A few weeks ago, I was talking to a friend and I said, “A remarkable thing happened to me the other day!” With a loving exasperation in his voice he replied, “Of course it did. Remarkable things are always happening to you.”
“Huh.” I thought. “Is that true? And if it is true, why is it true? And if that is not true, am I causing people to think I’m more exciting than I am?”
I remember when I was a young girl, just WAITING and YEARNING to be in the midst of scintillating adventures, just like my older sister. I mean, around her people said the funniest things with the best timing, and there were remarkable happenstances and meaningful events and symbols. Obviously the world was a more interesting place when you were [two years older than I was]. Then one day, at the edge of the age of innocence, I heard her tell someone else a story about an event that she and I had both been to together. And it sounded so awesome – so much cooler and sophisticated than the standing around doing little and feeling awkward and out of place that I remembered. Then I realized. I was never going to get old enough that my life would be as exciting as hers. The difference was not that she lived in some glamorous world – it was that she was a much, much better storyteller than I am. (Still is, truth be told. All of you should bug her to resurrect her blog writing. Until then we’ll all just have to content ourselves with her book reviews.)
In some ways that’s what an online journal, or blog is. It’s a distillation of the good parts, with an editorial judgement leaving the trivial, mundane and unpleasant on the cutting room floor (unless they’re funny). The blogs that tell the reader a narration of “what happened in my life today” – unless you are Samuel Pepys – are for the most part only of interest to those who already know (and love) the writer. I’ve written one of those too. This kind of blogging is taking a moment (preferably with pictures) or an idea (preferably with pictures) and writing a sort of modern-day essay on the topic. My best blog posts have theses that I develop and conclude. Sometimes there are more than one. This one has two. See if you can find them. But anyway, unless my misfortunes are really funny or thought-provoking, I don’t tell you that I had a lousy commute today, or I’m trying to schedule my laundry a week in advance looking towards my next free night, or that I ran out of patience before bedtime hit tonight. Instead, I spin an entire story – up all by itself for a week – about the 15 minutes we sat on the lawn waiting for the parade of bats and making up stories about the pictures in the clouds. Or I tell you about what it means to me to have finally graduated to “bad guitar player”, who can play “Scarborough Fair” and “They Call the Wind Mariah” on the guitar. (I got taught the F chord today, for those of you following along on Facebook.)
I try to tell you fun stories. (With pictures.) And to tell stories, you must live stories. To write this way about your life is harder (unless you are Emily Dickinson) unless you are out doing stuff, preferably new stuff, often. I have always had a bent towards adventures – big and small. My children feed in to my desire to go out and do things. It’s a long, long day when we’re all home all day. In fact, I’m not sure I remember the last time that happened when no one was contagious. But part of how I experience those adventures is in the role of a narrator – your narrator. I see and adventure, or a journey, or a beautiful moment not only as a participant, but as a recorder. This might seem to cheapen the experience, but for me it actually deepens it. Without the writing down (and being reminded later when some random Google search brings the post back up), and the pictures… the memories become indistinct and no matter how lovely, they fade into the golden wash of these young-child-years. I’ve lost more beautiful moments to that indistinct fog than I care to count.
But I’ve saved from the compost of memory so many others; carefully canning them with words and a sweet jelling of photos. A little pectin and pressure, and I’ll enjoy those memories for years. Yes, they’re idealized. I throw out the bits I don’t want to keep by not writing them down. No, my life is not that perfect/organized/sophisticated/profound. And yes, perhaps my life is a little more adventurous (and a little more photographed) than it would be without the motivation of putting it all down here afterwards.
For mother’s day, my eldest son made me a huge card with a silhouette on one side, and a personal letter from him on the other. I must say that he hit on the parts of being his mom I think I do best: