As if I don't have enough on my plate, I've begun working with a new writer friend on some version of an autobiography. It's partially to help her test out a process for her new business, working with people to tell their stories. But it's serendipitous that she has shown up now, as this is something I've been thinking about for awhile. Maybe it's what happens as you turn 50--you start looking back at your life and wondering what all the threads are that tie it together.
We met on Monday for the first time and I just sort of vomited out a series of memories, looking for how they connect and (hopefully) lead to some kind of development over the years.
I told her that I'm interested in how I can recast my story. It's occurred to me at different times that I'm someone who leads with her wounds, seeing them as somehow central to my character. But we all have wounds--it's the human condition--and in some ways, our wounds are the least interesting parts of our story. What we do with those times of challenge and hurt. That's what's really interesting.
I'm also someone who believes that we come into this life, choosing to learn certain lessons. This makes our lives, the things that happen to us, part of choices we've made to have certain experiences and learn certain things. So it's possible that autobiography is really my way of trying to understand what lessons I've set for myself, to take a step back and see them from that larger perspective.
What I'm also seeing is that even though I want to recast my story, in some ways it's already set. I've told the story already by what I choose to remember and what I choose to forget.
I've had conversations with my daughters about their childhoods and have been surprised at the memories they carry. Things that I barely remember are highlights for them, with stories attached to those memories. And those things that I remember more vividly are barely a blip on their radar screens. In seeing that, I realize the extent to which our memories are constructs, stories that we've already told, and that there is no such thing as an "objective" view of our lives.
Even with that, though, we can still reframe our experiences. I remember during my divorce the stories I told myself about what was happening, why it was happening. Now, from a more distant vantage point, my memories have a different feel. They have different meaning to me, especially as I see them as part of a larger journey.
So this will be interesting, this project to see who I've been and who I am. I suspect that 10 years from now, everything will have shifted again.