Spear-carrier in someone else’s opera

“When you can recognize a person’s story as their story, you begin to have access to their version of the story, so that you’re not stuck with, you don’t have to resign yourself to, their version of the story.”

“You can’t ask questions like ‘True?’ about people’s stories. There’s no such thing as ‘true stories.’ A story’s a story. People get into trouble in life because they start believing their stories. Even worse, you start believing someone else’s story—makes you a spear-carrier in someone else’s opera. This is not a good way to live.”                                  Werner Erhard

 

What happened: we got married. I asked her to marry me, and she said yes. There was no hesitation: yes, I will marry you. It was an afternoon in the early spring of 2014. We were on the bed talking about things and I think she asked me if I could imagine living with her, in her house. I said, yes, and then asked “Will you marry me?” She said yes. We chose to get married.

As proposals, and acceptances, go, it was pretty cut and dry. There wasn’t any romance to it. I don’t think we kissed one another, embraced, definitely didn’t make love. We talked about the practicalities: health insurance, protecting assets with a prenuptial agreement, dates for the wedding. Then the day went on as any other day at home.

What happened? We got married. Then there’s this whole story. And they’re distinct from one another. Mostly our stories are constituted by our reasons. We live the kind of life that people would have if they lived out of a story.

My wife’s story is about leaving. She was already always leaving. Her story about leaving owned her. She left her childhood, her home, her family, her husbands, her lovers. Years and years and years of leaving. She was always already leaving. Oh, she had reasons. And her reasons confirmed that her story was the true story. She believed her reasons and her story and those reasons and the story she told herself validated her leaving.

Her story left no clearing to have a new possibility in her life. Her future was constituted by her past, and her past was always already leaving. Its obviousness was apparent to anyone who looked closely. That’s why so many of her friends, afterwards, told me that was her history. She left her men. The two who immediately preceded me, the two between husband number two and husband number three, perplexed many. One I know; one I don’t. Both, I’m told, were hurt by her leaving. The one man I know, and like, has only very recently opened up to me. His polite reserve prevented him from ever saying anything while my wife and I were together. It wouldn’t have been appropriate. Or kind.

Three times in my life I have confused an interesting, compelling story with an interesting, compelling person. One would think I might have learned the difference, even the hard way. But that’s the danger of stories. Stories captivate the listener as they imprison the teller.

Then, as Werner warned, you become a spear-carrier in someone else’s opera. Tragic opera.

And sometimes the spear-carrier gets speared in the story.

It’s bloody, and bloody awful.

 

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