Time and the Storyteller
“A story is already over before we hear it. That is how the storyteller knows what it means.” -Joan Silber, The Art of Time in Fiction
I hope I am not one of those people who says, “Everything happens for a reason.” As I once heard Barry Keating say, “God doesn’t send you hardship to build your character.”
Nevertheless, things happen, and sometimes character gets built. Sometimes things work out for the best. But knowing that isn’t necessarily helpful at the moment.
One of my daughters has had a setback, not getting into a program she had set her heart on. I’m reminded of other disappointments. Concert ticket scams fallen for. The right boy not making an appearance at the right time. Mom not giving in to a request for shoes that could change her life. Dropped ice cream cones.
I’m reminded of a boss who used to say, when his melodramatic young employees carried on over an upset, “And, Lo, she did not die.”
I’m reminded of a time one of my nephews, new at toddling, fell and bumped his head. When my brother-in-law got upset, my mother, the wise grandmother, said, “He’ll have lots of bumps and bruises in his little life.”
Which doesn’t mean you don’t keep an eye out for potential danger. Which doesn’t mean your heart doesn’t sink when your child is hurt, emotionally or physically.
One of the things I like about being a writer is that hindsight, which is 20-20, becomes a tool for storytelling. In life we don’t know, not yet, what will come of a missed opportunity. Later, in storytelling time (one might say), we do know.
It feels like a tragedy, just now. But no one has died. (No one even got bruised!) If you keep your eyes open–you’ll see other doors open.
I’ve long thought that there is no meaning in the things that happen to us. So: No, they don’t happen “for a reason.” But when we tell the story of them, we find can find reason and meaning. All stories are told for a reason, I think. I tell mine to help me find meaning. I am sorry your daughter is hurting (which, I know, means you are, too).
Rita — I meant to reply to this a month ago! I really appreciate this response, and I do think that it is up to us to find reason and meaning. Someone said to me that “maybe it’s not meant to be” (as this is the third rejected application). But I just don’t accept that. I think if my kiddo wants it, she should keep fighting for it. “With fear and trembling.” Maybe there’s a way around this that none of us have thought of yet. Lots of sleepless nights. Meanwhile, she seems to have bounced back. Thank you, anyway, for helping me look into it farther.