life between the pages

“I spent my life folded between the pages of books.
In the absence of human relationships I formed bonds with paper characters. I lived love and loss through stories threaded in history; I experienced adolescence by association. My world is one interwoven web of words, stringing limb to limb, bone to sinew, thoughts and images all together. I am a being comprised of letters, a character created by sentences, a figment of imagination formed through fiction.”
Tahereh Mafi, Shatter Me

Sunday, October 03, 2010

Traveling Light

I find myself sick of traveling, frankly. All I want to do now is curl up with a book, stare outside, look at the window, ponder a bit. Listen to loved ones, think about what they've said, listen some more. This is a major change from past propensities, which was to pick up and go at the merest wisp of a suggestion. Travel meant going beyond the place that I was, seeing new things as much as re-connecting with old ones.

Reading this piece at Salon brought this home recently. This is a wonderful article, well-crafted and superbly worded, the author has the grasp of language that slips into your mind easily. The second-person point of view is difficult to do well, but she does it with single-minded aplomb, leaving no question of her genius. It is taken from a larger work, Stranger Things Happen: Stories, and when I saw this I stopped reading long enough to add to my "To Read" list at Goodreads. It was that good. She was speaking to me, I was sure, or at least someone who had shared my experiences - we were kindred and I followed her down the rabbit-hole with faith that was quite blind. I was expecting a swirling, satisfying finish, where all is right in the end.

Silly me.

As I wrote to my sister when I sent her the article, dear Ms. Link had it right at the outset, she took you along a steep, winding and bloody difficult path, but surely she stopped just short of where the journey really reached its final destination. She knows the fairy-tale path so well! How could she have missed the whole point?

Read the article, mind you, before you travel further, or you're not going to believe me. You'll think I'm making this all up. And read this interview with Kelly Link by Laura Miller, Romance and Other Myths, which is right as rain throughout except for those needling little thrusts both of them make at the insanity that is "true love." Ms. Link and I share some similarities, we have both lived a "peripatetic life," but for pity's sake at some point we all have to settle down sometime. Maybe it's just the propensity of some people to joust at windmills, but it would be a sad world indeed for those of us who crave the warmth of quiet home fires to think that all this patient belief in love is all for naught. Phooey. Inside a voice whispers, "She missed the point."

Yet I still want to read her work, if only just for the repeated satisfaction of re-discovering that this belief in love is really just belief in myself. She's right, of course - the too-hard, misbegotten journey where you press on until your feet are cut to ribbons from all the miss-steps you've made is a bit much. When you get to the end of that trial how do you even know you're there? You're too busy picking glass out of your feet and re-applying eyeliner, wetting your lips, rehearsing what you're going to say so he doesn't get the wrong idea, and trying to remember where you left the keys. It's all drama at that point, and who has the energy for that?

So you clear the air and start over. Throw out the dirty dishes, add to the archaeological treasures in the backyard. Sweep up the shards from the broken mirror, apologize. Let a brief, beautiful memory or a shared glance make you smile. Back up, turn the wheel. Don't go down that path. Refresh your mind in shared laughter, challenge yourself to swallow pride over what was lost through ridiculous circumstances and look how simple things become once you've forgiven him. Forgiven yourself for being so blind and wicked.

There are two, no three, other fictional heroines, very different and yet similar enough to make the comparison in this instance, because their epiphanies are more - shall we say, agreeable. Theirs are stories I can relate to, be satisfied with, because these women and men forgave, and forgot, and in so doing reaped the benefits of what I believe is a more fulfilled existence, because it is shared. I don't have words to say just why this is, but it's true. No man is an island. No woman, either. Jane went back to Rochester. Elizabeth married Darcy. Luke and Lorelai figured it out in spite of everything. I know of a few real-life couples who did this, too. Sara and Richard. Gwen and Gavin. Joan and Robin, whose story in An Unfinished Marriage is remarkably simple, which makes it all the more interesting and applicable.

Truce. Because every day with your partner is practice for how you'll succeed in the real world, and how you treat those closest to you mirrors how you treat yourself.

Love is patient, love is kind. Love does not keep a record of wrongs. Love never ends. Faith, hope, and love - these three, but the greatest of these is Love.


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