A good story has a beginning, an interesting middle and hopefully some sort of satisfying ending. When you read that last page, you’re sad that the story is over, but happy with being able to experience the plot twists, to know the characters and to have some sort of finality at the end.
When you think about it, life is the same way.
Everyone is the author of their own life story, and whether we realize it or not, we have no control as to how or when it will end. Oh, we write outlines and make plans, rehearsing the dialogue and shaping the plot as we go, but in the end, it’s not up to us to place a period where that question mark is at the end.
While this used to freak me out, that reality has since become a driving force behind a lot of my actions as of late.
Maybe it’s that I’m tired of a bunch of crappy chapters of my life I would rather crumple up and throw in the trash, maybe it’s maturity, maybe it’s something else that eludes me as I write this post, but the fact that I have control of that “interesting middle” to some extent has become much more liberating than suffocating.
These past couple of months I’ve taken control of a few different things—some I’ve shared here and some I never will—writing new chapters physically and metaphorically and closing the book on some others.
Changes in dialogue, strengthening of character development, the elimination of certain relationships and the invaluable inclusion of others —I have some sense of control over these things.
But no matter what I do, I will never be able to write out the plot twists that often get thrown in the way, the most recent of which is what prompted this (slightly too introspective for a holiday week when everyone’s merry and bright) post.
On Dec. 23., “crazy neighbor lady” that I’ve blogged about before passed away unexpectedly.
As much as I joked about her, she was also a very close friend of the family, and her death came as quite a shock.
None of you knew her and I don’t share this information to be depressing—I promise lighter fare next time. But I share this information because we’ve all dealt with death. Being around the old people as much as I am, it never comes as much of a shock when a senior friend passes on, something that has been happening with alarming regularity this month.
But when it hits close to home—literally next door—it’s a slightly different situation for me.
That night in my pajamas and snow boots I traipsed over to her house to meet my mom so we could wrangle up her dogs and secure the house. They greeted us with a mix of excitement and confusion, Christmas music still playing in the background and gifts waiting to be given on the counter.
It was eerie.
It was surreal.
It still hasn’t quite sunk in, and because I know myself entirely too well, I know it won’t hit me until some random day in the summer when I realize she’ll no longer be sneaking into my garden to steal the good tomatoes.
Because make no mistake—she was a pain in the ass.
She was contradictorily selfish as hell and giving. She would smoke like a chimney and complain about her cough. Yell at her dogs to go “poo poo” in the middle of the night and forget to let them in, but buy them designer sweaters for the snow. If she didn’t have a cocktail in one hand, it was only because she was too busy flipping you off with it.
But that was the character she chose to be, and no one could edit that down, nor should anyone try.
I think the hardest part of this whole thing—of any loss of life—is that there was no time to write those last lines, to craft the perfect dialogue that will leave you satisfied when that final period is placed at the end of a chapter. It just kind of happens and the book slams shut, leaving those behind wondering what the hell just happened and why.
Maybe it’s best that way.
Maybe it forces all of us to realize that the conversations we haven’t had are the ones that need to be said, that certain relationships need to be erased with others added back in, that strength of character can be written in at any time, if we dare to mix up the plot.
I take comfort in knowing that I am the character I choose to be—a constant work in progress—and that no one can edit that down, nor should anyone try.
I hope that Joy—that was her name—left feeling the same way.
I’ve had this post written since Saturday, but it fell in line nicely with this week’s Studio30 Plus prompt:
We are who we show ourselves to be.
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