The core of my being is a ball of light that vibrates with joy. Much of the time, the dark shadow of depression obscures it, makes me forget that the core exists. At those times, I think the darkness is all I am or ever will be. But there are moments when I’m able to step away from dark thoughts and feelings. I can see that my inner light is like the sun. It’s always there even when clouds obscure it. That this darkness is some trick of mind and/or biology which is not me. I am the sun, not the clouds. I need to remember this.
What do you do when you want to write a short story but coddle your characters so much that even the antagonist/villain becomes a milquetoast and nothing ever happens in the story world? I think I understand a story’s building blocks. I’ve read dozens of books on the subject. But applying that knowledge has been impossible.
I try to put on my sadist boots and go to town on these character creations. I try to create characters I don’t like. But the more I delve into even the most disagreeable characters, the more I can see why they might behave in a certain way. Then, they don’t seem so disagreeable any more. Then, I want all of my characters to get together and sing kumbaya.
There’s something almost pathological about my inability to incorporate unlikable traits, hurt my fake babies, or challenge them in any meaningful way. But not doing so means I essentially have no story. No story anyone would want to read anyway. And certainly no story I can get excited about writing.
I’ve been trying to crack this nut for more than one year now. One. Agonizing. Head-banging-against-the-wall. Year.
Because I’ve been unable to do this, I’m now trying to understand why I won’t torture these pretend people. It’s completely ridiculous. I don’t seem to have a problem heaping verbal abuse on very real, very aggravating traffic. Why should I have a problem releasing my inner sadist on fake people in a fake world? It’s maddening!
One day, I hope to create deeply flawed beings and heap on the abuse. So far, the only character I’ve been able to torture is me. I’m not amused.
I love old films. Everyone seems glamourous and sophisticated even when buffoonery is underfoot. It leaves me feeling star struck. However, being the killjoy my brain can be, my thoughts often take a sharp turn down a dark alley and replace adulation with stark reality.
In the films, the actors are young and vibrant, much younger than I am right now. But these actors are now dead for the most part. The old films only capture glimpses of animated stardust which now lies inanimate at the bottom of caskets and urns.
My awareness of myself is like the images of the actors caught on film. They never age and neither does my awareness. I am perpetually eight years old. It’s only my body that keeps aging, like the actors’ did off screen, like all of us do. No one is spared the reality of aging and death.
At first blush, this is a morbid line of thinking. Maybe it’s because I’m a Scorpio. Maybe I’m a reincarnated monk or nun who, in a past life, meditated frequently on death. Whatever the reason, the steady awareness of death serves to remind me to stop wasting time because it flies by whether I feel its passage or not.
I imagine that even on my deathbed I’ll still feel eight years old inside and wonder where the time went and if I left anything of myself worth considering for those who remain. I know my body will be joining the ranks of these old stars, melting into the earth, long before my awareness is ready.
She studied the calendar. How many more years before her desire died down, she wondered. Before biology would loosen it grip on hormones that held her hostage. It was a taskmaster demanding carnal satisfaction, an appendage she neither wanted nor needed, a great distractor from dreams that mattered. It would never be satisfied, could never be satisfied, and wasn’t worth the effort. It was an albatross around her neck, a monkey on her back… The whole damn zoo clung to her in one form or another. All she could do was wait and long for the end of longing.
I’m sometimes reminded that the veneer of civilization is much thinner than it looks. Sometimes it’s too thin to contain the brutality of our animal nature when left unchecked or when guided by the morally bankrupt.
I recently watched two episodes of a documentary series on Netflix called The Keepers about the murder and cover-up of a nun who taught at an all-girls catholic high school. The things I learned about the activities of the two sadistic priests who worked there were so brutal, I barely got through the second episode.
Who hasn’t heard about an incident involving the deviance, sexual or otherwise, of a religious leader? Or of a church’s attempt to conceal it? It seems so common, it’s become a trope. Needless to say, it’s troubling. If leaders who dedicate their lives to the care and welfare of their parishioners’ souls are unable to move beyond the worst of their own animal natures, what hope do the rest of us have?
Which brings me to the political environment in the States. It’s not realistic to expect our political leaders to be saints but I think it’s reasonable that they should engage in language and behavior befitting their offices. At the very least, they should behave like decent people. We should expect more from them than we would your typical trashy reality-tv star who appeals to the worst aspects of ourselves because leaders set an example. When they exhibit petty, mean-spirited, bullying behavior it’s fertilizer for hatred and intolerance. We’re capable of more. Civilization requires it.
There’s a theme that has been coming to my attention for quite a while now. Usually when that happens, it means I need to take a good look at how the theme might apply to me. Then I make changes if I need to and I’m brave enough. The theme that keeps popping up has to do with putting others’ needs before my own.
I attended a storytelling event over the weekend in which some of the stories seemed to focus around the basic dynamic of what might be described as uncomfortable selflessness. One of the women relayed an incident in which a man interacted with her in a way that was uncomfortable but which she continually excused, dismissing her own discomfort as an overreaction. During the incident, she was more concerned about his needs and potential discomfort than she was about her needs and actual discomfort. The result was her rape. At the end of her story she vowed to never let the needs of someone, especially someone who showed no real concern about her, to outweigh any discomfort she felt.
I have a long history of overriding my needs to satisfying another’s. It’s a wonderfully loving act if you feel good about it but so often I didn’t. I wanted to believe it was a form of altruism but the reality was that it was closer to martyrdom.
The host of the storytelling event described his own similarly uncomfortable incident except that he framed it quite differently. He didn’t think of himself as being someone who was satisfying the needs of another with little regard for his suffering. He described his behavior as being that of someone who hadn’t learned how to say ‘no’.
So simple. So straight to the point. When I thought about it, I realized that that was the truth of the matter for me. Thinking of it as ‘selfless’ was just a way for me to feel better.
Removing the illusion of selflessness from my perception of the dynamic, I can make adjustments I need. I just need to be brave.
For such a small word, ‘no’ fills me with dread, anxiety, and fear.