One of the best things you can have is friends who can write. And one of the best things that can happen if you have friends who can write is for one of them to write about an event that you yourself were there for.
Because seeing the facts Rashomon-effect their way though someone else’s smart, insightful brain gives your memory of things an almost sixth sensian bonus dimension. Like the story as you saw it unfold was just this sad black and white 2D thing until your wordly friend came along and pointed their POV at the thing and suddenly, just like a second camera turns a 2D movie into 3D, the whole story plumps to life with all kinds of delightful and heretofore unobserved sights and details. Meanwhile the other person’s unique cauldron of emotions and insecurities adds new color to everything you saw, Kansas-to-Oz style.
Like when my friend Jill (a great writer who in fact just wrote her own thing today about how much you of the now loves you of the then for writing down your stories and she just published this insanely wonderful and important book) and I one drove across these united states of ours, and each night we both online-diaried (in our pants) about our shared experiences from our day together on the road.
I’ve heard that conjoined twins often say the exact same thing at the same exact time, not (necessarily) because their brains are mushed together, but because their associations they’ve built up over their lifetime are identical. The exact same experiences forged the wrinkles and furrows of both their minds.
While Jill and I were only metaphorically joined at the hip for the 12 days of that trip—climbing the same sand mountains (hers |mine), driving through the same super badlands (hers |mine), sampling the same raspberry milkshakes (hers | mine)—our reactions were in no way identical. One of my favorite parts of that trip (and it was a very good trip) was how every morning we’d wake up and read each each other’s write-ups from the previous day, and marvel over how same-but-different they were.
Something similar but different happened when I read Jenny Lawson’s first book, Let’s Pretend This Never Happened (highly recommended, five HAHAHAHAHAs). Specifically the “Making Friends with Girls” chapter. In it she describes being invited to “a weekend all-girl retreat in California wine country for a small group of bloggers.” Well here’s something: I too was invited to that very same retreat!
If you read Jenny’s take on the weekend, it was all about intimidatingly high-fashion ladies in coordinated pajamas, yoga fart fears and possibly a mountain lion. Now if you were to read my version of the same weekend (which you can’t because I didn’t write about it because I haven’t written in over 6 years because being a parent has left me creatively dead inside), it’d be a very different story.
Here’s how I remember it. At the time, my son Desi was only 10 weeks old, but I was already grappling with big fears that having a baby maybe meant I wasn’t going to ever get to do anything me-focused ever, never again. So I was all fired up to go away for the the weekend to prove my fears wrong, and I spent a whole week stockpiling breastmilk so I could go. (Did you know that late, late at night, breast pumps speak to you? Mine said “stay home…stay home…stay home” in a sinister onomatopoeic wheeze.)
When I got there, the women all congratulated me on the 29-hour, drug-free birth of my 9 and 1/4 pound baby, congratulations that I richly deserved because that baby birthing thing is NO JOKE. And then everybody marveled over how amazing it was that I was already able to leave him at home. I felt pretty good about it, too, until maybe the tenth mother told me how she’d been utterly unable to travel until her baby was 25 years old at least. Slowly it began to dawn on me that I was the worst mother ever, I had zero parenting instincts and my baby was pretty much already ruined. Cut to me passed out in my hotel room, topless and drunk on fine Napa wine, my breast pump pumping away alongside me, whispering sweet criticisms in my ear.
So that’s where MY head was at that entire weekend. An altogether different take on the very same set of events. Though I too remember the yoga farting. And like Jenny, I also remember lots of awesome girl conversations, and laughing and relatedly drinking.
Reliving that weekend through someone else’s eyes and anxieties, it reminded me of something my friend Liz took away from a short stint she spent in group therapy: No one is ever thinking about you as much as you’re thinking about you. Jenny wasn’t thinking about what a shitty mother I am. She was worrying about whether her knees looked fat in her jeans. (They didn’t!) A welcome relief and also a reminder, in the form of a well-written 3D fresh-point-of-viewfinder.