Experiences become narratives that become bricks in the path that got us here.

Have you ever noticed that when you and your partner are telling stories about the things that have happened to you, the stories get tighter and tidier as time goes on?  Details get omitted if they don't contribute to the way you're interpreting it for the friends you're talking to at the moment.  You and your partner may even engage in a subtle public battle over the meaning of your shared past, like a watered-down real-life Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf.

Our life has a layer of incidental detail that influences the way we experience it.  In the retelling, we strip off these details to make neat narratives that are easy to relate and easy to hear and make us look clever and entertaining.  These narratives are malleable for a time, like clay, but eventually they ossify, hardening into bricks.  When we look into our past, these stones fit together without gaps to form a path ... a path sturdily constructed to answer the question "how did I get here?".

We simplify our stories to make them easy, but the truth is that our lives are not steps from one stone to the next.  They're buzzing with possibility, with different things to notice and different ways to think and feel.  A life lived consciously cannot be distilled into a novel.

This phenomenon came up in a conversation I had with some friends; the Buddhist tradition explicitly fights it, making an effort to include all the details when events are recalled.  It honors the listener by assuming they're smart enough to come to their own conclusions.  Todd Kashdan recommends that when you have a good experience, you should try not to pigeonhole it with an explanation - the moment you do that, the event is dead.  If you allow the experience to be surrounded by all the tiny details that came along with it, you allow new meanings to continue to be created, and your happiness to go on.