Telling Stories

I was chatting with Jenn last night about Meghan’s post – some thoughts on sexuality, desire, and labels. And at some point I said something like, “Yea, people really like labels. I mean, I was white and a woman my whole life, but now I’m dating a woman and have a chronic illness. Does this mean I get more diversity points?”

“Yea.. how are you doing with all that?” Jenn asked.

“What do you mean?” I said.

“Well, within the last six months you’ve become visibly queer, and you’ve got, well, a chronic illness. I mean, how do you feel about all that?”

“I don’t know,” I said. “I don’t think about it that much. It’s all kind of happened so quick, I haven’t had time to really think about, look back on it, create a narrative, you know?”

“Ah,” Jenn said, “it’s like asking you how you’re feeling before you’ve had time to figure it out?”

“Exactly. Why do you think I blog? And before that, sent those huge 17-page stories about my life to the Clarion list? And before that, kept up long correspondences with people? I can’t make sense of things until I can get some distance and make stories out of it. I need to know what it all means.”

“And as you get older, the stories sort of shift, the more distance you get from them.”

“It’s creating history. You can see how myths end up being myths. At the core of the story, you’ve got core events, core feelings, but the way you interprete those changes based on where you are in your life, where you end up. If you go through old letters and correspondence of mine, you can see the emphasis shift as things I thought were important ended up not being important. Also, the older I get, the more I learn, the more I’ll reinterprete events.”

What I realized while we talked was the reason I write fiction, and the reason the reason I took to the blogging form so well.

I figure out what I’m feeling, dissect emotional responses, what events mean to me, by creating narratives, by telling stories. Until I can step back and look at how everything fits together, I have a difficult time talking about it. Ask me how I “feel” about something, and I’ll struggle to find some sort of inarticulate response that “sounds good” at the time. Ask me in writing, when I can tell you the story – and that I can do.

I had to hear Jenn tell me the story of my time in the hospital for nearly a week before I could get it all together in my head and try to work out a narrative that I could post here (and I still think a lot of that post doesn’t make much sense. Which is probably more truthful, since nothing made sense to me either).

I wonder if I’m just weirdly divorced from my feelings while I’m feeling them, or if storytelling is just my way of coping with strong emotion.

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