Last week, during a snow day’s inspired bout of housecleaning, I found myself thinking back to an unusual and unforgettable book I read a couple of years ago, The End of Mr. Y by Scarlett Thomas. It’s a novel about consciousness and thought experiments and features a white mouse and lots of soggy french fries. You are never quite allowed to forget that the protagonist is a vegan, and her lingering fears of malnutrition preoccupy her thoughts as she endures poverty and a life on the run.
The author is an outspoken vegan herself, so it seems natural that her heroine would share her dietary ethics. I am sure that many writers paint their own essences into the characters they need to spend the most time with or whom they wish to love most. I know that I have trouble imagining I could really get inside the mind of a fictional person who was not a redhead (ok, I am trying to get beyond that!).
Knowing that writers populate their stories with individuals whose every action and thought is colored by their own creative drive, I realize how much I inflect the way I tell the story of my own life. By “telling the story of my life” I do not just mean the way that I filter things to write about them in this space, but the way that I let my internal narrator describe the events of the day as they happen and as they get stored in memory.
We all sit behind our eyes and interpret the events before us. I think that is inescapable and a potentially delicious part of being human. Still, in the same way there are Booker Prize winning novelists and lousy copy writers, there are also ways to be a brilliant commentator on your life and ways to be a hack journalist.
I have been finding myself spinning through some “he said/she said” conversational recaps of late, both parties realizing that neither is exactly sure what was said. Perspective is like the unicorn you dream might lurk in the corner of the room. A mythical entity that you really, really want to believe in, even if you secretly fear might just be a figment of the imagination.
I know that practice and dedication can make me a better writer and I know that awareness and compassion can make me a better witness to the events of my life as they pass before my always calculating eyes. Sure, there are spiritual schools out there that teach the bliss of detachment, and maybe someday I will be seeking that sort of release from the dictates of my own roving consciousness. For now, I am going to relax into the knowledge that I am in this world, and, in many ways, of this world. I just have to learn to look upon it with the wisest and kind gaze I can.
How can the day glow more brightly if I realize I am the one has the power to clean her glasses and increase the quality of the behind the scenes commentary?