The Middle of the Story
I’m in the middle of creating my MFA thesis right now. I say “creating” instead of “writing” because I haven’t gotten to the words to paper stage yet, though I’m in deep as far as research goes and I’ve got one-frigging-month to get a rough draft to my advisor. So let’s say I’m in the weeds.
Down here in the weeds, something occurred to me: I’m always in the weeds. That’s where life is.
I’m always in the middle—of something. We are all always in the middle of our story. I was raised on hearty diet of tales that include resolution—from Sleeping Beauty to Star Wars to Nancy Drew to Magnum PI (a few of the grounding myths of my childhood). Stories that end with the Empire defeated, the mystery solved, “happily ever after.”
But lately I’ve been seeing those endings for the lovely myths that they are. In “real life” it’s more like Roseanne Roseannadanna’s father says (in early Saturday Night Live): “It’s always something.”
Maybe we should stop looking for Resolution. Maybe we’d be better served turning toward Revelation. I didn’t make this up. It is an idea I learned (in my research! thanks, research) from Dr. Tawnya Pettiford-Wates, an artist, scholar and Professor of Theatre at Virginia Commonwealth University. As she explains in her essay “Ritual Poetic Drama” in the book Black Acting Methods, her way of teaching eschews the “linear construct” of the “well-made play” and instead “functions within a cyclic construct of rite of passage moment…[a] story whose purpose is not resolution but rather revelation.”
The other day I glanced at the short book reviews in the New Yorker and saw a new memoir by Gretel Ehrlich, author of the classic Solace of Open Spaces. Her new book is called Unsolaced. Dammit! I guess she’s in the middle of her story too.
Why does any of this matter? (you may ask) Why is this more than philosophical ramblings of someone who really should be working on her thesis? (you may ask)
Well, I think we tend to live our lives searching for Resolution. If I’m right that we’re always in the middle, then this is a fruitless search. There is no pot of gold. Even the gold medal is the middle of the story for the athlete who won it. And there is freedom in realizing that. I can stop striving to “get it right” to “figure it out.” I can keep going, on my meandering path, occasionally experiencing Revelation, but never complete Resolution.
I can PAUSE. I can Lighten Up. I can breathe. I can remember that it’s all Process.