Hiding behind my book

I probably should have known when I was in elementary school that I had a voracious desire to investigate, learn, and make connections. Maybe it started with my passion for Encyclopedia Brown books. I made it my mission to try to solve the case and learn about any nuances before finishing the book. That has fueled me for many years to come. I love learning new things, finding pieces of information that are missing in a story, and piecing together how each aspect is interconnected with another.

Books would suck me in. I could learn about the drama, excitement, and sometimes boredom of someone else’s life. I could try to guess what I think the author would do, and if they did not, what I would do if I was the author. Was that just a thing I did growing up? Recently I read a brilliant memoir by Julia Sweeney (think “It’s Pat” on Saturday Night Live), called: “It’s Not One Thing, It’s Your Mother.” I laughed a lot, and was impressed not only with her life, but the humor that came out in her writing. This quote from her book made me think of my own childhood:

“While I didn’t like most of my classes at school, I did love to read, always imagining myself as the heroine in a story. I thought being Anne Shirley, the spunky orphan in the Anne of Green Gables series, might be less stressful than dealing with my father’s moods. I identified with Frances Nolan in A Tree Grows in Brooklyn and her loving but turbulent relationship with her head-in-the-clouds father. But my most recent favorite was Are you There God? It’s Me, Margaret. I was positive I’d get my period any day.” page 36

My sister might have actually read the entire Anne of Green Gables series, but since I was her constant tag-a-long I saw all the movies with her. Since I was more of a Barbie girl, then a get lost in the field and dream about Gilbert Blythe, I still related to the cantankerous attitude of the sassy red-head. There were times when I would think living in that era would be much easier than my own childhood, or joining the group of girls in The Babysitter’s Club would make all my worries go away.

Just as I would hide under the covers with a flashlight so I could stay up reading, or sneak away to another part of the house to try to get out of chores, books were my solace, comfort, and adventure. Whether I hid behind my book, or let my book launch me into the world of detectives, popularity, or the lust of Gilbert Blythe, I was and will always be transformed by those words on the page.

Making sense of the world

We tell the stories of our lives to remember, laugh, and ponder where we have been and where we are going. We learn from each other, grow, and try not to make the same mistakes. Stories enrich us. We hear how someone else moves about the world, how they interact with their family and friends, and how they endure the good times and the bad. We laugh with them, we cry with them, and we relate in ways we sometimes cannot imagine.

I just finished reading: “If It’s Not One Thing, It’s Your Mother” by Julia Sweeney. If you are not familiar with Julia, she was “It’s Pat” on Saturday Night Live. Her book is a memoir and heavily focuses on her experience adopting a daughter from China. She is a blunt and humorous writer. I appreciated reading her book. It is just raw, real, and to the point. Her comments about telling stories resonated with me:

“I think my urge to perform, and specifically to perform true stories from my own life, is my way of coping. Just like alcohol is for some people. But the storytelling urge is not particular to the Irish. It’s in everyone. In fact it’s how our brains, every single one of our brains–not particular to any ethnicity–makes sense of the world. We tell ourselves how it all went, how this happened and how that happened and how it could happen in the future.” page 238

Is that what storytelling is for each of us? A litany of events, dates, and experiences that we tell as we make sense of the world? Yes, and so much more. I often write to make sense of my world. As the words come out of my fingertips I often connect thoughts and ideas and have aha moments. I realize what bothers me, find solutions to problems, and feel gratitude for the good parts of my day.

For me looking back at my past, at the stories of my life, help me to better understand myself and how I tick. Since both of my parents have passed on, and my grandparents are gone, I am on my own to put the pieces of my past together. I have asked my sister or brother how they remember an event, and yet their memory is much different from my memory of a specific event. That makes sense, as we each look out from our own perspectives. Since I cannot call my mom up and ask her about my first words, or how I handled a specific event in my life, I have to rely on my own memories. They may be flawed or off from the actual details but in the end, it is still the story I remember that has molded me into who I am today. As biased as my perspective might be, the feelings I had in each experience shaped how I handled future events.

Our story, our view on the world, is how we make sense and process who we are. Keep telling your story.