LIFE IN REAL TIME

When I was little, I had imaginary playmates. I talked to them. They followed me around. I was never bored because I had friends who really understood me. After I started school, my shadow friends left, never to return. Instead, I got a narrator who has been my lifetime companion. Whatever has gone wrong in my life, I suggest you blame in on the narrator. It’s all his fault.

“Narrator?” you ask. Before you decide I’m schizophrenic, a lot of writers have one or more narrators. I understand the narrator is my voice. He has just one story to tell. Mine. My job is to live. His is to tell the tale. His is the eye that sees all but isn’t involved. He witnesses — but causes nothing, changes nothing, makes no suggestions except to correct grammar. I wish he were a better proofreader.

stone church window

My narrator does not instruct, chastise or judge. He records, remembers and fills in the back story. I’m in charge except I can’t get him to shut up. He gives me a third person perspective on my life. I’m so used to hearing the running commentary, I don’t know how else I could see the world. I’ve grown fond of the old guy.

There are narrators and then, there are narrators. You can get into serious trouble if you forget the narrator is you, not an “other” entity. Should you find yourself listening to a narrator who is telling you to blow things up or kill anyone, you might want to drop by someone’s office for a little chat. Just saying. Of course if you know it’s God talking to you, who am I to interfere?

Through the years, the narrator has filled the holes in my life story, adding “He said, she said,” describing action and scenery, “novelizing” reality. I have grown fond of my narrator and wish he could type. It would save me so much work. A couple of years ago, the narrator left for a while. It was a particularly turbulent period, so maybe the noise in my head was too loud and I couldn’t hear him. Eventually, he came back. There a correlation between when I’m writing and the narrator. If he’s gone, so is my creativity.

The narrator is distracting and I have had to learn to not let him derail me. He does not respect the moment. A running commentary in one’s head during sex makes it difficult to focus. Men take this personally and trying to explain always makes it worse. They then think you are not merely disinterested, but also nuts.

A narrator can take the fun out of parties. You have to make an effort to participate, not just observe. With the narrator describing the surroundings and each person, occasionally arguing with other narrators (sometimes I have more than one), it’s tricky to connect with people. When narrators argue, I have to step in, settle the dispute, tell all but one to shut up. Problem is, there’s more than one way to see stuff and when a lot of points of view clamor for attention, it gets noisy in the brain-space. It can keep you up at night. It can keep your partner awake too

I’ve learned a lot from my narrator. I’ve learned to see life as an endless story with chapters, back stories, weird incidental characters, tragedy, romance, hope and despair. My job is to live it and not forget to write it down. And fix the typos.

15 thoughts on “LIFE IN REAL TIME

  1. anonymous 68 year old woman says:

    This piece is a complete marvel as far as I am concerned: it so clearly represents a unique way of being, a very particular way of being conscious, of being human. I believe it is one meaure (among countless others, of course) of preserving sanity and bearing otherwise unendurable pain / distress / trauma. If one’s mind can put it into the narrative third person – or first person, for some, perhaps), then the narrator – at very least – survives. One’s own narrator enjoys all one’s insights, knowledge, wisdom, experience, but doesn’t get overwhlemed by any of it: language structures the lot and hold the person safe within – the one who narrates. I think this a BRILLIANT exposition of what I believe must be a feature of writers in general. Thank you for putting it so well! A hint for those who may feel threatened by being overwhelmed: start the narration right now – preferably in the third person! The distance provided by this grammatical form is of inestimable value to the struggling psyche.

  2. I’m not sure about a narrator but I definitely have a muse. It’s very obvious to me when he/she sometimes goes on holiday :-)

    • Yes, funny about that. Suddenly it gets very quiet. It takes me a while to realize what is missing. Usually, the narrator sort of prattle along … and when he shuts up … there’s an emptiness. Empty head?

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