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Sunday, February 13, 2005

 

Autobiography as Haiku

"Autobiography as Haiku" is a feature in the Style section of the Washington Post Sunday edition. The idea is to express something about your life in 100 words or less. Each week they publish two people's submissions, and usually there's a bit of poetry in the juxtaposition.

I loved today's selections. In one of them a young woman concludes that life is like the vanilla ice cream her dead friend always ordered. He liked vanilla because you could put whatever you wanted into it. She writes, "After his funeral, I stared at a lump of vanilla ice cream and finally got it: Life is simple. It's what you put into it that makes it good."

I'm tempted to argue that no, life is more like an ice cream shop with hundreds of flavors to choose from - sometimes you stick with old favorites, sometimes you mix it up, and you're always looking for the perfect taste, even though you know you'll never get to try each flavor, let alone each flavor/topping combination. But then I wonder if the vanilla metaphor is right after all. Maybe at its core, life is that simple, and I just can't see it.

I submitted something to the Post once and never heard back. Thanks to the wonder of self-publishing, I'll share it with you here:
When I turned 26, I felt old for the first time. Closer to 30 than 20. Now high school and college feel like entries in a timeline, moments I can look at in photo albums. I got married at 23, got a mortgage at 25. Still I felt young. Then Bam!: 26. I know I have my whole life ahead of me, but I’ll never get used to having so much behind me. (December 2002)
I remember I also wrote one about the first plane ride my husband and I took after September 11 - how my bra set off the metal detector at the airport, and the feeling of letting go at takeoff, the ground disappearing below us. Does that tell you everything you need to know about my life? No way. But no snapshot would. This blog is a collection of snapshots that still don't reveal the whole picture. Maybe that's frustrating to you as a reader. Maybe you wish I'd pick a theme and focus on it: Amanda at Work, Amanda the Artist, Amanda and Her Dog. Well, like I said in one of my first posts back in December, life is not a sitcom. It's not tidy. My blog is named "multitudes" for a reason.

And yet - as I become increasingly convinced that improv is a microcosm of life, I hear the words of my improv teacher echo in my brain: "You have great energy. I can't teach that. Now you just need to harness it. Focus."

The beauty of the Post feature is the juxtaposition -- this story next to that one. A blog about any featured individual's life would be less pithy, but it would reveal a different kind of truth. A blog may be too much like unedited documentary footage to be compelling, but if you don't shoot the footage, you never get the film.

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