Old Enough For Fairy Tales Again

Old Enough For Fairy Tales Again

Friday, January 29, 2010

We Tell Ourselves

That we write ourselves was the gist of my thesis. I wrote that stories like dreams reveal more of us than we ever guess. What I didn't do was take it to the next level, that we write ourselves, whether we put pen to paper or not. Every day is a "Once upon a time." Every personal history is revisionist. Sometimes the changes are minor, hardly noticeable, debatable as change at all. Sometimes we are completely rewritten. Or, let me rephrase that, we completely rewrite ourselves.

I had the opportunity to watch someone I love rewrite himself. I would say he began before we were done with love, but that is said in hindsight, which is, as you know, always 20/20. We lived far enough apart that there were gaps between visits, and maybe it was the hurt, or the love that was left, that made each visit memorable, distinct, that kept me outside and inside both at the same time. I could look at a calendar of every visit today and tell you exactly what he said, where he was at that time, like the visit he was so lost in his love and the one where he made me the representative of everything he was against. My personal favorite was when he blamed us on George Bush. I wasn't sure that visit whether to laugh or cry. I'm sure I did both. There were times when he rejected writing, one of the things we shared, and insisted words lied (I tried to be clever, telling him words didn't lie, people did, my riff on the NRA party line, but he didn't find it funny and I suppose I didn't either actually. It was a bitter joke, but I was bitter during those days). I listened when he told me he was a Materialist (he isn't not really). I nodded when he claimed more Pagan roots. I commiserated when he considered leaving teaching and encouraged him when he embraced his vocation of writing instructor again. Every few months he would tell himself to me. Every few months I would leave with that tale in my ears, my mind, my heart, considering it truth until I saw him again and learned his new fiction.

I couldn't tell you when it hit me what he was doing. A year at least, maybe longer. In my defense, I was shattered. It took me a while to achieve enough distance and you need distance, liminality, to step outside of a story, yours or anyone elses, to see them for what they is. Right now, thanks to heart attacks out of the blue, I'm so liminal I feel beyond story, which is a story in and of itself. No not the Nietzchean Superman, more than man, but a ghost, hungry maybe, maybe not. I'm not sure yet, not done with this story I'm spinning, not ready to move on yet.

When I was researching for my thesis I did some reading in Narrative Therapy. It made sense to me, the idea we are storied creatures and that we enact those stories over and over. This being a post-modern world, we are not one story, one point of view. And we can deconstruct ourselves, change our stories, easier said than done, even with the help of a therapist. In the end, it was too much to include. We write ourselves seemed enough. Looking back, I think I knew we told ourselves, but I'm not sure I realized that we did it over and over again, that we revised and edited ourselves and came up with new selves, unless of course we are too invested in the old, in being as opposed to becoming, fixed and entrenched.

Fixity doesn't work. I know that. I held on to "I love you" for months, years, and got a hip replacement (can't move forward) and a quadruple bypass for my efforts. Maybe it's best to be malleable, to be able to rewrite ourselves more obviously and intentionally as my friend did, over and over, until at last he gets himself right. I do know that no matter how we play it, Life insists on having her way. It's a collaboration no matter what we think. It's freeing though, to know we're not locked into a particular tale. I wouldn't want to be Sleeping Beauty waiting forever for my Prince to come. I certainly wouldn't want to be the Handless Maid, wringing and wailing, betrayed, lost and then found. Maybe it's best to be that storyteller in the marketplace, moving from one story to the next to the next, never invested in one over the other, telling ourselves and then telling ourselves differently, again and again, never getting it right, not until our end and even then, open for revision, for whatever comes next.

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