Telling the real story

I'm reading a great collection of essays by Ann Patchett called This Is the Story of a Happy Marriage. In the essay "Fact vs. Fiction," she says this:

Who makes things up? Who tells the real story? We all turn our lives into stories. It is a defining characteristic of our species. We retell our experiences. We quickly learn what parts are interesting to our listeners and which parts lag, and we shape our narratives accordingly. It doesn’t mean that we aren’t telling the truth; we’ve simply learned which parts to leave out. Every time we tell the story again, we don’t go back to the original event and start from scratch, we go back to the last time we told the story. It’s the story we shape and improve on, we don’t change what happened.
— Ann Patchett at The Miami University of Ohio Convocation Address of 2005

Last week I attended and told at the Lawrence Story Slam. This is a Moth-style storytelling event, where people tell true stories, up to 8 minutes long. The day before, I decided to tell the emotionally risky story of the good beginning and bad ending of my last relationship. My ex-boyfriend no longer lives in the area, so I wasn't worried about his reaction, though at the same time, I left out identifiers such as his name and profession. 

I was aware of the tightrope I was walking in telling about this, wanting to tell  a story that resonated deeply with myself and with the listeners, to be honest about the difficulties I'd experienced, but not wanting to do therapy on stage. I don't want the audience to feel as if they have to take care of me. I hope I succeeded.

It was good to tell this one. It's a story I'll keep working on. As Ann Patchett says above, we shape and improve upon the story, we don't change what happened.

This picture is from a Story Slam in Kansas City a few years ago. 

This picture is from a Story Slam in Kansas City a few years ago.