White Knuckles (Could I Survive in My Own Stories?)

We all like to think we’re the heroes in our own little stories. We experience our lives through the narrow focus of our very own lenses, while our narrator, be it Morgan Freeman or Samuel L. Jackson (in my case), describes our every day occurrences with far more color and vibrancy then perhaps they deserve. We are the star of our own mini reality shows and the glorious world of social media has helped us perpetuate that illusion.

So, what kind of story are you living?

I know the ones I like to read and write are thrilling, heart-pumping, spook-filled adventures that put the heroine in mortal danger at every turn. She must face impossible odds, endure tremendous hardships, and still find room to save the cat. She stares down the monsters with hardly batting an eye (or maybe she’s terrified, but she fights anyway).  I like to think of myself as that kind of heroine.

Yet today, while driving home on the highway through a blizzard, I was reminded just how pathetically human I really am.

In just a half an hour, the delicate snowfall had turned into a blanket of ice and fog. What had begun as a fluffy spring snow was now a treacherous storm, turning the three-lane highway into a skating rink with poor visibility. With my husband at the wheel and my two small children strapped into their carseats in the back, we slipped along at a measly 30 mph while bigger trucks and foolhardy sports cars raced past. As we came around the bend, we saw one such sports car (a red Audi, I think) stopped perpendicular to the traffic, cutting into the off-ramp lane and the right lane. I watched in horror as car after car skidded around the bend, swerved and slid, dodging the roadblock. My heart leapt to my throat as I waited for the inevitable crash, the sound of skidding tires and metal rending into metal.

But the crash never came.

Miraculously, the Audi straightened out. It continued on it’s way, cautiously at first, then merged back into the flow of traffic. The other cars flew on down the highway. I loosened my grip on the dashboard, where my fingernails had left tiny dents.

The rest of the drive was slippery, but we made it home safely. But it was that moment that showed me my true reaction in the face of mortal danger. When the possibility of my entire world being wrenched out from under me surfaced, I panicked. It’s a perfectly normal response. And far less glamorous than the brave heroines I like to write about.

Which made me think: how would I fare in my own stories? Would I be able to rise above the traumas and terrors and still slay the demons? Or would I cave and retreat back to what is comfortable and safe, even if it is far less?

As I take on the monumental task of writing my first series, I have come to realize just how much soul-work is going into these books. I am facing my own demons. I am integrating my shadow – the part of me that developed for survival but turned into a monster of its own. I am awakening into the woman, the heroine, I am meant to be.

I embrace all that I am. The good, the bad, the messy, and the strange. I may not have to face down mortal danger each day, but I am making the hard choices to create a better life in this moment.

Start today. Face your shadow. She may just smile back at you.

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