10/27/2005

Upside Down

The upside(s) of the day include lunch with old friends (ghosts in the flesh. survivors of a great employment tragedy), poetry tonight with Rita Dove, and a bit of conversation time with ODLP.

The downside of the day is I feel like I was up most of last night...which I was, tending my children and nursing a cold. Feeling sleep deprived is but a pale description of the foggy-groggy I got goin' on.

I'm also feelin' narrative...but not in the usual sense. Nope, with the curvature into ghostly spaces, I'm reminded that I've been the subject of stories, actual written ones, and even one that was published as a comic book. In them, I've been an unfaithful lover, a widow still carrying a torch for her first love, a space pilot, a priestess. I've been rescued, shot and killed, guilt-ridden, and sacrifical lamb.

And if I stretch my memory a bit more, I realize that beyond this one writer, I've appeared in several other stories as enchantress, seductress, duchess, tailor, sailor, key character, minor character, and even occasionally villain with no hope of redemption.

Reading oneself in a story, though, has a doubling effect, blurring the perception of how I think the author relates to me and seeing how our relationship has affected/changed the author through the lens of story. Faults become enlarged and graces minimized for the sake of story pace. There's an uneasy sense of being controlled, of having to admit to mistakes, but having to watch the consequences unfold in grotesque, disproportionate ways without benefit of changing or apologizing. I imagine that it was cathartic for some authors to write me in certain ways, just as I imagine it was connective for others, another positive bond between us.

The risks are part and parcel of memoir writing - from the outset author and object know there will be story distortion, but to what effect is anybody's game. In fiction though, there seems to be an extra layer in that 'out' - it's just fiction, after all, why read more into than what's there on the page?

"Your so vain," Carly Simon once wrote/sang, "You probably think this song is about you." And she's right of course, all those stories I appeared in were more about what the author was working out in their own lives than it was about me.

We all take roles in life. A few of us are even conscious enough to recognize the default roles we carry and create new roles never seen before. Each day we're presented with new scenes, old patterns, and a cast of characters dizzyingly layered and colorful. It's easy to forget, perceive "we are the authors of our lives" as just cliche' but it's interesting sometimes to just glance at life with the eye of the storyteller, to see the intersection of stories-as-lives, find the metaphoric roles we play, then look back on ourselves as story object, rich in characterization and motivation.

We are an ever-evolving story, hero and villan both, and a wonderful mishmash of character parts that provide both depth and comic relief.

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