Two quotes from SHARP: THE WOMEN WHO MADE AN ART OF HAVING AN OPINION BY MICHELLE DEAN reminded me of the way I’ve always told stories, especially when I was dating and socializing with new or nearly new people.
“The stories that enchanted other people were carvings of a kind, taken from horrible experiences and offered up as fun.”
“This was her [Dorothy Parker] gift: to shave complex emotion down to a witticism that hints at bitterness without wearing it on the surface.”
When something is happening, whether good or bad, it is stressful. I firmly believe we are defined by the story we make out of all those events and simple day-to-day living. First, we tell that story to ourselves and then we package up parts of it to tell others.
I tell a couple about the limitations that waiting for heart surgery until I reached the age of three imposed. I tell another about my Raggedy Andy doll who went everywhere with me, including into surgery. (I still have him stored in my cedar chest after 50 years.) My only clear memory is of holding the hand of a white lady dressed in white walking down a white hallway in a white place.
I tell another childhood story of escaping from my crib and running a couple of houses down and across my quiet street to hide under the huge flowering shrubs of a neighbor because they were so pretty and smelled so good. I loved horses and rather than be forced to ride only with an adult, I gave up the ride. I was fine with the horse being led. Another day, I was playing with friends after recently watching Alfred Hitchcock’s THE BIRDS. I heard bird song and threw up my arms to call them and, I didn’t get just a few, I got a whole flock flying by directly over my head. I was that little girl who could befriend and coax any cat or dog into my lap or under my hand. I don’t attend to that talent much now because I’ve lost so many of my animal companions that I no longer bond or allow myself to bond with them as I used to.
As a teenager, I learned to be a lucid dreamer. I could sleep deeply well into the daylight hours. This was easier since I’ve always been more awake after dark. I would pick a scenario and build the scene in my mind’s eye. I’d keep refining and reviewing it and most times I slid right into it as I slid into sleep. Of course, it could get confused and bend in ways I didn’t plan, but I would often “see” that and could actually splice in a rewrite.
In college, I planned my entire 4-year curriculum and made it through my freshman year with good grades. But I learned that I didn’t really like science (wildlife biology) and felt like I’d already completed college because I’d done such detailed planning. So I dropped out and went home to my parents.
Around the same time my sister was planning her wedding, my mom was planning her escape from her marriage and I was planning how to see the world. I accepted the marriage proposal of my first boyfriend and first sexual partner. We were 21 (me) and 20 (him) years old when we were married. We were divorced just over 20 years later. I have a bunch of anecdotes about that too. The most important is that I refuse to see it as wasted time. We both changed, together and separately, and we didn’t fit together. But we were both decent people with shared history, so we had a 90% amicable divorce. And I had a lot of experiences and lived in places that I never would have without the marriage. The only scrap of resentment that remains is this: I should be living in a tripe income household instead of trying to manage on my own. We’d have our salaries and his military retirement/disability. Oh, well.
I reduced my dating history to this (short version):
– the “allergic to my life” guy who didn’t stay the night (I did learn that sex is like riding a bicycle and you don’t forget the basics.)
– the Grateful Dead IT guy who could fit everything he owned into his car and take off whenever he wanted to
– the booty call who invited me to his place for the first time at midnight after canceling several dates following our jacuzzi “date” (This is the only one that I’d undo.)
– the German bass player who worked in IT and slept on my couch for three months after deciding that the sleeping together part wasn’t working (Beneath is adaptability, he was profoundly depressed.)
I am still telling myself stories, but now they are all about retirement and avoiding the thought that living is just killing time between being born and dying.