The story of my life is like a salad–more palatable when someone else does the cutting up and the mixing. I don’t know what to leave out of a salad. I put everything into it every time–lettuce chopped so fine it’s better eaten with a spoon, carrots, celery, purple onions, avocado, apples, walnuts, cranberries, green olives and croutons, blue cheese, balsamic vinaigrette. All chopped up and blended to within an inch of its life so that each bite contains a bit of each. Delicious, yes, but not enough variety between bites, perhaps. All of the elements mix up so much it is impossible to taste the flavor of each. They blend into a fresh hash that becomes another thing entirely.
And this is what my life is like, as well. Everything is remembered in such detail that I can’t sort out the relevant facts. No one thing stands out as being the thing to feature. I can’t get the gist of events. What does it mean–that year or more in Africa? Somehow, after a lifetime of reading books that imply reasons for things, nothing in my own life makes sense anymore.
I try to look at myself objectively. What in her makeup made her fall in love with a man who would become her stalker? What makes her leave places where things seem to be working out fine to jump into a new location and situation where she is thrust once again into the role of stranger? Does she think, perhaps, this time she will come closer to finding herself? Or does she think it will be a chance to try out a new life without the censure of friends who expect her to be the same person she was yesterday or last year?
What writer more competent than myself could find the pattern where all these pieces fit together into a recognizable whole? Perhaps Barbara Kingsolver could determine more easily how I fit in to my time or Joyce Maynard could extract those details that would make my life read like a mystery. Anne Tyler could describe those eccentricities that make my family readable, even if they aren’t from Baltimore; and I could certainly use the help of Abraham Verghese in writing the portions of my life that took place in Ethiopia. But undoubtedly, these favorite writers are all embarked on projects of their own, so it is not likely that any will be forthcoming in helping me to solve the conundrum of my own life story.
It’s like all of the details of my life are jumbled together in one of those big boxes out in the garage that I haven’t opened in fourteen years. Even if I could bring myself to open those boxes, how could I ever make sense of them? Yes, there are all these little boxes as well–where I’ve sorted the very best details into stories or poems or essays.–but where do those little boxes fit within the shipping container of my life?
In spite of a lifetime of writing, I have to face the fact that I don’t have the skills to write my own biography. Perhaps my task was to get famous enough to prompt someone else to do the deed, but it is getting late in my life and that seems unlikely to happen. My chances to become infamous are equally long past, or at least I hope they are. I have no wish to become famous due to my misdeeds or eccentric behavior. Perhaps it is enough to unpack these tiny boxes one by one on my blog–like little parts of the entire tossed salad of my life. Not biography. Just bites.