Monday, June 26, 2006

The Duck Story

When I was a young girl, no, I did not drink ale but I sure as hell tore up a lot of paper.

Ever since I have been writing I have been faced with the same problem. I would write something down only to find two days later that I no longer liked it. Either I had changed my mind or time had given me a new perspective or what was of utmost importance two days ago was of no consequence today. As a result what I wrote often felt out of step with my recollection of things and having paper documentation of the way I felt/thought/saw life two days ago only conspired to mess with my perception of reality at the moment. For this reason I have never kept a diary or what most people would call a diary which is a chronological recounting of events and emotions.

However, I did write. I wrote fiction. I wrote short stories. I wrote chapters for novels. I wrote reflective pieces, essays and narratives. I did from time to time write down things that had happened to me during the day, the week, the month too but only rarely and only generally to tear out the pages later. Reality in retrospect has always been my reality.

I don't know whether this is normal or healthy or a form of escapism and I am not about to start a debate on the presence or absence of any absolute truth which by extension implies a presence or absence of an absolute reality thereby making reality in retrospect either a completely irrational or the most rational viewpoint to have depending on how you look at it. What I know is that the way I remember things is to me a more honest reflection of how I have lived my life than a factually correct account of events in motion.

Now I am not talking about deluding myself to what really happened. No, I don't mean that the facts change or should be changed to fit into the kind of memory I would like to have. What I mean is that events in isolation can take on a greater or lesser meaning and they have to be put in the right context for full understanding and that that context often does not appear until days later.

For example: Over this weekend a guy cut me off pretty badly on an expressway which made me really angry at the time. The next day I saw a duck fly overhead in a parking lot.

If I was keeping a diary in the most prevalent sense of the word I would most certainly have had to write about the guy on the expressway. And years ago I would have only to tear up the page two days later and write about the duck instead because by day two the anger would have subsided but the surprise at seeing a duck fly overhead in a grocery store parking lot would have remained and I would have come to realize that two, ten, or twenty years from now the duck memory would still make me laugh while the expressway story would be relegated to a non-event that barely deserved a mention.

Of course, I realize this is not true of everyone. There are people who are capable of being inspired/awed/surprised/enraged/enthralled/excited in a moment and recall the same emotions in retelling. Clearly I am not one of them. My mom says she never knows what to cook for me because by the next time she sees me I am sure to have a whole new set of likes. And today Dave didn't bat an eyelash when after he offered to come with me to look at the condo upgrade options I first said yes, then no, then maybe and then no and then maybe again. I left him at maybe at 7:30 looking completely unsurprised.

So, maybe, it's not so much that events need context as that I am inconsistent and I don't want constant reminders. Fortunately the eletronic media is a lot more forgiving than paper diaries which have long memories in the form of reproachful clumps of torn pages that stare back at you from inbetween unblemished ones, their presence mocking you with silent homage to forgotten events.

But the duck story stays.

3 Comments:

Blogger Donna said...

Context is a huge part of why something ends up being important to you. I often find myself harking back to something that happened a long time ago in perspective to something that happened today when I am writing about current events. Without context it would be like reading a grocery list or a recounting of the mundane events of the day -- that's neither interesting nor important -- its the way our days weave themselves into the overall fabric of our lives that makes a good story. Keep up the writing.

6/29/2006 11:23 PM  
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