I met myself in a blog post, and I wasn’t entirely thrilled about it, at first. But anger and denial then gave way to understanding and acceptance, though only after I took an unfiltered look at myself vs me.
It’s an odd experience to read yourself characterized. It’s much like looking at a caricature. I once sat for one. It was truly confusing. And I haven’t again sat in the seat of a carnival artist since I stopped wearing ribbons in my hair. What I saw wasn’t what I expected to see. I wondered who is this girl, and how is she me?
After a few minutes of conversation, my entire existence according to a near-perfect stranger was summed up in a picture of a picture of a teddy bear, but no books and nothing from softball, no parks or friends or foursquare. What I saw wasn’t what I expected to see. I expected to see what I saw in the mirror, what I thought others saw as I moved about the world, but in pencil rather than flesh.
I was well into adulthood before I could appreciate the absurdity of the caricature. Looking at the bear through the lens of experience I knew that moment mattered. The books and the softball are still with me. The bear, not so much (though he does live on at the bottom of my own children’s toy box). The caricature tells a story of a little girl about to grow out of being a little girl.
Reading an account of a moment of my life as told by an author-not-me was as confusing. Who is this woman, and how is she me? She was me, this much I knew because I was there, but she was not me, not the me I expected to see. I’m learning now to appreciate how such different versions emerge when the intimacy of a moment consumed every sense and seemed to be equal. My truth unfolded with another truth, word by word, line by line, and the story of a broken woman about to grow out of being a broken woman was told.
It’s now a part of my journey of self-understanding, seeing what I had not seen and then coming to understand that two people have two truths, like parallel universes orbiting briefly in conjunction with each other. We each own the story, and though it is identical in events it isn’t in impression.
It helps that I’ve done and do the exact same thing. I wrote a story of romance, of an ok night out, and of a not so ok next morning. I wrote of human kindness. I wrote of feeling shamed about my body. I wrote of meeting a motorcycle and driving a bridge. I’ve also written not true endings to true beginnings and explored a personification of a word when it felt unfortunately weightless. There is someone out there who lived these stories I’ve told, who inspired these stories, who are these stories.
There are people who spark a clear vision of an impression of a moment with little fact in the matter, those perfect for life-inspired fiction. There are people who are the matter of fact stories of connection, and disconnection, that spark an inward reflection of self and the memories molded by time, those perfect for reflective nonfiction. Every day people are a part of our story, and we are a part of theirs, sometimes together for only as long as the moment lasted. Some of us happen to write those moments as stories, with characters.
People make such good characters. Myself included, and though my nose was too big and my hair was too long, it was basically me.
I did find the grain of salt upon which the story structure stood, and it was within me the entire time. Not much about myself characterized was what I expected to see when I looked at the portrait, but though on-the-line, it was remarkably accurate.
Weekly Writing Challenge: Worlds Colliding – “There’s work you and home you, café you and hospital you, friends you and strangers you. In this week’s writing challenge, tell us about a time when two or more of your ‘yous’ ran into each other.”
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