Longing for that life

Leslie Jamison uses her own personal experiences as well as that of others to analyze them in the public domain

November 28, 2019 01:54 pm | Updated 01:54 pm IST

Have you ever thought of the propriety of creating characters (if you are a fiction writer), heaping problems on them and analysing them in public? Have you pondered over the two lives, all of us, at times lead…one that is real and one that we would like to have?

Leslie Jamison uses such ideas to tell her stories. “My work involves a kind of practice that is composed of telling my story along with the story of others…so it involves reporting and research. …part of what connects the reported pieces to the personal pieces is that so much of the reportage was looking at people who were longing for something far away. When I get into the personal material, I'm really thinking about what it means to transition from states of longing to states of having and dwelling and inhabiting.”

She tells the story of her pregnancy while at the same time talking of how she was diagnosed with an eating disorder in college, “Initially, these started as two separate essays — an essay about pregnancy and an essay about my eating disorder that I had been trying to write for 15 years.

And, on one level, there was, a very physical experience of stepping on the scale at my doctor's office and thinking, oh, this is the first time I've wanted the scale to read higher, and remembering back to this secret scale in my closet in college and how I would go in obsessively and religiously and just want the number to be lower and lower and thinking, what's the difference between that self then and this self now? I'm a totally different self now; I've left that old self behind. But I don't think that's how it works. I don't think we leave our old selves behind. I think we hhave to reckon with them… this essay is a reckoning with the ways that I've changed and with the ways that the ghosts of the old selves and the old fixations are still there,” she says.

Virtual avatar

She writes about a character she calls Bridgette McNeal who is a mother of four and has created a virtual avatar of herself, a lithe twenty-something whom she describes as,”.. perfect me, if I'd never eaten sugar or had children. ..a space, she is afforded the luxury of being selfish…”

Jamison explains, “The idea of constructing these online selves that we prefer in certain ways to our real selves is really relevant to so many people. Bridgette is raising four kids, two of whom are autistic teenagers, and there's a lot of joy and meaning in those relationships and also a lot of hard work. But she actually wakes up an hour and a half early in the morning, before she wakes her kids up and lounges around on her digital bed. And that idea of building this curated life where she gets to be selfish and gets to be free in a certain way was deeply moving to me.”



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