The Stories We Tell Ourselves

DSCF4452As a reader, I go on historic-biographic benders, becoming fascinated by a specific person or period of time, and then reading everything I can find to round out the picture. The perspectives can be in utter opposition, depending on each different author’s point of view and proximity to the subject. I especially enjoy when a new discovery or the passage of time leads to a revised outlook and therefore, another series of books that will enlarge my own understanding of someone or some event.

DSCF4462Storytelling, of course, occurs every time we put pen to paper, sit at a computer, pick up our phone, open our mouth or engage in thought. We tell ourselves and others stories about ourselves, our families, our countries, our gods, and the infinite and infinitesimal events that have shaped us. They tell us theirs. Often, we are the heroines of our tales; we are the wronged, the misunderstood, the courageous, and occasionally the foolish leading characters, but I’ve encountered people who seemed largely absent from their stories as well, giving the stage over to their parents, or teachers, or voices unidentified yet dominant in their story.

DSCF4575We tell ourselves stories about other people, too, trying to understand their behavior and choices, or trying to justify our own.

Given his scientific bent and inbred humility, my husband’s stories are not nearly as fanciful as my own. In the absence of data, he seeks to discover it; I leap to fantastical explanations, to keep the story exciting and moving along. I give you this recent occurrence as an example.

DSCF4626Friday marked the first day of spring, and so a friend and I thought we should meet to celebrate this fact with wine and a meal and a good long visit.

I decided to wear pants long enough to make me feel taller than I am (or, as tall as I am in my stories) and needed to wear my favorite pair of Eastland leather clogs—the ones with the two-inch heels—to accomplish this. I reached for the pair and discovered only one.

I searched the closet floor, and then another closet’s floor. I looked under the bed and in the other rooms of the house, which, as a neat-freak-hyper-orderly type, began to make me feel frustrated. I always place my shoes on a given shelf, beside each other. The 4-leggeds have never shown the interest in footwear commonly ascribed to their breeds. There are only two humans living in our home…where, on earth, had my shoe gone? Back to the closets.

No partner to the lonely clog.

And then it dawned on me. I had read an article about Birkenstock shoes in The New Yorker this past week. Although ugly, they have remained popular because of the utter comfort they offer the feet lucky enough to wear them. The brand has even become fashionable, for some. I have always wanted a pair, but they are pricey, and I am “prudent.” (That’s my story. Others might say, “parsimonious.” Or “a tight-fisted, penny-pinching miser.”)

But Phillip, along with being logical and humble, is also loving and romantic, so I quickly concluded that he had also read the article and wanted to surprise me with a pair, but had required one of my shoes to check the size. This conclusion, of course, was based on no evidence, but it explained the mystery of the missing shoe and created a pleasing story.

However, even given my impressive ability to suspend disbelief, the story felt a tad implausible. I called Phillip at work to check it out, but sought to gently tease out the truth I’d already surmised. Picture him in a classroom surrounded by adolescents eager for the school day to end.

“Hello?” (High school noises in background.)

“Hi, honey…Have you by any chance seen one of my black clogs?”

“What?”

I pretended to be innocent of his plan to surprise me with Birkenstocks. “Would you happen to have taken one of them? For any reason?”

(No response. Long pause. Then laughter.) “Do I have one of your clogs?  Um, no.”

“I’ve looked all over the house and it’s nowhere to be found, so I was just wondering…” Here is where he should have broken down and admitted he had planned a lovely surprise for me. But no. Nada. Zip. I faltered. My story began to dissolve. There were no Birkenstocks winging their way to me from Germany, or wherever they’re made. I offered a false laugh of my own. “Well, I better get going. See you later.”

He continued laughing. “Yup. Have a good time with Heidi.”

I pulled on some boots with heels and walked down to the basement to check once more for my clog, switch the laundry to the dryer, and get on my way before I became late. Being on time is part of my story, too.

Nope. No clog with the various sneakers and boots in the basement.

I pulled the last bit of damp clothing out of the washer and there was my clog. It had, apparently, fallen from the shoe shelf into the laundry basket and been washed and spun to almost-dry. I brought it upstairs, stretching it back into a shape approximating that of my foot, impressed by the shoe’s ability to withstand a wash cycle. I set it next to its partner, imagining their joy at being reunited.

I met my friend at the pub and told her the story, and we had a great laugh and lovely evening.

When I came home, I told Phillip the rest of the story as well, even, sheepishly, the part about my expectation of Birkenstocks. He followed me into the bedroom and laughed while I changed into my comfy clothes. And pulled on the almost-dry clog to help it again reacquaint itself with my foot.

And then I saw the bouquet of a dozen pink tulips on my desk.

DSCF4640The first day of spring! My beloved always gives me a bouquet to celebrate the equinox! I hobbled across the room and hugged him to bits and pieces.

Sometimes the stories we tell ourselves aren’t nearly as wonderful as what’s actually happening now, right before our eyes. That’s my story, anyway, and I’m sticking to it.

DSCF4649P.S.: Today I noticed this mysterious hole in the riverbed. Phillip says it’s a tire or a tire rim, but I’m thinking it’s probably a portal to another universe…yeah, that’s it.

DSCF4645

9 thoughts on “The Stories We Tell Ourselves

  1. Hahahahaha…..what a sister soul you are to me! That’s exactly how I think, so of course Philip had taken the shoe to buy you another pair!!! I loved this and the laugh it gave me! I also loved seeing all your gorgeous wildlife, you’ll have to start naming them so egets like me know get to find out what they all are. The robin-like birds are simply breathtaking!
    Now you and Philip are both wrong of course re the hole in the river, it’s the egg of an extremely rare creature, and it will grow and glow, lights will emanate from it, then one moonlit night it’s shell will dissolve and the most beautiful, transparent creature ever seen will emerge and dive to the deepest depths, never to be seen by man again…..until fifty years from now, when it once again emerges to lay another huge shiny egg in the shallows….xxx

    • Ha, ha! I like your story, too! I’ll keep my eyes open and let you know if I see the lights and transparent creature!

      Let’s see, those are two young North American Robin males. Later in the week, the male robins were fighting over territory, so I’m glad I caught them in “friendly” mode.

      The ducks are Mallards, a type of wild duck that truly “quacks.”

      Then, there are three Sandhill Cranes in the field. They stand about 4 feet, weigh up to 12 pounds, and have a wingspan of about 6 feet. They can also fly up to 450 miles a day during migration. They have an extremely distinctive call. I just love them. They seem dinosaur-like. (http://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/sandhill_crane/sounds

      And the Cardinal and I were trading songs along the trail Friday morning…I’m not sure; I think we might be married, or at least betrothed.

      Thanks for visiting, Dina, soul-sister, and blessings on your week.

        • They’re immense. Very prehistoric…but they have these punkish brilliant red mohawks, too. 🙂

          Oh, Dina! I walked in the (very wet) snowfall this morning and discovered a spot where bluebirds fluttered everywhere…so magical. Unfortunately, my camera lens was wet, my sweatshirt was wet, everything was wet…so, my photos are pretty blurry, but my eyes sure had a treat! 🙂

  2. Hysterical…At first I thought most likely one of the 4 leggeds would be the thief…
    Never did I think it would be in the washer! So glad it wasn’t ruined! Glad you had a wonderful day with your friend as well. I am so jealous of your Robins!!!! Still two feet of snow out my window and I am growing very weary of seeing it. Some 40’s this week so it should begin to melt away. I can’t wait. Getting ready to plant my seeds for the garden. Always fun to watch the green poke through the dirt…I’m ready! Enjoy the springtime wonders. Blessings and hugs…VK ❤

  3. Spring is coming…we had about three-four inches of snow this morning, but needed the moisture, and it will melt soon…I saw bluebirds this morning: so lovely! Joy to your week, VK! 🙂

  4. Thank you, Shimon! That my shoe survived–and with such a clean sole–had made me think I ought to give the other one a wash cycle treatment, too. 🙂 The tulips are still thriving: such a beautiful gift and reminder of what’s to come…We have snow again this morning, but it looks like rain will wash it away this afternoon: March is always quite mysterious and undecided about whether she’s winter or spring: one foot in each, I guess. 🙂

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