If I had my druthers, I’d stay much the same. No new lifelines (otherwise known and wrinkles), no serious drama, no changes in the family, or at work.
But would I prefer that, really?
I’ve learned a lot, being an author. Reaching the well-over-fifty mark hasn’t dented the learning curve either.
In a novel, no one wants to read about happy people living happy lives. Barbie and her perfect self, driving the latest pink convertible, with her waspish waist and high-riding bust. Ken with just-so rakish hair, cut muscles proclaiming an overabundance of testosterone.
Happiness is elusive, perhaps nearly attainable. There’s hope, but the reader isn’t sure if the hero will win, or even survive. These are the stories we want to keep reading, and miss when we flip the last page.
Show me the real Barbie—she goes by “Babs”—schlepping to the kitchen for coffee, her nappy over-processed hair sticking out like a scared cat’s tail. Ken’s in the bathroom, doing that three-fart thing he does every morning, humming to himself off-key and leaving whisker specks gummed in toothpaste trails across the counters. The kids are grown. One’s a recovering alcoholic, country-star wannabe in Memphis; the other sells manufactured homes in Lake City. The dog has ear mites, and barfs up pieces of rubber bands and pantyhose and anything else he can get his paws on. The cat shreds the furniture and has sprayed the back door so often, the porch smells like Wild Kingdom.
The toilet in the master bathroom sounds like a waterfall. When Barbie turns on the ancient dishwasher, she has to step outside to talk on the phone. Better out there anyway. Ken hates the mounds of cigarette butts she scatters like pixie dust. Heck with him. Her smoke smells better than his gas.
Have to use my imagination, when I think of Barbie and Ken. Keeps me from wanting to, I don’t know, shave their heads and pull off a leg or an arm. Perfection is annoying. Probably the reason my childhood dolls never made it to the “collectables” stage. Even as a kid, I sniffed a load of marketing hoo-hah.
One thing for sure: change promotes growth—with characters, and in real life. Some years, I face greater challenges. We all do. Death, taxes, jobs, relatives. A few things you can see heading your way. Others come at you like a texting, drunken reveler at a busy intersection. One minute you’re minding your own business, thinking about how you’re going to reheat that frozen vegetable soup for dinner; the next you’re steaming in the ditch with a 911 operator yammering in your ear.
This year, in lieu of New Year’s Resolutions, I made a list of things I wanted to manifest in the coming twelve months. A friend suggested this technique. Said she did this every January and hid the page so she could pull it out later to see what had come to fruition. Most things did.
Beat the heck out of swearing off sweets, or losing five pounds, or getting organized. I have pounded those poor resolutions down until they are flat enough to be a fetching wall hanging.
So here’s to a year of change. To crawling from the ditch, should I end up there by no intention of my own. To loving and supporting friends, to eating some chocolate, to writing some stories.
To living. Messy as it can be.