My chiropractors are wizards. Seriously. I think they went to Hogwarts School of Chiropractics. They never “crack” me, they play music that makes me want to travel to India or fly magic carpets and I credit them with the significantly shorter and better labour of our darling, B2. For anyone that has had a forty plus hour labour (ahem, B1, I’m scowling at you) you can imagine the outpouring of love I have for these two. Oh, did I forget to mention that they are wise?
On my last visit Dr Lisa helped me into a position that was a bit uncomfortable. She stretched my neck to a point of ouch and then suggested I go even further into the stretch myself. Hmm, I thought, I don’t think so. “If it’s painful, go into it.” she instructed. I took her advice because she has the directive but sweet-natured manner of a goddess and her advice has helped me so much before. I went into it, bending my neck even further. Here’s what happened: ouch, ouch, ouch… nothing. Pain, gone. As I was leaving my session I told her how impressed I was about the pain evaporating because of going “into it”. She smiled. “That’s where you’re at in your life right now”. I almost cried.
Lisa’s plain but profound words have stayed with me all week : “If it’s painful, go into it”. It got me thinking about some characters in my new work-in-progress and the times when I get stuck with my writing. Quite a few readers have given me feedback about The Colour of Tea, expressing frustration at the main character, Grace, for ignoring her husband or misjudging a situation at work. Grace is clueless and she doesn’t want to know what is going on or what she should do. It’s irritating to read but let me tell you, even harder to write. As a writer you fall in love with your characters often before they have ever hit the page. They’re in your head as friends and you want the very best for them. Then you have to write them. And they do really dumb sh*t. I mean, they have to, it is kind of the point. But you don’t want them to. You don’t want them to suffer as they must, you don’t want to be the one responsible for it, you feel badly.
Most of the time it’s pain of their own making. Generally it’s about honesty. Being honest with each other, more often – being honest with themselves. The smallest lies always cause the biggest trouble: I’m fine. I can handle this all myself. I’m not good enough. Characters lose the love of their lives or become entangled in things they can’t get out of, they ache and they hurt and you, the writer, is making it happen. At least you can get them out of it. You leave breadcrumbs on a dark trail – here, look, an exit. You bring in other characters who point a flashlight. You set up a moonrise at exactly the right moment to cast the perfect light during self-reflection. You hold their hand and you lead them through the pain like Glinda the good witch, saying “I knew you had it in you all along”.
Real life, on the other hand. Well. That’s even more difficult because you’re not the director or the puppeteer. You don’t get to choose the exits and you don’t have the (bird’s eye view) perspective. You stumble along, blindly it feels like, doing the best you can, trying to tell as few lies as possible to yourself or others. You don’t know the way. You don’t know what is going to happen next. Sometimes you can choose only how you respond to an event and little more. You don’t know how the story ends. You wonder, ocassionally, in both writing and life, if it’s worth all the effort. You can’t know for sure if it’s all going to turn out well, if it will all be “well-received”, if the boy will get the girl. Sometimes you even think: “What’s the point?”
In Chris and Lisa’s practice they have a tiny, tidy bathroom with a mirror covered in quotes. (I love quotes in bathrooms. I put up “This too shall pass” in my bathroom when my baby was young and crying all night. When I looked at it half-asleep one morning, tired and down, I got the joke and laughed out loud.) Before I left my last session I noticed one that made a whole lot of sense. It read “Behind everything beautiful there is something painful”.
Now, ain’t that the truth.
And the point.
HUGS, Hannah x