I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about stories lately, stories that define us, stories that sustain us, stories tied to family, friends, ourselves, stories tied to objects in our lives. So many things about us come as words, nouns, verbs, meanings that are used to form the stories of our lives. Who am I? I am an actor, a husband, a father, a son, a man in his advancing middle years who has a family history, in some areas an authority, yet all of these words have meanings in my stories, not only to me but to the stories of the people who hear them, and these stories are not always the same. The importance of these stories and the cost of maintaining them and of giving them up is becoming far more real to me.
I am a husband. I have been married for over thirty three years to the same woman. The stories are endless, making love in the sand of the New Mexican Desert, married in a place of significance, promises, faith, births, deaths, and the expectation that I would always be there for her, and she would always be there for me. That story will be coming to an end at the beginning of next year, as she and I will be separating with every expectation of living far apart.
I am a father and a son, a story is still being written. My mother told us stories of her continued love for her mother and the contempt she had for her father, as he lay at the base of the stairs in her childhood home, commenting on all he heard. My father told us stories of his failure in the eyes of his Mother who continually felt him so weak and ineffectual as to need overwhelming protection even into adulthood. I tell my children of my continued shaming by my father and my alcoholic mother’s disappointment in me. My story revolves around the overwhelming fear that my children will think of me with the same dark glow.
I am an Actor, a profession that eats its own. The story I tell aspiring actors on career day is that if you love to act, and love to [any other profession] do the other. Acting is a profession which requires you to continually expose yourself at your most vulnerable to people who usually do not particularly care, a profession where you are required to choose where to invest your time, money and self with no assurance of the quality of outcome, or even if there will be one, just as you are told it will be great and worth every bit of what you must give up.
I did not love any other profession. For thirty-five years it was where my heart lay. The story was that I was given this gift by God and surely it was for a purpose, the fantasies would happen. But as I write this, any reader will understand that as they do not know me and might not recognize my photo, my career has not been what I would have wished. Now, at the beginning of next year, I will be moving a bit farther from Los Angeles and the costs in time, self and gas will be just that little bit more, the results just as uncertain. The story was always that one moment could make all the difference, the gambler’s dream.
I am a man of spiritual faith. In my early years the story was formed by Sunday School and the Christian Mystique until the head of the church at the end of the block who made so many house calls ran away with Mrs. Wrigley (Yea, that Wrigley). In college I was exposed to psychedelic drugs and the stories of Eastern traditions and they formed themselves into tales of being part of some greater story, something continuing, a greater mind. Now it is more a thought of the irrevocable termination of the individual drop as it falls back into the ocean. Do those molecules which formed the drop even consider the memory of relationships, or are they only a forgotten anecdote?
I am a conveyor of history, history in things. My side of the family could be called collectors, a quality that I fear I have taken on. I have my father’s accordion, blue prints of my grandfather’s apartment, lenses from a boyhood science kit, trinkets, toys, and photos. The accordion must be close to a hundred years old now, and I probably played it three times, the lenses are still in their original small manila envelopes, the toys in their wrappers, photos in frames, all surrounded by the story that my children will have interest and perhaps wish to pass them on to theirs. The accordion will go to a friend, the lenses, blue prints, photos, trinkets, to the trash, the toys, well, perhaps the interest will be there.
Alan Watts once said that words are but a sieve, a filter or grid work through which reality flows. God says we are the labeler, the namer of things. These stories, my stories flow, in their own space and rate, but the words I use, the words we all use within our stories, many times do not truly reflect the reality that passes through them. We often move from story to story as we grow and reinterpret our lives. It is far more difficult to give up the stories when there is little to replace them.