had a similar experience years later walking under Salvador Dali’s Christ of St. John in London once. It made me dizzy.
On that trip to Rome, I was traveling with a group of wonderfully kind people, who for all their sophistication and appreciation, weren’t experiencing the same kind of joy as I was that day. I guess we all find our joy in different contexts. That is wonderful really, even if we can’t always share it with one another.
Because our stories do matter. They may not define us, but they describe us. They provide the context for our experience of the present.
Maybe they create the beast that “we” ride? I’m thinking of the metaphor of the beast and the rider in Buddhist thinking. The instinctual vs the deliberate. As much as I would like to think that I can intellectually control my responses – my instincts=habits that I’ve developed in my life, I think we all do an awful lot of rationalizing after the fact. Trying to convince ourselves of better motives – of motives of any kind – kind motives. When, really, our beast is making moves before we are done deciding how much cream we should have in our coffee.
So maybe we have the story we know: the one we tell ourselves while we stir our coffee. The one that lets us feel sane.
And maybe we have a story in our cells. A buzzing, collaborative narrative we overhear now and then, and that pushes us towards the unexpected.
would she jump like that
if the lamb knew her story
come the fall – knew her
long, heather evenings purple
everywhere until the end