Carolyn Shields, written in a library, cafe, at work, etc
Sometime past midnight, I was sitting on the damp dock with rain occasionally drizzling in like a heavy mist. Gatsby's light was just across the way, and some sea urchin would occasionally disturb the water. My friends were inside, wrestling and laughing and drinking, and my heart rate wouldn't settle from an anxiety attack. Salt water was in the air and was rolling from the corners of my eyes.
I sighed and looked up at the sky, once more asking for answers, solace, all that stuff, when my friend then waltzed across the dewy grass to join me. Barefoot, a cigar between his lips, a beer in hand, and his coat swung over his shoulder, he had me laughing in minutes.
Writing our own love story was something I reflected on for years, but I want to challenge you to go bigger: we need to stop trying to write our lives. For months I kept thinking, "Dang it, Holy, the plans I had for myself were so much better than this. I'm supposed to be in some third world country. I'm supposed to still be dating a great guy. If it were up to me, X would be happening." So for the first time in my life, for the very first time, I was angry at my Holy, because I thought I could have written my life better. I thought I could be a better author of it. He's working on seven billion other people's biographies, am I right?! What, is He under a deadline or something while punching out this current chapter of my life?
Sometimes it feels like He doesn't understand the importance of foreshadowing because it seems completely left out in my life. I seek it and find none. Holy, I say to Him, that's kind of a really popular literary device that you invented, but You don't use it too often. People like foreshadowing so they know what to expect. I can't find a thread to follow on my life's plot line to save myself, but I guess that's the thing about foreshadowing: more often than not, we don't see it ourselves, or it's after a second read where we understand it. When we look back.
So here's my English major perspective: I like to think that one day I'll be famous because I'll either marry Prince Harry, save a country, handle my raging pms emotions like no woman has done before, and there will be a movie made about my life. And it's funny when we take a step back and think of how one could truly capture a life in ninety minutes.
Sometimes we think of life as a journey (cue tunes by Sea Wolf: Dear Fellow Traveler), or as a test, or perhaps as a voluntary exile from Paradiso. But what about a story? A story of a soul. Your soul.
My entire study abroad experience could be reduced to five minutes or be excluded all together were my life condensed to the silver screen--why mention this one man I fell head over heels for in Eire when the more important story was my heart's conversion? Will he even be mentioned if this scene of my life was brought to film, or would the directors who studied my journals believe that emphasizing my growth into maturity on the Irish shore played a larger role in my life than how I dealt with my heart?
So what about this man now in your life? Will he find a place on the cast? Because it's very likely that some other man that hasn't been revealed to you yet will really become the man that future audiences root for. Those other guys may be so insignificant that they simply cannot make the cut.
When we look at our life in its larger scope, every miniscule thing has meaning and is leading up to some greater plot. So these few months of a dying winter? This year of wounds healing? It could be captured in twenty seconds with a subtitle to show that shadows prove the sunshine. (Just think of those Too Many pages in New Moon by Stephanie Meyer where Bella must deal with her wounded heart, and thankfully, Chris Weitz thought it best to compress those chapters into a twenty second scene for the film adaption).
But womenfolk, take a step outside of yourself and imagine you are reading your autobiography as someone other than yourself. Imagine your readers crying over you, the protagonist, when your heart is returned to you. Why? To what purpose?! Oh wait, next chapter! The tension! The rising action! THE CLIMAX.*
God wants us to see the passing of chapters as contributions to our life as a whole. Sentence and structure (short, choppy sentences or elegant prose) contains meaning that sometimes stumps even our professors. But knowing that it all serves a purpose (coughwaltwhitmandoesn't) should relieve some of our stress. Womenfolk, let me repeat: everything has a purpose. God, director and author of your life, doesn't want to waste your precious time here on earth.
And imagine that beautiful moment, when we will hold that man's hand for the first time in the margins of life, and there's that unphraseable look and readers will interpret it as 'Were you really made for her, pulled from the pieces of her secret hopes and deepest longings? But you were nothing what she expected. More than she thought she deserved. And you came when she least expected it.'
We may be the protagonist of the story, but we are also reading as we go along. Put the pen down. Stop scribbling editorial remarks on every other sentence. The author knew what He was doing when he wrote it.
The best novels are the ones where we don't know what to expect next because the author keeps shocking us and throws in a few plot twists, and all we can do is keep reading. Robert McKee wrote in 'Story' that it is only through action that true character is revealed, when we find out what they are truly made of.
We flip threw the pages because we've become so captivated by the protagonist's growth and, suddenly, we find ourselves on the final page, yearning for more. That's found in the epilogue, titled: Eternity.
*Wow. The irony. So I was listening to a band on spotifythat he likes, and was directed toward Sea Wolf whom I like better and listen to much more. And guess what song just came on? The Violet Hour by Sea Wolf, FEATURED in New Moon. HA.