“Every story has to be discovered twice, first in the world and then in the author’s study. One discovers a story the second time by constructing it.”
I love this quote by Tracy Kidder. It reminds me that stories are floating/buried all around us. We simply have to notice. And then, once noticed, and by reflecting on it, do we give it meaning.
Kidder says the difference between events and stories is that events are transformed to story only through revelation – or someone’s learning something. It’s kind of profound, isn’t it? Like the difference between existing and living. By assigning meaning and purpose, our existence transforms into truly living.
Maybe that’s why the older you get, the wiser you become. Because you finally have enough time and distance to construct a story, instead of a sequence of events. Hindsight allows you to extract lessons and see the common threads. It gives shape and form to experiences. It provides space for the story to sprout.
I was recently talking to a California-transplant about relocating to Bend. Whenever people ask how long I’ve lived here and what brought me, I stumble around with vague answers, using words like “adventure,” “simplify,” and “no regrets.”
She, like most, nodded appropriately, pretending to understand. I continued with a pitiful explanation of how I’m now divorced. And how we both co-parent here. How I’m really happy. And an “isn’t life crazy?” comment.
I admitted that I have asked God on more than one occasion why I ended up here. In Oregon. A foreign land far from my roots and my family.
She interrupted, her blonde head tilted. “Do you know the reason?… Did God tell you why he brought you here??”
Her question caught me off guard. I never expected God to give me an answer. I hesitated with a reply, “Ummm… No. I don’t know. I still don’t know. Not yet, anyway.”
My response wasn’t satisfying. I think she was hoping for a revelation. A happily-ever-after. Some meaning. Or some meat.
But the truth is, I don’t know. The older I get, the less I’m sure of. The naive, idealistic Me wants to take the leap and believe God brought me here so I could have another chance at love. That God orchestrated our meeting. A right time, right place kind-of-thing. But, the jaded and cynical Me remembers thinking that before. And look what happened to that marriage. I was left rewriting the story. Constructing a different narrative. Assigning an alternate ending.
The thing is, that’s what writers do, isn’t it? They rewrite and rewrite and rewrite. My story, your story, is still being written. And while we can’t change the events, we can change the narrative surrounding them.
Perhaps stories exist on several levels. In the moment. In the memory of it. And in the constructing of it. Each time, getting stronger. With more shape and color and weight.