My Childhood Narrative Could Use A Rewrite

I'm a writer. First and foremost, that's what I am.

Self-Portrait 1, taken with and edited in the iPhone 4's Grungetastic app

I was never much good at writing fiction. Actually, I don't know if I was not good at writing fiction, but I was definitely bad at creating story arcs for characters that had to interact with each other. I could write them walking around and having conversations, but I couldn't have them acting on anything or going anywhere specific. I couldn't make it so that things became very exciting and then tied themselves up neatly at the end. I could make sense of one character, but two? Three? I could never figure out why any of them would be talking to each other.

So, now I write other things, and it's mostly all about me and what happens when I walk around and talk to other people, and it reads sort of like my fiction did, complete with the absence of the tidiness of rising action and denouement. It just keeps happening and going along, and I keep figuring things out after they've already occurred as people do, and I write down a small part of what happens, and sometimes I publish it here.

This kind of autobiography fascinates me. What we write and how we write it, especially when we do it out loud on the internet in the form of personal blogging, is incredibly complex. How and why we make the stories we do comes from so many places and desires within ourselves that I feel we're revealing whole universes sometimes that were once hidden.

I was thinking about my childhood this afternoon, which I've been doing a lot, having just come back from a short visit to the lake at which I spent part of every summer throughout my early years. I was thinking about how I don't like to think about my early history for the most part. I remember my first sad feelings, the kind that sit heavy inside you, when I was about two or three years old. I have a long, clear memory all the way back to when I was in diapers, and that sadness stirred in me even then.

I was always clothed and fed and housed in clean homes by parents who stayed together and liked each other, and we spent a week or two at the lake every summer, and I took organ lessons, and we lived on a quiet crescent, and I was so miserable that there weren't words I could find to tell people about it. By the time I was eight, I was contemplating suicide. I had all of those comforts, and yet I had no comfort.

Most often, when I look back at my first twenty years, I am filled with so much awful dread that I don't want to look at it, but I know objectively that dread can't be the only thing I'll find there. It's just not possible. Still, I feel as though its underbelly would all be rot and maggots. It might make an absorbing study for a novice biologist, but it feels more like a horror-movie reanimation of my own corpse to me.

self-portrait 2
Self-Portrait 2, taken with and edited in the iPhone 4's Grungetastic app

I was a fish in the water in those days, and I would skirt the edges of bookstores trying to disappear so I could smell the inside pages without anyone noticing, and I lay beneath our crab apple tree so that I could listen to the hum of the heavy bees around its blossoms, and I dreamed that I would be a famous writer like James Clavell.

I look back, though, and I feel hopeless, but she didn't feel only hopelessness, the kid that I was. She couldn't have. I mostly felt hopelessness, but there were other pieces in there that kept me from offing myself. There was a faith in living, a hope for my future self, that kept me engaged in plugging through until the day when I would not want to be dead all the time.

In this autobiography, this narrative I keep running in my head, I wonder why I look back and only feel the one theme. If all of our life stories are creative reinterpretations of our subjective memories, I wonder why I make this particular narrative choice again and again when there are so many others.

There was more than grief there to make her tick. I'm sure of it, and it almost seems reasonable to find a way to walk her a new path through it.

The Palinode at Fireside Bistro

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