The evening began perfectly (for a group such as ours). This was the first time that J and P had come to our house, and the first time that I had met P, but we knew that they, like us, find it difficult to both find and engage with people with whom they can find common ground. As a result – again, like us – they have few friends and social meetings tend to be few and far between. The few friends that they have are very highly valued (another parallel). They seemed like our kind of people, even if that thought is in itself a little uncomfortable...
Since we were on home turf and were perhaps feeling a little more confident and therefore a bit punchy, my lovely wife opened the conversation with: “We know that you might not have wanted to come but we're glad that you did!”
In other circumstances this may have proven to be an evening-killing remark, but our guests responded with surprised laughter, especially when my lady followed up by explaining that we too become stressed at the thought of social interaction, and usually regret accepting invitations. Summoning up my vast vocabulary and speaking with the authority of a dust-and-cobweb-covered academic professor of literature, I added: “Yes, we find that most people piss us off.” Again, in different company we may have suddenly found ourselves suddenly staring at a gently swinging open front door, but not in this case. J and P laughed heartily in agreement, and with any idea of irritating 'polite' small talk brushed away to one side, the scene was set for a frank exchange of thoughts and opinions.
It was during one of our many meanderings that J came up with a metaphor that I felt fitted beautifully with my approach to writing the memoirs that I'm still plugging away at. I'd mentioned that my motivation for writing was - as you will know if you've followed this blog for any length of time – very simply, my desire to let my children and descendants know who I am/was. A desire to tell a story of a life. Our ancestors so quickly become names described by their profession, the places that they lived in, or the objects that they left behind. Such things don't, I think, actually describe any personality – they are the merest hints at who a person may have been. I want to change that for my family, before it's too late to do so.
In replying to my thoughts, J said something which resonated deeply with my feelings about what and why I write. Lives, she said, are things that she perceives as threads woven into a larger tapestry of humanity as a whole. We are all stories, she said (I'm slightly paraphrasing), and our stories combine to produce something much bigger than any of us. I couldn't agree more with that sentiment, and I love the metaphor. I like it so much, I wanted to share it with you today.
In my lifetime we suddenly have the means to document as much of our lives as we wish. We now have the tools to leave behind us as much of ourselves as we wish to; as many of our thoughts as we want to share. We have the spare time that our ancestors rarely had in order to make these recordings of our lives, and i feel fortunate to have been able to complete one volume that will hopefully convey more about who I am and the life that I'm leading than any collection of photographs or badly-remembered third party stories ever could. How wonderful. It seems a shame to allow the opportunity to pass me by. To pass us by.
Now, thanks to J, I can continue to tell my story with the thought (and, I should say, with an accompanying image) in my head that I am indelibly weaving my personal thread into a much, much larger piece of work. My insignificant little thread – the stories of an average man living a largely ordinary life – will be part of the future.
That makes me smile.