Last night a guest speaker spoke to my Digital Media class, the very talented David Badash, who founded thenewcivilrightsmovement.com, a beautiful and comprehensive blog about gay marriage and gay rights.
David reminded me that when he was in my Journalism Basics class several years back, a student had said "Don't tell A story; tell YOUR story." That statement had hit him hard at a time when he was shifting the whole of his life. In my Features class, we'd just read two of my favorite first person essays, both National Magazine Award Winners; both True. The first one by Laura Hillenbrand is an excruciating account of her long descent into the hell of chronic fatigue syndrome; the other is another kind of hell-spiral by Meghan Daum, about descending into debt while attending Columbia. I'm sure the latter is an old-chestnut in writing classes now; it seems impossible to me that it was published in the New Yorker over a decade ago. Both of these essays have wound themselves into my own vernacular of what successful first person essays should do.
Tell Your Story, not The Story.
Blogs are funny things. I have this sense that entries should be at least semi-complete and well-formed essays. But I'm not complete and well-formed; why should my blog be? My faults emerge daily in communications with my son (patient is not my middle name), or in the mess I leave hanging around my apartment (isn't there always something better to do than clean and organize?). Real stories are rough, not smooth and perfect. They don't always come packaged with a beautiful Beginning, Middle and End. Real stories are bumpy and sad, impulsive and thrilling. My goal for this year is to be true to my Real stories and to tell them with more honesty and regularity than I'm accustomed to doing. It's not like I've been dishonest here; I haven't, but I have held back to be a perfectionist. I mull over entries so long that they wind up not being written at all. I don't like reading drivel and so I hesitate to contribute to the never ending river of it. Hopefully, my Real stories won't be drivel...
I had a perfect day today. I spent it with my two guys, starting with a lazy morning. After trolling through Priceline for the 10th day in a row, I saw that my dream tickets to Paris had dropped hugely in price, so I impulsively decided that it was a sign that it's time to make a lifetime dream come true and travel around, unencumbered, for six weeks. When I pressed the "purchase" button, I got choked up. It was a bittersweet moment because my sister in law, who died just last week, had taken her family on beautiful trips, and I missed her terribly. I wanted to call her and get her advice and have her be on the other end to listen to me rattle on and on. The absence of her gets harder day by day; not the other way around. I wonder how long this will go on? This sadness was a real part of my perfect day.
Early this morning Jamie woke up and scrambled into our living room to scribble a few hearts on a piece of paper with a marker sorely lacking in fresh ink. He'd written "I love you Mommy! Happy!" He came into my room to read it aloud to me in bed (it came with the gift of a silver dollar unearthed from his room), and ran back to add the missing "Birthday" in tiny letters next to the Happy. Later, we ended up at Brick Lane for a late lunch (a great deal, and a welcome departure from the rest of 6th Street). Finally, we went down to Battery Park to walk by the harbor and take Jamie to one of his favorite playgrounds. The sun had broken out after days of grey, and we spent some time soaking it up on the Irish Hunger Memorial, which deserves its own blog entry. We came home to a completely crooked chocolate birthday cake; certainly not perfect or well-formed, but in its imperfections it was perfect and True.