I’ve got a few problems but one that I struggle with is my inability to finish a story that I’ve started. You can ask and my wife will confirm that I don’t have this problem with projects around the house. Our home is a veritable museum to started but never finished projects. But when it comes to a book, short story, movie or comic book, no matter how boring or stupid it is, I have to see how it ends. There have been rare exceptions. There have even been some movies that I was willing to finish watching with my wife, the elusive Donna, but my occasional, insightful comments got me ejected from the viewing room. Never, never ever, make fun of Mr. Darcy.
One area that this problem has resulted in pain and loss of life is in reality television. Television in general is a black hole for me but reality television that pretends to give you glimpse of ongoing real life can be a little troublesome for me. I wrote about “Jon and Kate Plus 8” the other day and I have no doubt I’ll Google those Gosselins until I’ve gone to be where there is no Google. The truth is I don’t really care who wins Survivor but once I’ve seen a season of the show I’m left wondering how all those characters have made out since the show ended. American Idol’s the same. When I’ve become invested I don’t seem to be make a clean break. Their story has become part of my story and at some level I feel the need to see how their part of the story is going.
Facebook has become a nasty part of this problem. Suddenly I’m finding out where some people are in the world, the chapter and page they are on, and the potential could get to be so distracting that all I do is search for old friends. These are often people I haven’t connected with in 25 or more years but the sudden possibility of finding out about their story can drive me to distraction. Oddly I think I’m really interested and finding out what’s gone on with them satisfies some weird itch that I can’t really explain or adequately describe. And mostly, I think, I just want to know they’re o.k. I just want to know that, as stories go, it’s been a good one with an anticipated happy ending.
Old girlfriends, old crushes and old best friends are stories I’d like to get updated on more than others. The girlfriends and crushes have nothing to do with my marriage to the elusive Donna. She gets more beautiful with every passing year and has loved me better than I deserve. She’s shown me so much grace and patience for so many years that I know there’s no one but her with whom I want to share the same paragraph, page, chapter and book forever. But for some reason I have this thing in the back of my head that leaves me hoping that this particular list of characters (and the old girlfriend is a much shorter list than the old crushes) have had really happy endings (not “deaths”, just that way a story or movie will end that says without words, ‘and they all lived happily ever after).
Some, I know, haven’t. Some have. Others I’m just left wondering about. But I’m also left wondering why I can’t just walk away from a story. I hate movies and television shows (but will watch them to the end) that introduce plotlines that are abandoned along the way and leave situations unresolved.
I think story has power. I think we all have or will become conscience of being in a story. It sometimes seems like our own personal story, a book called “Me” with characters who are my supporting cast in this book of me. Once in a while we get this glimpse and come to terms with the reality that we’re all characters in a story that’s unfolding that we have little control over. Briefly we move in and out of each other’s story lines. As the plot develops in your life, complete with twists and conflict, you bump into some other character that passes by like human scenery only to reappear in a scene with me and our interaction sends both of our plot lines off in different directions that no movie critic could have seen coming.
I think story is sacred. I’m amazed when someone starts to read some of themselves to me. I’m awed by the chance they take that I’ll laugh in all the wrong parts and not get the point at all. I’m left speechless by their willingness to whisper to me to secrets off of their page and risk me treating the pearls like they’re merely marbles. My story is enriched by those who’ll allow our sentences to run together, who’ll let me plagiarize occasionally as I try to find my own voice and figure out my way. I’m humbled by friends who will let me steal a page from their book and avoid some crisis of my own.
In the middle of a conversation today I had this moment where it seemed like everything stopped. Someone pressed pause or stuck a bookmark in it (how badly have I abused this metaphor?) and for just a second I became aware and o.k. with the reality that the person I was speaking to, who I love deeply, is headed in a different direction from the story I find myself in. And I was able to feel thankful for a bit that there will always be some chapters in my book that we will always share together. A little piece of me left in their pages, a little of them left in mine. And those parts (to mix metaphors) are like Hemingway’s Paris and every relationship is a moveable feast.