The Story – My Story – My Imagination
As far as memory serves, I have loved stories. I love to hear them, to read them, and most of all to create them in my mind and imagination. I don’t know where I first heard them, but I remember listening to narrations from an old 45” record player, and the distinct voice of an old British woman telling stories. I was mesmerized. It’s the same way with music and songs, and how they have the magic to often teleport my imagination to another place, another time, and another life.
Telling stories have helped me over the years with many various things, most of all with entertaining my brothers. Being the daughter of an international drug dealer left us children often in a strange place, having to abruptly leave in the middle of the night, move away from every one we have known, and leave behind all the things we once had, including toys. For me, what broke my heart had to be leaving behind my books. My parents didn’t care that I didn’t have them, or how much I loved them, or how much they helped me escape. My welfare and wants were never their priority. I learned to treasure the stories of my mind, because those stories could never be left behind.
I believe creating stories and learning to narrate started for me at a very young age because of my father’s blindness. As the story goes, having been a part of a drug deal gone wrong, my mother and father were shot when my mother was six months pregnant with me. Spray from the shotgun hit my mother all over her neck and chest, barely missing me inside the wound, and my father took direct hits in the face, destroying one eye completely and severely damaging the other. So, before I was even born my father had lost his vision. I don’t know what it was like for him the first few years, I was just baby and have very few flashback memories.
I don’t have any pictures of me during that time, except one, a studio picture of me and my brother together. I was a few months old, he was a year older. Other than that, while I’m sure there are some family photos stored away in some box somewhere, I don’t remember seeing them, and I don’t have them. There are no photos, other than that one baby picture of me, before I was sixteen, and only one or two after that until I started taking pictures of my babies. Even still, most of those pictures don’t have me in them, because I’m the one that took the pictures. I’m sure my ex-mother-in-law has some pictures of me, but I’m sure she’s put them away so as to not upset the new daughter-in-law. It’s only been the last few years I started taking pictures of myself because I felt invisible to the world. I wanted the world to know I existed, that I mattered, because no one except my children had ever made me feel that way. My children are all grown now and it seems they also have forgotten me because they never call me, text me, message me, or come see me. I often send them ‘good morning’ messages, to never get answered, or never returned. Then when they change their number, or it’s no longer in service, I never get the new one. But I still send the good morning messages to the number I had, even though I receive the error message letting me know my messages were not delivered. Being left behind, being forgotten isn’t new to me – and I feel like many of my old books.
I often wonder about all the books that got left behind. Did the new tenants throw them out, or keep them and wonder who had possessed them before? Did they appreciate the story as I had, or never cracked open their spines? I adapted to not having books to read. As I mentioned above, my father was blind, but he had not been born that way, so he still had a lot of memory of what things were, how they looked, and so he would listen to television. But, as we all know, television shows and movies don’t give a play by play of what’s going on screen. The deaf have closed caption, but the blind only have the sound effects and the dialogue. My father had me. Somehow it had become my job to narrate what was happening on screen. Perhaps it was because I was good at it, could determine what needed to be and what didn’t that I got the job. I just know it created good and bad habits in me. Good, in the sense I am able to see the beautiful detail that I feel most miss. Bad, in the sense visual people don’t like watching movies and television with me because I still often narrate. You don’t know how many times I’m told in an irritating strained voice that they can see what’s happening and don’t need my input. I’ve tried to restrain myself, but it comes naturally. It’s how I was raised since I could speak.
While I wish I had experienced a different life, I’ve learned to appreciate the things this one has taught me, the tools that had been sharpened through all my adversity and the opportunities and skills it has created. I believe it’s made me a better writer, that it’s forged inside me that creativity, and exercised my imagination that now fuels my own writing. I sometimes wish I couldn’t see the details, because while the details are good for the good things, they’re just as bad for the bad things. Along with sight, comes feeling. That’s another story, for another page, but there was a long period of time I felt nothing for no one or anything. Because I had felt everything deeply, I couldn’t feel anything or else it would destroy me. That has played an ugly role in my life, often hurting the people I love most. In trying to save myself from getting overwhelmed, it seems I’ve created another cycle, another generation of issues. In my efforts to protect myself from being overwhelmed, I put up a wall to protect me, to protect them. But, it appears I protected no one. My children don’t understand how much and how deeply I loved them, they only knew the wall, and they now have their own walls – to keep me out.
Every day I struggle with hiding once again behind that wall. It’s never protected me. It didn’t protect me from my family hurting me. It didn’t protect me when my James died. It didn’t protect me when my daughter ran away, or when my husband wouldn’t love me, or when I fought cancer, or when a family who promised to always love me doesn’t even acknowledge I exist, or when a soul mate tells me they can’t love me because they’re too damaged. I want to hide every single day because the pain is too great. But, I get up, I put a smile on my face, I take a picture of that smile and I send it out into the world, and then fight through the rest of the day to keep positive, to love myself, to set goals and dreams for myself, to stay healthy, to stay fit, to love everyone I can, to shove those walls back down that keep slamming up, and to fight my triggers. I choose to see EVERYTHING, all the details, all the beautiful, scary, ugly, loving, hateful, details of life.
I’m getting older, I don’t know how much more story I have, but I choose to live it as best as I can. I choose to love myself. I choose to encourage myself. I choose to forgive myself. I choose to push myself. I choose to dream. This is the story. This is my story. This is my imagination. This is my life.
Till next time,
~T.L. Gray ©2017