“Forty-three years old, and the war occurred half a lifetime ago, and yet the remembering makes it now. And sometimes remembering will lead to a story, which makes it forever. That’s what stories are for. Stories are for joining the past to the future. Stories are for those late hours in the night when you can’t remember how you got from where you were to where you are.”
Have you read Tim O’Brien’s The Things They Carried? You should. It’s a book of stories that shake your heart around until all of the complacency built up over time tumbles out of it. It’s a book that heeds the “show don’t tell” rule-of-thumb every college English professor lives and dies by — but then it tells a little too (see above quote). So it has the best of both worlds, even while it paints the worst of all worlds: O’Brien revisiting the Vietnam war.
But that’s not really what I wanted to write about today – war, that is. Making stories is what I want to write about. My brother-in-law wrote a blog post recently challenging his readers to come up with one word they hope will define 2014. Well, call me greedy, but I want two. I want “making stories”.
Maybe it’s just the crinkles I can count around my eyes (not wrinkles) or maybe it’s the turn of the year or the sudden transplant to this new city, but my thoughts have taken an anxious turn towards the passing of time. Its racing forward on the macro level frightens me, even while the desperately slow march of the every day is a bore. Could O’Brien’s “making stories” remedy both? If I determine to choose what demands more of me, maybe time will perk up in the present. If I landmark my days, months, or years by experiences that I have initiated (rather than those that have happened to me, like finishing Yale or following the Philosopher to England or…actually that might be all that’s happened these last 4 years…), then time might, in the big scheme, slow.
Or perhaps it won’t. But maybe at the very least its speed won’t be as alarming, because I will have stories I can revisit – things I have accomplished by force of will, challenges I have set and begun to tackle, joys I have savored rather than brushed off without tasting.
Wouldn’t it be great to look back on 2014 and say things like:
“Oh, remember that time that we blew £20 on that terrible musical theatre adaptation of Good Will Hunting? I haven’t laughed so hard in years.”
“What about when we walked down to campus rather than drove and bumped into Kate Middleton and Prince George? Crazy.”
“And then that time you jumped into the ocean with our car keys in your pocket and the car alarm went off for two hours before someone rescued us? On the first day of our honeymoon? Man. Good times.”
Making stories must mean going out more than I stay in. Maybe recording an album – home-made or otherwise. Spending more time with the Phil. telling jokes than I do asking him about his to-do list. Risk asking friends to spend more time with us. Really writing this blog. Finishing the novel. Experiencing creation. Forgetting myself.
I am miserably failing the “show not tell” test today. Sorry Professor Deming. I hope the quotation marks made up for it.
Anyway, there it is, for all 37 of you to hear and hold me to – let 2014 be the year for Making Stories.