Examining the Past

This month’s book selection for the From Left to Write book club was the stuff that never happened by Maddie Dawson. The premise is that are main character, Annabelle, must finally choose between the man she’s been married too for 26 years and the man that got away who’s she been carrying a torch for all along. I hate to spoil this book, but I will so tread cautiously and I will warn you before I do spoil the ending.

Though this book instantly had me thinking about the past, it actually got me thinking about it indirectly more than directly. You see my first paid writing gig was for a website called JamsBio. It was a website where people could write a memory associated with a song. You would choose a song and write a story about the memory associated with it.

I was hired before the launch of the site to help fill it up with content. So I started a profile and began writing. And writing and writing. My first kiss, my first love and all of it. By the time I was done I think I had written around 200 stories on JamsBio. And the ones about the men in my past were beautifully tragic and paid tribute to my past.

All that writing was beyond therapeutic and helped me really take a long look at my life and the experiences that had made me the person I am today.

But the truth is, if I went and found each guy I wrote about in those stories and asked him what he remembered about me, chances are it wouldn’t be the same as the story I had written.

(Spoiler Ahead)

Just as Annabelle realizes after she finally confronts the great love from her past and finds that the story she remembers of this great love is not the same story that he remembers. What she remembered (or he remembered) was the stuff that never actually happened.

And that’s what I loved about this story.

The past is just like a good book. Though we all may agree on the main plot points, the rest of the book is all subject to interpretation. In fact the story lies entirely in the mind of the reader.

You’re happy memories of a lost love may become distorted and different when scrutinized by the person you share that memory with.

Which is why it is important for us to preserve and respect our past (like I did when writing those stories at JamsBio) but even more important to not give our past power. The past is never as it seems and it’s a dangerous thing to hold up against a stressful present to see which one is better.

Don’t hold on to the past. And let go of the things in the present that don’t really matter.

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9 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Maddie Dawson
    Aug 11, 2010 @ 03:30:59

    Wow, Meghan–I am so glad you loved this story, because it actually got me thinking about the past, too, while I was writing it. In fact, you had such a great insight about the fact that Annabelle and Jeremiah remember the past so differently. And you’re so right that that is what the title could mean! But you know something interesting? Readers always see things in books that the authors never see in them. And *I* always saw the title as being the stuff that never happened because it was the stuff that she and Grant didn’t and couldn’t talk about, so it was like it never happened. But it totally works the other way too. Thanks for pointing this out. And thank you so much for your kind words about the book!


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  3. kroliklinsey
    Aug 11, 2010 @ 13:54:13

    I love your finding out that what you wrote about in all of those stories probably played out differently for the other players involved. But our own realities form….our realities. Good to realize that the reality might be different on the other side.


  4. michelefajeau
    Aug 11, 2010 @ 15:58:39

    “The past is just like a good book. Though we all may agree on the main plot points, the rest of the book is all subject to interpretation.” So true Meghan. As a good friend once said, “Your perception, is your reality,” which may be entirely different for someone else who shared the same moment.


  5. Sharon Young
    Aug 11, 2010 @ 18:24:59

    Guys don’t think like girls, so I doubt if they would remember a relationship the way we would. Love your ‘Spoiler Ahead’, I am going to have to steal that!


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