It's been a heck of a year - aging parent's on both sides of the family, moves to accommodate said aging parents, funerals, and trying to settle into a new, stable orbit free of the gravitational pull of my Corporate overlords, etc., etc. It's unclear whether or not equilibrium has been established, but the wobbles seem to be slowing.
What's brought me back is the notion of "creation stories". Not the tedious creationist vs. science debate, but our our personal creation stories.
Of course there are a host of conventional creation stories - whether it's The Six Days that Changed Everything (rest on the 7th), Ymir and the Frost Ogres, or the Big Bang, every culture has a way to explain how we came to be. Lately, those old saws don't interest me as much as our personal creation stories, though.
We all tell personal creation stories whether we realize it or not - these "how we came to be where we are" explanations are the stuff of job interviews and holiday party conversations. I told one of my own here. All of these tales draw on indisputable fact (the day we were born, graduated, got married, had kids, got laid off, etc.) but the threads that tie these facts together are dyed in a bath of personal perception, emotion and rationalizations. The result is not a simple telling of history, but a tale that gives greater explanation and meaning to the whole mess that is our existence - the "why" behind the "what", if you like.
I have been confronted with one such creation story a lot these days - my Mom's explanation of how she came to her current living situation (something I was intimately involved in every step of the way). From my outside perspective, it's pretty straight forward and needed to happen. From her perspective, she moved to assisted living for others, and although she likes certain aspects of it, she makes it clear that this would not have been her choice, but that she is getting used to it. The little detail that her life has changed and the old way was not possible never makes it into the telling.
This used to dry me absolutely ape shit - I was always tempted to want to "correct" certain aspects of the story. The fact of the matter is that I can't correct her story with anymore success than if she were to arm-chair quarterback the trajectory of my life.
While I am not a fan of revisionist history, I am coming to see that although people may have widely different explanations of shared events, that does not mean somebody is wrong. The winds of cause and effect will inevitably blow narratives in as many directions as there are tellers. I think it's better to recognize our personal creation stories for what they are and learn from the teller's version because only that way can we really understand the meaning of major event in other people's lives.