Sunday, September 28, 2008

Within the Story

"But how can I write about it," she asks me on the phone, "without sounding bitter and cold?"

A dear friend of mine is in a career transition. Like the majority of my 30-year-old compadres, she is in a state of reconfiguring who she is now that she blinked and realized that she is 30. The existential crisis hangs in the air: Where has she been and where is she going? Has the train missed her, and is she willing to jump the train and run to catch the next bus? Whether we like it or not, we are all pondering these questions. Some of us are simply louder and more raucous than others, but we are all there, whether we admit it or not...

She tells me that she is a writer now. Not only is she a writer, but after she writes her first book , she is going to be "A Critically-Acclaimed New York Times Best-Seller" kind of writer..."like Paulo Coelho," she says.

I listen to her and take sips of real mint tea with too much sugar in between the mmm-hmmms I murmur from my end of the phone.

I glance beyond the window pane at my desk and tell myself that the wet leaves outside have turned even more orange and yellow since this morning. I scribble a few of them into the margin of an article I was reading before she called. I write a haiku about fallen leaves and the epidemic of broken-heartedness that seems to be tearing through my dearest friends this season.

(Broken-heartedness. There's 5 syllables, you know...)

I continue to listen. I sip more tea. I inhale her angst and assure her that she is going to be ok.

No just because I love her. But because she is. Going to be ok, that is...

I don't snarkishly or even subtly look for ways to squeeze in the fact that I am certain that Paulo Coelho did not tell his friends that he would one day be a "A New York Times Critically Acclaimed Best Seller" before he even had the idea for his first book. Also because I love her, I fail to introduce the fact that a writer is someone who exists to write, and that calling oneself "a writer" feels like an oxymoron to me. But I don't challenge her dream, because it is hers, and it is every bit as precious as anyone else's dream. Because I love her.

Because I love her, and because what I love most about her is the passion she has for searching for her own truths, even if it means that I have watched her spend the past 12 years stumbling and tumbling in a petulant-yet-honest desire to find her truths amid her excesses. I love her because of her searching and in spite of her searching. I love her.

I love her for this, and for her obstinacy and implacable boldness. This time, where I play the part of the roommate from college who silently revels in overcoming the mountains I have within me, she is the golden haired lead player in the drama who conquers what is only seemingly beyond her material reach, while I look on and drink tea in the scenes where I am summoned to be optimistic, encouraging, intellectual and vaguely erudite. Obviously, it shouldn't matter what motivates us to get to the top of our proverbial mountains. What matters is how we go about doing it. Indeed, this is our story, this is everyone's story. We are wedded to it before we have even encountered our lives. Although I am yet to figure out if we are our story, or if our story makes us who we are...

Because I love her, I assure her that there is a way to write it all down. I tell her that there is a way to do it and to be smart about it. First, I muse that it may be necessary to see the big picture. Second, it might be helpful to realize that there is story in all of it, but the best stories are honest ones, the ones who cry inside us until they are written. And finally, the way "to do" it is to write...just bold, petulant and grammatically incoherent. But just write it all down, let it breathe and let it come out without needing to control its force and unpredictable execution.

But what do I know, really? I only write because I find myself unable to exist if I do not. So maybe writing is just an expression of my own narcissistic longing for external validation, and I am equally obstinate my quest to "matter". Or maybe this is just a story about another story.

Because I love her, I probably won't tell her that I wrote this, simply because this is my side of the story.

It is what it is.



Anonymous said...

It is refreshing to see you writing like this again. Shana tova. Happy New Year, Namaste.

Anonymous said...

Ohhh, what a lovely post. Especially the part about do we write our own stories or do our stories write us. I suppose that's like the fate argument: do we make our own fate (i.e., we write our story) or is our fate already made (i.e., the story of our lives is written).

As for your advice to your friend--write, just write"--you couldn't be more spot on. One of my favorite authors, Annie Dillard, phrases it perfectly (of course): “Anything you do not give freely and abundantly becomes lost to you. You open your safe and find ashes. After Michelangelo died, someone found in his studio a piece of paper on which he had written a note to his apprentice, in the handwriting of his old age: ‘Draw, Antonio, draw, Antonio; draw, and do not waste time.’”

Kate said...

New reader. Looking forward to more.