I’m sitting with my hips and knees scrunched up in my oversize office chair, huddled up to my desk, hunting through memories and objects nearby for my next writing inspiration nugget. The tedium of selection is not for lack of fodder. It’s the opposite. There is so much, I’m not sure which strand of the fabric to tug.
My curiosity lures me through a few dusty rabbit holes and into my old email. I click on the Sent folder, toggle to “Oldest on Top.”
Hundreds, maybe thousands of emails are listed in fifteen years of chronological order. As I click into a few for a peek, most of the material is familiar, but some I have fully forgotten.
. . .
I'll bet you know what Stop Motion animation is.
An object, often a plastic puppet, is gradually moved as photos are snapped, one after the other. When the photos are viewed quickly, the viewer enjoys an illusion of the object moving on its own.
You can do this with a human as the subject, too. It’s called pixilation. For example, a video illusion of makeup application by an unseen force can be made. These are pretty common.
A related type of photographic artistry, time lapse photography, allows nature to be the manipulator of the subject. Time lapse can create the illusion of rapid aging. My emails are a choppy time lapse transcript of my life. It's awkward and bulky. Like a long medical progress note.
But I could create a real-life pixilation instead. I can choose the moments I want to add, and only include those.
Here’s my announcement to my close family / friends about my acceptance to medical school:
From: Frances Southwick
To: Most people in my address book
Subject: good news from frances southwick
Hey all you lovely folks--
Wanted to let everyone know my exciting news...
I was accepted to West Virginia School of Osteopathic Medicine and will be starting school in August.
My partner Judith and I will be moving in July.
Thank you - each of you - for being a part of the experiences that have created who I am.
I will likely keep my cell phone, so same number: ####### and will also keep this email address.
I hope your spring is treating you well. Thank you again for shaping me and teaching me.
Love from Frances
Here’s me twelve days later, sad and testing whether my brother’s cold shoulder was purposeful or not.
From: Frances Southwick
To: Brock Southwick, Jaime Southwick
Subject: Frances got into med school…
Brock and Jaime,
Not sure if my other email reached your [sic] or not, or if you just chose to not read it or to ignore it... Anyhow, wanted to let you know I'll be in West Virginia in a small town called Lewisburg for four years learning medicine.
. . .
I could have picked any emails and put them up, side by side. I have so many to choose from. Why did I choose these two?
My brother has shown me who he is, over and over. My world in relation to his is simply a letting go. An allowing of him to live his life. Letting go of the expectation of acceptance, or even acknowledgement. But I still wish I could have contact. Even though it would not be good for me.
Finding the 'meaning' entails selecting moments and stringing them together in succession. An essay on this topic today is not what it would be from past Frances or future Frances. I can never step in the same river twice. Perspective, learning, understanding, emotion - it's all in motion. All the time.
So, am I lying to myself? What is the 'truth'? How do I assimilate all this data and make something useful?
For me, the answer is - it's about connection to a deeper truth I cannot always explain. It's that feeling of relief I dig for. Just like my physical need for a certain number of calories and nine hours of sleep, I crave human story. My own. I deeply need meaning. And in order to get it, I need to express myself so I can know myself.
Another wave of Meaning Hunger has been satisfied.