At the last Moth Story Slam I told about being twelve and imagining what the new boy coming into our class would look like, how he would behave - based on the one fact that our teacher had given us - that his family had just moved to Louisville from Hawaii. I told how I fell in love with this imaginary boy before I ever saw him, based on my limited, and very romantic, ideas and experiences. And I told how devastated I was when he finally showed up - only an average, pale, allergic, boy who was surely scared to death to be transferring schools in seventh grade. My story ended with the consequences visited upon me for being so caught up in my fantasy that I couldn't see that in reality Kevin, that was his name, had positive qualities.
In too many ways to go into here this scenario - creating a fantasy of who people would be and how they would respond to me, then experiencing supreme disappointment when my imaginings weren't even remotely related to reality - illustrates how I was in the world for many years. Long after I'd "grown up" and ought to have been more comfortable with reality, I still preferred imagination and fantasy. This preference has given me no end of trouble - staying in dysfunctional relationships I imagined I could turn around being only one example.
I've often wondered what life might have held for me if I'd faced what was in front of me and dealt with it rather than living in my fantasy world - a world in which no real person or situation could ever be good enough, could ever measure up to my imagining. In this, my sixtieth year on the planet, I'm experiencing a shift in that wondering. You see, these musings about what might have been were always deeply and tightly connected to the part of me where imagination and fantasy live. I've only just begun to understand that lately, as I've allowed the reality of being an older/elder woman to affect me.
And I can see more clearly, as I feel the physical and emotional and other affects of moving into this stage of life, the value of what my life has held, what I have experienced, even what I've survived and learned through - by using my capacity for imagination and fantasy. Before, when I wondered what might have been I'd wish I had not sought refuge from reality by immersing myself in fantasy. Lately I understand that it was imagination and fantasy that helped me live in (to be honest, to endure) the reality around me. And I believe I've come to that understanding now, at this stage of life, because I've been weaving reality and imagination together - in storytelling.
Not just standing on the Moth stages either. I've been participating in a storytelling group - in which we bring personal stories, and respond to those told. I've been writing the stories of my life - frequently only for myself, but more and more often, to share. Opportunities for telling my stories seem to abound recently. And I think somehow it has been - in large part - reaching this stage of life that has both encouraged and enabled me to apply my capacity for imagining and fantasy to my "true stories, told live."
Makes sense. At this stage of life those moments or situations I've remembered with a cringe now seem to me merely funny, or even, sometimes, touching. This is, after all, the stage of life in which we view what has been from a distance, and - voila! - find unexpected gifts in both the past and in ourselves. The unexpected - life just never ceases offering that does it?