Story Arcs

Karen and I managed to arrange a much-needed change of scenery over the holiday weekend and escaped to the beach. Aside from being completely relaxed and slightly sunburned, another, and more interesting, outcome of this trip was an observation of memory.

What made the trip interesting was that, while we were joining other people for the weekend, the destination was where Karen and I honeymooned. We hadn’t been back since, and the emotional associations that the house, the beach, and the town carried for me took me a bit by surprise…above and beyond what I thought I would experience there.

Memories, I think, are among the most precious gifts given to us, because they remind us of our back story. Interestingly, Karen and I were discussing the value of story in theology and psychology and (oddly) popular music while driving down. What we experienced was a review of the beginnings of our own story.

The friends with whom we were visiting have a daughter. Karen was very close with this girl during her early childhood. However, since grad school and our being married, we live several hours away, and Karen hasn’t been a significant part of this girl’s life in about 5 years. The girl didn’t really remember Karen. I think that’s tragic…to not remember someone influential in your story, a human life that has crossed yours…to not have a referent for where you learned or experienced something that that person may have taught you…that’s something that I can’t imagine. I think it must be similar to what sufferers of certain diseases affecting the memory must experience, although, ironically, they likely don’t know that they’re experiencing it.

I watched Karen re-solidify that relationship over the weekend, and it was fascinating to observe. In the end, while I won’t say they were where they had left off years ago, I certainly think they were on their way. As their story moved forward, they had began to piece together missing links in the preceding chapters, thus solidifying their current lives that much more.

Buechner asserts that all theology is narrative; that is, seen through the lens of one’s life experiences and encounters with God. Similarly, I think that psychology is narrative, also, as it deals with the holistic person. One is not defined by one’s symptoms or pathology alone…those are just pieces of a larger puzzle. One is defined just as much by the lives that touch theirs, by their experiences, by their travels, by their culture…in short, by their story.

I’m glad that Karen renewed her relationship with our friends’ daughter. I’m glad that we had a chance to spend some small time with our friends, because they, and that place, are a huge part of our story, as it interweaves with theirs. To lose any part of that story, any small component, would be to make us less. What I’ve walked away from the weekend with is a renewed sense of importance of how tragic it is to lose any small piece of our story to forgetfulness or neglect.

And, ironically, I forgot to take any pictures.

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