War Story

It’s no secret I live through books. I just finished The Things they Carried by Tim O’Brien.  I didn’t know it was a classic, part of the canon.

I can see why. O’Brien published it in 1990 and it fits perfectly into a high school English teacher’s set of assigned books. A book about the Vietnam war—a true history!—and a book about stories. Just what an Englisher needs.

Me too.

Every morning I wake up and find a story. Well, I wake up and shake off all the stories I was fighting in the middle of every night.  My war is my wakeful mind past midnight.

The dark of night is not to be trusted.

The war and it’s stories are Tim’s subject. He’s ground it up to understand the bits:

“Stories are for those late hours in the night when you can’t remember how you got from where you were to where you are. Stories are for eternity, when memory is erased, when there is nothing to remember except the story.”

His stories are for his fellow soldiers. I am not sure my dark war has an audience.  It’s not so important. For me I have to choose my story when the sun rises.

It rises every day and I can rise to choose the one that serves me best. Tim says it here too:

“But this too is true: stories can save us.”

I greet the morning sun. It always comes. With it comes the reminder that I can choose the the story that serves me best.

It’s a choice. In a world of so many possibilities, I look for the one that can raise my spirits. I can choose it, and in the choosing it is closer to the truth.

“The thing about a story is that you dream it as you tell it, hoping that others might then dream along with you, and in this way memory and imagination and language combine to make spirits in the head. There is the illusion of aliveness.”

I can choose for tomorrow to be a better day. I can call it forth by telling anyone who asks.  Sometimes the hope that tomorrow is a better day is worth as much as an actual better day. Is that enough of an illusion for it to come alive?

That hope, the dream that others might dream along with is inviting a good spirit to live in my head. Not one that I have to fight. It’s one that can lift me up.

“A thing may happen and be a total lie; another thing may not happen and be truer than the truth.”

I am a writer. I believe in stories. They have sustained me, and I hear what he’s saying. The truth of a story, whether it’s in writing or in the spirit of my head, is the victory prize of the war I fight. It’s the root of the faith and hope that sustains my in the battle, and the love that conquers all when I pull the light of the morning into my soul.

I am never alone. The story I choose chooses me back.

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