Bestseller or Bargain Bin: The Stories We Tell About Ourselves


I’m a storyteller.  I tell stories.  Recently, however, I’ve been thinking about a different type of tale; the one I’m telling myself daily about me and my life.  This got me to thinking.  Am I in a comedy or a tragedy; a fairy tale or a mystery?  And like my fiction writing, do I have some semblance of control over setting, plot, characterization, pacing, and theme?

First of all, let’s meet the protagonist of my story: me.  After the required number of years of self-doubt I’m finally coming into myself and have discovered that I’m a pretty great character.  I’m compassionate and caring.  I’m fiercely loyal.  I’m an avid listener.  While a bit of a loner, I do shower every so often and leave my apartment to forage for food.  I try to pay attention to the universe, and when attacked by a red-winged blackbird I try to figure out what it’s trying to tell me.  I can be selfish when it comes to living my best life and I’ve learned to say no –  to disappoint others in an effort to be true to myself.  I’m a girl who will leave her home and her family to move three thousand miles away when I feel the nudge from my Creator.  I hate broccoli.  I enjoyed diving out of a plane.

There are antagonists in my story as well, though I’ve realized that every great read must have well developed villains and, in fact, in order to fully develop a villain they must be well-rounded – meaning they are never completely evil.  (Though my dealings with the folks at the cable company show me otherwise.)  These antagonists make my story interesting, they challenge me.  We spar.  Like all good writers I try to see the story from their vantage point.  Sometimes I fail.

Somewhere in my story there is a love interest, though he hasn’t introduced himself yet.  I imagine he’s in China, perhaps reading in a pagoda or climbing thousands of steps to visit a beautiful shrine.  He’s an adventurer, loves to travel, is rather breathtakingly handsome, and aside from his wonderful sense of humor, his best quality is his loyalty.  I’m not sure when he’ll be trekking to Cleveland, but hopefully it will be before my breasts have taken up residency under my armpits and I’m continually waxing my upper lip.

My story is set in Cleveland, Ohio, a place which has appeared on numerous lists, including:  America’s Fastest-Dying CitiesAmerica’s Most Miserable Cities, and America’s Worst Winter Weather Cities.  What Forbes can not fathom is that, while these are indeed tough times in the Midwest, and, yes, it’s colder than Sam McGee’s icy tomb in the winter, we have some of the friendliest and most hearty people in all of the states – adversity builds character. Alas, the opinion of is an essay for another time, suffice it to say that since Forbes isn’t housed here they’re not particularly well-equipped to write Cleveland, but for me this city is just another well-rounded and interesting character in my story.

I’ve just recently closed a chapter on a three year relationship.  With all of the ups and downs inherent in every partnering you expend a certain amount of energy giving to that significant other and many of my friends have assumed that I’m now suffering from depression. For a few days I wrote that tragedy.  I put pen to paper in my mind and looked at my symptoms, thought about my actions, or in-action, and mentally continued along that plot line.  Then it hit me; I can’t let other people write my story.  There are some really bad writers out there, there are folks that couldn’t weave a plot line to save their lives.  I realized that I’m not depressed.  Rather I imagine that I’m like a tanker-truck, docked at the refinery, being re-fueled, washed, pressures gauged; you get the picture.  Does this mean I need a scrip for Prozac?  I don’t think so.   While it might make for an interesting storyline – me on anti-depressants, I can imagine much better story arcs than that one.  And… this is my story, I’m writing it.

We are all storytellers and I’m curious, what kind of story are you telling yourself?

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