Monday, May 9, 2011

Living Our Best Story

Ethan has this new habit that cracks me up. I think it's from the Thomas the Train books and DVDs. Sometimes he doesn't live the day or describe something to me as much as he narrates it, kind of like the narrator on the DVDs, the one that switches voice to match each engine ("I am the fastest engine in Sodor!" said Gordon. "No you're not!" exclaimed Thomas.)

It started that way, playing with trains. Ethan will play almost anything IF I play with him. Left alone to his table, he smashes things and then walks away. It's the weirdest thing. So we were playing one day and I noticed he was narrating. "The bridge is broken!" I'd say in a certain train's voice, and he'd fill in, "Said Toby." "We must fix the railroad!" I would shout, and Ethan would add, "Said Sir Topham Hatt."

This method works quite well for Ethan, who has always had a habit of repeating the words someone spoke rather than telling me exactly what happened. If he wants to go back to Grammie's house, for example, he won't ask, "Can we go back to Grammie's soon?" Instead he'll say, "We'll go back to Grammie's soon," repeating my exact words and reassuring tone. Or when he's recalling something that happened, he won't tell me: he'll repeat the critical moment. "Nate! Don't throw your lunch box!" he said loudly the other day, and I will bet you $100 Nate in his preschool class did indeed throw his lunch box and that was how Mrs. Vincenti corrected him.

Now, with the new narration thing going, it's '"Nate! Don't throw your lunch box!' said Mrs. Vincenti." Or he'll say, '"Don't open the windows!' said Mamma."

I find this all quite funny, because I have always been one of those people who felt as if I was living in a novel or a movie. Meaning, I'd kind of narrate to myself. There'd be a big scene, like the school dance in which I really wanted to dance with Jamie and he didn't ask me and I sat alone on the bleachers listening to Tiffany sing some depressing song (really dating myself here), and I suddenly would feel as if the cameras were panning out and I could almost hear the narrator commenting on the pathetic sight below.

I don't know, maybe I was reading too many young adult novels at the time, but the thing is I've carried that habit with me. I remember writing a poem after 9/11, my last explosion of poetry until recently, and specifically I wrote about how I felt as if I was outside of myself, watching this happen to all of us, watching the way we as Americans reacted, and feeling as if I was viewing scenes from a movie.

About a year ago I came across a book by Donald Miller called "A Million Miles in a Thousand Years." Donald Miller is what I'd call an atypical Christian author. He probably would make some Christians angry, particularly those who are more fundamentalist-leaning. I love his stuff, even if I don't always agree with him.

In the book he talked about being in the process of having a movie filmed based on his life. Only, when they got into the real nuts and bolts of writing the story, the guys working on it realized it needed more. His life was found lacking, needing some "sprucing up," some more excitement to the plot. This was a profound revelation to him. He began to wonder how many of us are living our best life.

Sometimes what we think is the good life is really, in fact, not so much. "People don't pay to go see a movie about someone who saved up for years to buy a Volvo, and then finally got it," he writes. No, people want to see movies about courage and risk, conflict and resolution, about someone who faced adversity and overcame it. We crave that when it's the movies...but our own lives are often so hollow; lacking depth; focused on obtaining comfort.

Live your best story, Miller writes.

When Ethan starts up with his narration of daily events, I'm reminded that I am living a story. Sometimes I need to remember it's not a sentimental flick like those made-for-TV movies I used to watch when I was a teenager. It's really God's story. I want to do Him justice. Reflect His love. That is the best story.

No comments: