For the last week I’ve had a rough time of it. At our last counseling session I just started to feel really hopeless. It seemed like E and I were living in different realities. I couldn’t understand how we could ever make our way back to one life together when our views of the same world and the same facts were so different.
My response to this was to feel as I imagine most people would: that my version of reality is the right one. My reality is THE reality, of course. How could it not be? I lived it. I was there. I know it’s true.
Taking that point of view let me be really angry and frustrated and sad for a few days.
Then this weekend I went to the movies alone, something I haven’t done in a long time and used to be a regular part of my life. I saw Stories We Tell and it ended up being one of those moments where a piece of art comes out and talks to you, just you, as if you’re the only person there.
Has that ever happened to you? Sometimes it’s corny, like the time I had a crush on a guy and thought he liked me back and then he hooked up with another girl and as I cried on my way home the radio played You Can’t Always Get What You Want. That time was a little more like an anvil. This time I easily could’ve gotten away with not noticing but luckily my head was in a good space and ready for lightning to strike.
The film is a documentary about a family, specifically about their mother and everyone’s memories of her. It gets very unexpectedly complex and interesting and turns into much more, a meditation on memory and truth and storytelling. It works beautifully, weaving together different people’s stories of the same people and events that sometimes agree and sometimes disagree. There are only some things that are really sure and so many more that aren’t.
At one point in the film, one of the people being interviewed is upset about the idea of the documentary and how it brings in so many different points of view. He says that he wants to tell his version and his alone, that his is the real truth, that he is the one who knows it best. That once you bring in other voices from those affected only tangentially “you’re no longer touching bottom.”
No longer touching bottom. Something about that turn of phrase struck a chord in my head. It’s how I’ve felt in our counseling sessions when I hear us describe such different points of view. Like I’m trying to get my footing and I can’t. Like I just want to pin everything down and find the problem and fix it and be on my way.
The man, of course, is wrong. The story is richer with more people in it. Even a story of a relationship between just two people isn’t about just those two people. And even if just those two people told it, they wouldn’t tell the same story.
Instead of leaving me feeling lost, this has helped me feel like I’ve touched down on hard earth again.
Whether or not E and I work things out, we will always look at this time in our lives differently. We will always tell two different stories. And it’s the same with our happy times, those were two different realities, too.
Somehow it’s brought me a lot of comfort to realize that this is a constant, it’s not just something that’s happening right now and pulling us apart. It’s how things always are and always will be, whether we’re together or apart. And the story is always richer and more real with both of us having our say even if it can make us angry or frustrated.
I have no idea if any of this will make any sense to anyone or if it was just lightning striking me and me alone in that dark theater. But it’s nice standing on the ground once more.