We are all visitors in each other’s stories

With 2011 drawing to a close, it's time for a year-end reflection...
“There are no happy endings,” Cerin told her. “There are no real endings ever—happy or otherwise. We all have our own stories which are just a part of the one Story that binds both this world and Faerie. Sometimes we step into each others’ stories—perhaps just for a few minutes, perhaps for years—and then we step out of them again. But all the while, the Story just goes on.”
–Charles de Lint, “Ghosts of Wind and Shadow,” Dreams Underfoot (pg. 205).
As I’ve grown up (or at least older), I’ve realized this truth. Break-ups, deaths of loved ones, struggles and failures, triumphs, and adjusted ambitions lead you to grasp life’s impermanence. My first short stories weren’t without stakes, but all ended with finite dénouements. The guy got the girl (or didn’t) and that was that. That was the outcome.

Life’s more complicated (as are multidimensional stories). And that’s for the better. The idea of “what comes after” the story’s end opens up worlds of possibilities for your fictional characters, as well as those you meet in real-life.

High school ends, jobs change, friends move…During these shifts, you feel as though you’re leaving behind epochs of Life. You’ll never return to that classroom, that building, that home. I reflect on such places with twinges of nostalgia. I revisit them in dreams to fulfill long-held dreams of reliving such adventures. Perhaps my tendency to explore and savor what’s past is what attracts me to my writer’s desk.

The timeworn sayings tell us to grow cynical with age. “Men grow cold as girls grow old/And we all lose our charms in the end.” In a finite world, Life’s dénouement is the wilting of what’s past. In the real world, I prefer to age wistfully.

To understand de Lint’s quote, is to see the cyclical nature of life’s impermanence. “We step into each others’ stories…and then we step out of them again.” What’s past is not lost—it simply manifests itself in your present. Characters resurface, feelings kindle on, lessons you learned come back to teach you what you once forgot. You may not return to your favorite English classroom to study how you once did, but you recognize Dickens, Kafka, and Salinger in your daily life and people that inhabit it. You only have to continue to reach for and invite in new experiences for you to continue to come full circle and welcome your past epochs into your present and future lives.

See you in 2012.