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I Sometimes Can’t Stop Myself

A 3 or 4 year old Giyen at at Shore Acres State Park, Coos Bay Oregon.
A very long time ago at Shore Acres State Park, Coos Bay, Oregon.

I had dinner at a friend’s house the other day, and I could not stop telling stories about myself. It was like one of those out-of-body experiences where you can’t stop yourself from doing terrible things … even though you so desperately want to. “Stop talking,” you plead with your inner self, but it’s futile. Your mouth has taken on a life of its own.

So instead, you keep going, and stories fall out of your mouth one after the other, after the other, until you’re under the table drowning in your own words. No one can really save you from yourself. You’re waiting for the eventuality of your death, and all you want to hear is the dinner host call out, “Time of death, 9:35 pm. Cause of death, verbal diarrhea.”

Only then will you allow yourself to hope that you’ve regained control of your body again. Yet secretly, you know there’s always tomorrow, with a whole new group of people who never heard the story about that one time at band camp. And the entire thing plays out again like a movie sequel … sometimes better than the first, but more often worse.

This is the life of a storyteller. Which, at the age of 47, feels like the closest description of who I am as a person as there ever will be. I am in love with words and how you can fit them together in ways that can surprise and delight people. Creating stories is intoxicating. You can spend a lifetime figuring out how to write a good story and another lifetime figuring out how to tell that story out loud to a group of people. It’s something that takes time and practice, and even then, it’s a crapshoot on whether or not anything will ever come of the labor. You are compelled to show up anyway.

Writing a memoir seems like the most self-aggrandizing thing you can do as a storyteller. I am in the thick of it and feel endlessly conflicted. Who will care? But then again, there are 26 letters in the alphabet and 171,476 words in the Oxford English Dictionary calling out to me. It is nothing short of a miracle that we can string a few letters together in endless permutations to create original works of art. It takes my breath away, and the words just fall out of my head, one after another, without restraint.

Sunday Dispatches

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