Yesterday, I said that not every dirty little detail has to make it into your story. Some things are just life.
And just because you're not letting life into your story doesn't mean you don't have to deal with it. So I feel obligated to now add that life has its place, too.
Life, as I consider it, belongs on the porch. That is, life is the talking point where we meet one another. Where things don't have to be deep because it's just life. It's incidental. Or coincidental, as the case may be. Life is what good neighbors talk about on the porch swing. It's what friends talk about over coffee. It's what acquaintances mention in passing in public. Life is what you talk about.
As it should be.
But wait - shouldn't we take every opportunity to talk story, not life? Shouldn't we be focused on words that matter instead of the grind and routine that I just said doesn't matter so much?
No. God, no.
Because we've all met these people. We've met people who can't talk life; they can only talk story. They're always weaving everything into the bigger picture and refusing to redirect from their overall mission, which is usually to demonstrate precisely how awesome their story is because of their attitude toward specifically the things you're mentioning - that is, life. We know these people, and do you ever feel like you can actually relate to any of them? Do you get the sense they have any understanding at all of what this world is? Or do they seem sort of aloof to you? Distant? Removed? Arrogant, even, like they are above all this "life"?
That's why when we're talking, we talk about life. That's how we relate to one another. That's how we scope each other out. Our responses to circumstance, sure, but we can't neglect the circumstance itself. That's where we make the connection that we're all in this thing together, and we start to form bonds with one another. Life is where hearts and stories meet.
This is true even for lives that meet in story. Even for lives impressed by story and drawn to the greater tale being told. Think of the person you admire, the one you wish you could be like, the one you've waited to hear speak something into your life. Now, remember the moment when you felt like they could actually understand. Was it story? No. It was probably life. It was the moment when they said something of their details and something in you breathed again and said, "Ok. They're normal. They're just like me."
Life opens the door to story. It grounds us here and sort of levels out the playing field so that our story has impact. So that people look at our story and don't think it's detached or unattainable. They look at our story and see that it's buried and burdened in the same day-to-day grind that theirs is, and that's where story gets power. By being in it all. Not above it all. Not removed from it all. But right in the thick of it all. In the thick of all this. (Whatever THIS is. I don't always know.)
So that's life. It's something to talk about. On porches. In coffeeshops. In lobbies and hallways and phone calls and grocery stores. In fact, it's really the only thing to talk about. But you can't just talk about life; you have to respond to it. And that is your story. (We've all also met people who can do nothing but talk about life, and we can't help but feel sorry for them, for they will always be victim to their details. It has to be a balance.)
You talk about life; you live story. Get the details confused, and you're giving up your pen. Hold tight on your story, and you have say over your life. Choose how you respond to the details, without sacrificing yourself to them. That's where your life speaks, without words, and that is story.
Even if you start out talking about life.