for the love of Stories

I always found ways of surviving trauma.  When I was little, trauma looked kinda like this:

  • Math class
  • Moving
  • Navigating my way in a foreign country
  • Eating my broccoli
  • What to wear to school
  • My dad’s wrath

And so on...  These days it’s a little more complicated, but not much. 

Right now I’m remembering my youth and what it was like to suffer through math class.   I was attending an international school in München that was teaching something called, “New Math.” 

Topics introduced in the New Math include modular arithmetic, algebraic inequalities, bases other than 10, matrices, symbolic logic, Boolean algebra, and abstract algebra.  All of these topics (with the exception of algebraic inequalities) have been greatly de-emphasized or eliminated in US elementary schools and high schools curricula since the 1960s.

Just to say, this subject made no sense to me at all.  Even my mother, who routinely helped me with my homework, finally threw her hands up in the air and declared that she couldn’t do it either.  I was, forthwith, shuffled off to my bedroom where I was supposed to wrestle with this shit on my own.  K, it sucked.  But here’s the thing...

I had a radio in my bedroom.  And this radio became my best friend every night during my “math studies.”  Most particularly, I found a station that featured mysteries and dramas.  I am not sure of the particularities anymore, but I do remember, specifically, a show called SUSPENSE!

I got totally lost in these stories...I loved them.  And then they disappeared.  And it was years before I really cared very much about radio again.  In 1998 a friend introduced me to Art Bell, and all the old joy of radio flooded back to me...then Art retired, and the world was silent again. 

Last year, by accident, I discovered podcasts!  I had no idea that it was actually radio.  And a whole new world of imagination opened up to me!  Man, I love these things!!  Here are my current favorites...

I'm always looking for new ones.  I like dramas best...stories that unfold and unwind over time.  There are other good shows, like "Lore."   But the extended story is where it's at for me...maybe I need to expand my listening parameters beyond shows with a paranormal bent to them.

At some point last week I realized that I run stories in my head, like, all the time.  I was shopping at an antique store and stumbled into a vendor's booth...they had tons of Victorian lace in little plastic baggies, crocheted doilies, wooden furniture with elaborate scrollwork, and various odd bits and bobs.  I sat in this space for about 45 minutes.  I opened each plastic baggy - noticed that the vendor had folded them with care- to examine the intricate details of each piece of lace.  I could see how each was made, how some of them were put together in little modules, I imagined what kind of dress each piece of lace or trim had been attached to...I wondered what happened to the rest of the dress...I ruminated about the women who actually wore these dresses, what their lives were like... and then I carefully re-folded each piece with care.  I finally arrived at the register and the clerk said, "Ach!  This vendor can't figure out if he is #44 or #47!!"  and I said, "HE?"  And then I thought, good lord, I am SOOOO stereotyping.  But I was also a bit surprised, because I had also unknowingly imagined the vendor.  

And then I thought about every human interaction I have...There is so much that goes into every single meeting.  All our histories (mine and theirs) follow us into each present moment making it difficult to just see the uniqueness of each PERSON in front of us.  How to take each individual I meet without "filling in the gaps?"   Stop, I guess.  Remember to not remember.  Listen.  and know that each person who enters my orbit brings with them an ungraspable complexity that my imagined stories can never do justice to.  

me, at 60. (I know you will fill in the gaps!)

me, at 60. (I know you will fill in the gaps!)