Last night, my average college team took down the #3 team in the nation. And I went to bed at half time. Again I was worn out and exhausted. Even though we were up by several touchdowns I kind of expected them to lose it anyways. And I am totally into my college football (well at least my team, not like my husband who can somehow be into every team). But a rain delay and two trunk or treats with a Jawa and Rainbow Brite on too much candy had done me in. And when my husband came to bed well after midnight he informed me that they held the lead for one of the biggest upsets in school history. And I was asleep. Again.
And sure I can watch the highlights or read about it in the paper. But that isn’t quite the same thing. Reading about it after the fact doesn't make your heart pound and you certainly dont jump off the couch cheering. Knowing how it ends somehow ruins all that.
I read somewhere today that the plot of pretty much every single musical is really simple: Boy meets girl. Boy gets girl. Boy loses girl. Boy gets girl back. (and suddenly I have the urge to watch Grease). And how lame would the story be if we ended it after the first act. Or we left after the break up scene. How different would most books or movies be if we stopped in the middle. Or like me, went to sleep before it was really over.
What if we stopped the most important story at the cross. And neglected to get to the three days later part?
And I’ve read and listened to enough talks about writing to learn that a critical element to any story is conflict.
In other words. The middle.
And I hate that. I want to start at the beginning and skip to the end and avoid the messy, long hard middle.
The part where we have to go to the store. Or the kids are sick. Or the tire is flat. Or I watch the same episode of House for the 10th time. Or we get on each other's nerves. (and I could keep going but don't want to put anyone to sleep because currently there is an exciting game4 going on!)
And how isn’t that true for most things.
The middle isn’t always the most intriguing part of the story.
The beginning tries to hook you and the ending tries to make you cry with either joy or sadness and resolve everything. Those two chapters get all the big scenes and moments and the fanciest words.
But the middle is really where the story is.
And I even used to tell newer friends that some of my past friendships didn’t end well for me. Maybe I was trying to warn them. Maybe I was trying to warn myself. But I need to stop saying it because most of the time that is a lie.
I’m always referring to a small handful of people that I love the best. But the end part is crap. Because most of us are still friends. And in some cases even a better version than we were in the beginning. So really I don’t mean that it ends bad, because it never ended. Rather there is just some sucky part in the middle. And I’m even going to go out on a limb and say that conflict is critical not just to story but also to relationship. Show me a married couple who never fights and I’m willing to bet they never speak.
And 90% of the time we are living in the middle.
In the conflict. Or a boring stretch. Or where a character (the one in the story or even just our own) is being developed.
We long for beginnings and ends. But we can’t have a story without the middle.
And I am not naïve enough to think that they all have happy endings.
Some of those subplots are still going to be tragedies.
The boy might not get the girl back.
Games are lost.
Some middles are really ends that lead to even better beginnings.
But. I’m learning to appreciate the middle. Realizing that it is an important part of the story. Even if it isn’t the one I’m trying to tell. And that if the middle is hard I just need to wait until the next act. Or at least stay awake long enough to see the end of the game.
(and this is a particularly crummy video ...as in no actual video, and the sound kind of stinks. but it is a song I love. and pretty appropriate for the parts in the middle when we are prone to forget. and just be glad I am not playing the Tech fight song or anything from the Grease soundtrack....because I own the soundtracks to both grease 1 and 2 and am totally proud of it)