Thursday, April 26, 2012

The Wrong Story

This is ridiculous,
What am I doing here?
I’m in the wrong story!
--Stephen Sondheim, Into the Woods

 Life has been kind of Sondheimesque here recently, with plot twists and ironic turns and moments that probably contain some kind of bittersweet life lesson, hold most of the sweet.

Maybe it’s a midlife crisis, maybe it’s just a reality check long overdue, but I keep getting this weird, almost out of body sense of “How the heck did I get HERE? I’m in the wrong story!”.

I suppose I am supposed to go get Botox or some kind of tuck or lift or implant. If I was a guy (or, more accurately and less gender-stereotypically, less speed phobic) I would get a motorcycle. I have considered the ill advised tattoo. But mostly I’m just overwhelmed a lot of days with the sense of being in the wrong story.

 I know. This is a road that leads to madness. Hey, I did say it was a Sondheimesque season here. At least on the road to madness the way is clear…the light is good…ack, Must. Not. Burst. Into. Song. And the next line is a lie, I DO have fear. Even if this is nowhere NEAR the story I thought I’d be in, this is the one I got stuck in.

Still, in this last week my mother in law gave us a picture book she found somewhere…and it was written by someone in my old writing group, illustrated by another writing group member. Somehow, in 2010, these two wonderful, talented ladies managed to work together (not normally the way things work in children’s publishing), and they created this beautiful book. I was so tickled for them, so happy…

And in the same moment I felt a profound sense of a road lost to me in 2004. That for me has become the road not taken, not because I looked down some path and chose the other, just as fair, but more because our family got sucked into the vortex of the path that Nobody Wants to Follow.

That part of my brain, the children’s author part, went silent in 2004, I held on for another year, trying to write, but I couldn’t, I just had no voice anymore. The story of mine that was included in an anthology last year was written before G got sick. Publishing moves so slowly. And our family’s personal story had no time to wait around for publishing to catch up.

I see friends who still have lots of little kids, and I realize that yeah, that story is done for us too. Friends who have moved on to adventures in other places, with new friends who are happy and cheery and yay, friends who don’t bring an elephant into every room…new opportunities, etc….and we are still here, stuck in the morass of this story we never chose. The house I planned to have…yeah, that story changed, too—and some of that is ok, it’s not all bad, it’s just not the story we anticipated. I know some of this is the Pinterest phenomenon (where you look at gorgeous things and think, hey, I have NEVER knit a cauliflower chandelier out of recycled materials and veggies, I am a failure!) , but some of it is just the realization that the parade really is passing us by.

And really, don’t call the Waaaaambulance. It’s not like I feel sorry for us, I’m just kind of like WHAT THE HECK? mixed with a growing sense of mad. I’m not even sure what I’m mad AT. I’m not sure what to do with this whole idea, other than sing Sondheim over and over. Badly.

 I know that life is fraught with these sorts of moments, I do think God laughs (and not a polite laugh, a mighty guffaw) when we plan ANYTHING. But geez. If I got this book, our story, out of the library, I think it would be like the time I tried to read The Gulag Archipelago. Yikes. I got 300 pages in and said, “you know, there is no way this nonfiction book about Soviet prison camps is going to end well, these 300 pages have been BRUTAL.” And I stopped reading.

Obviously, stopping reading is not so much an option here. So here’s the next moment, figuring out how to make peace with the story where it is.

I know that technically the ending is unwritten, but I really, REALLY don’t like where this story is going. And maybe it’s a midlife thing, but I am kind of whomped with a deep sense of We Only Get One Shot at life.

So how do we work through the story we’re in? How do we make peace with this? How do we take this story, even if it’s ultimately more Gulag than Green Gables, and live it with gusto? People survived the Gulag, and that was WAY WORSE that what we are living. At least our smite is random, not inflicted by other people.

But how do we make peace with this moment, this reality, our shrinking social sphere, the fear that has taken up permanent residence in our guest room? How do we do this?

Or, to quote Sondheim again, how do we figure out, “Who can live in these woods?”

If anyone has insight on this, I’d love to know…humanity will thank you, I am a menace right now, an approach to the story that really isn’t super awesome for anyone…


  1. ok, wrote a 'thoughtful' comment that was erased in just know I care, and your questions and feelings as SO legit. D.

  2. No real insight. Maybe something like - fear sucks but is real, this is not the Final Story thank-you-God, and a few choice words for the sucky chapters along the way.
    Keep sharing, because sometimes just being in the moment itself with other people alongside, even virtually, is what keeps us from feeling dehumanized. (I feel like I know too much about this part of life lately.)
    And what the heck is a cauliflower chandelier? Because it kind of sounds hideous.