Mostly it’s advice columns. I had no idea there were so many of them. I start reading through people’s highly specific dilemmas, and I’m swept away. All of these situations are so unlike mine that I forget my own life for a while.
Then I realized that I had a backlog of news articles (advice columns included) that dated back before the pandemic.
Now I could skim to my heart’s content. Roommate drama! Classroom hijinks! Traveler’s tales! Yes, please. Give me your petty complaints about life before breathing could kill you.
Realizing that there was a date cut-off, after which was all COVID all the time, and before which was... normal daily life... was a revelation. It’s like the tide washing up on the beach, dry sand on one side and wet clumpy sand on the other.
I have other backlogs!
I started going through the 30+ G of podcasts that had built up on my phone. Some of my automatic downloads went back to 2018. Such bliss! Do you remember how much time people used to spend going back and forth on each other’s true crime shows?
One of my shows started covering conspiracies around the JFK assassination. Now there is a classic non-pandemic storyline that seems to go on forever. This weekend my hubby and I might watch a JKF conspiracy documentary together.
(Not that we are conspiracy-minded; we’re actually more like debunkers. If you are into conspiracies it probably wouldn’t survive extended social contact with an engineer).
(If you’re curious, I think it’s obvious that Oswald was the lone shooter, first of all because the passing decades have shown how common it is for a lone shooter to go out and kill people. Second, he got his job at the book depository over a month before the assassination, and it just makes much more sense that being on the motorcade route was a coincidence. Third, there are so many widely divergent conspiracy theories that for all of them to be in play in the same place at the same event is, well, it’s ludicrous. But for any of them to be true they have to give reasons that invalidate all the others, so they all fall in the crossfire).
See? It’s intriguing. The story isn’t so much about what happened on a certain day; the story of conspiracy theories is how a particular notion captivates so many people who are then so determined to convince others of their version.
I mean, what earthly use is it to play armchair detective to events that happened that far in the past? My telling someone that I think Oswald acted alone is about as useful as my telling someone that I also think Lizzie Borden was guilty.
Or that someone else wants to tell people the Earth is flat.
Why does it matter? Because stories matter, because we love telling stories to each other and we just want someone to listen.
I sometimes wonder what it’s like in the afterlife, whether all the dead folk tell each other stories and whether they can tell whether these stories are true or not.
I like to imagine that there’s an all-access pass to a sort of library, where you can look up any answers about past events and finally know what transpired, even centuries before your lifetime.
The princes in the tower? Whodunnit!
Even more so, all the stories about UFO sightings, Sasquatch... Sasquatch flying around in a UFO... How great it would be to finally know what really happened, to know the end of the story.
What then, though? To know the end of every story is to be at the end of story itself. Closed book.
Isn’t it better to get to the end of a story, knowing it isn’t over and that you’ll never really know? An ambiguous ending gives you something to think about, something to puzzle over and something to talk about.
This is why we want to be around other people so much, because of our existential need for story. We need to know what everyone else is up to.
Me? I’m mostly working, and that’s a story in itself. Once upon a time there was a sick lady who nearly died, but then her dream job opened up and her husband submitted her resume. Then she sat at a tiny little desk in a tiny little corner upon a velvet cushion, and there she will sit forevermore.
The rest of the time, it’s story that’s getting me through. Novel after novel after novel. Tough boarding schools! Blended families! Murder plots! Sorcery! Cowboys even!
Not that long ago, I was wondering what would be the last book I ever finished, or the last movie I ever watched. Paranoia about ending with a mediocre tale caused me to start being more selective. No movies rated below 70%. No boring books.
The story that we exist in today is boring me sideways right now. Thuh pandemic. Ughhhh. Chances are, at a certain point in the timeline, people who were lucky enough to be born past our era may look back at these times and find them interesting. Perhaps they will develop a deep curiosity about us and what we were thinking and doing.
Probably mostly about what we were thinking.
What stories are we going to tell these future people?
More relevant to my interests, what books are they going to be reading that have not yet been published?
It’s my desire to still be around to read these future unwritten stories, or at least glance at them as I wander around a bookshop. At some point, we will have gotten through, and there will be that many more stories yet to tell.
I've been working with chronic disorganization, squalor, and hoarding for over 20 years. I'm also a marathon runner who was diagnosed with fibromyalgia and thyroid disease 17 years ago.
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