Characters…

I have characters who have lived in me since before I can remember.  They were my invisible friends when I was a child and as I grew, they grew also; changed in small ways like taking on a new name (depending on the crush of the month), new features or a different color hair.  As I tumbled into my teen years, I couldn’t understand why these people were inside me.  Was I going crazy?  Was this what multi-personalities felt like?

Any yet I knew who they were and they knew me.  We lived separate and yet connected lives.  I knew what they ate for breakfast, what they liked, what scared them in the dark, who they loved and hated.  Were we all the same person or was I somehow touching souls who were me but not me – souls in the thousands of parallel universes lined up like pages in a book?  Past lives?  Future lives?  A whole string of pastfuturepresent all existing at the same moment?

You see, I didn’t write their stories.  They told them to me.  They told me what they liked, what they had done that day, the trials and joys of their lives.  If I tried to make them ‘characters’ in the stories I made up and scribbled out, they resisted with all the fierce stubbornness of a mule.  And yet they were perfectly happy to be actors in my stories, just not the real characters of the stories.

Yet, how could that be?  How could these people, or not-people, be so enmeshed in my life that I knew them as well, or better, than I knew myself?  I didn’t know how to live with them and I didn’t know how to live without them.  I thought that nobody else in the world had this problem.

I walked in their skins more often than I did in my own and I never really understood who I was or how to be me because I was so many different mes.  When I was weak or scared, whichever one of the characters was strong would become my skin, form fit over my body so I was inside him or her and we were one.  Over the years, certain characters developed to be my protectors, guardians, wise guides.  They were the armor with which I kept the world at bay, the way I hid from a world that I neither trusted or understood.  I thought in their words and not my own.

Most of us went to college, but not all.  Their lives developed just like my own and they kept me up to date on those lives.  Many married.  Some divorced.  Remarried.  Some never found the love they seek.  They chose a wide range of careers from a singer in a rock band to a vet or a astrophysicist, a cop, a private detective, military, super-hero, animal whisperer….. And some, like me, were lost souls. Some of those lost souls died over the years and it was as if they were just suddenly gone.  Vanished. Their lives ended in tragedies that I didn’t create or understand and I was left alone to grieve their loss.

Over the years, I came to accept them for who they were.  Most have been with me all my life.  Occasionally new one are born, old ones fall silent and drift off as if they no longer need my connection.  My youngest son is named for the one who has been with me the longest, Christin, but how does one explain that to a child?  Perhaps one day, I’ll find the words.

Years later , I heard an interview with Anne Rice and she was talking about the characters who lived inside her, talked to her, and I remember having a suddenly flash of understanding.  It wasn’t just me!  All this time, I hadn’t been so alone as I’d thought.

I have learned to live with and love these characters who are me but not me.  To listen and learn, let them come and go as they please, comforted somehow by the knowledge that as long as they exist, somewhere, so do I.

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Start of a Writing Life

I’ve never been anything but a storyteller, a writer once I could scratch out words.  I will never forget the day I realized there wasn’t just one world inside me, but millions.  I was in Sixth Grade.  By some method I no longer remember, I was given a copy of “The Hobbit” to read and I was hooked.  For the first time, I understood that the ‘real’ world around me wasn’t the only real world.  Inside me, there were thousands of parallel universes in which anything imaginable could happen.  And when I read the “Fellowship of the Ring” that same year, those worlds just kept expanding.

Being in sixth grade, there was quite a bit in those books I didn’t understand, but I got the basics.  Somewhere else there was a world – worlds – where good was actually good, evil was evil and a clear line was drawn between.  A world where, even though bad things happened, all could be made right in the end.  Heros lived and died as did villains of every shape and magnitude along with everything in between.  Hobbits.  Elves.  Orces.  Wizards.

Like every child, I read, or had read to me, a slew of books about ‘humanized’ animals.  The Wind in the Willows.  Frog and Toad.  My parents read all of the Thorton Burgess books to my sister and I and while those were about animals who talked, perhaps I enjoyed them because the animals weren’t so human.  They lived like animals, in the forest or the lakes, not in houses with refrigerators and beds and chairs.  The worlds of these talking animals were just stories.  Entertaining, but stories.

Reading “The Hobbit” and the “Lord of the Rings” opened my Sixth Grade self up to a reality that didn’t end with the final paragraph of the book.   All those people inside my head actually lived and breathed and were as real to me as my classmates around me.  They all had stories to tell if I just learned how to listen.