What Kind of Hero(ine) Are You?
I had a minor “Manuscript Monday” epiphany while in the Maldives. Okay, maybe not so much epiphany as another mini-insight. (I think epiphanies are for people who overlook all the minor revelations on a regular basis.)
It was the last morning before catching our plane back to reality. I woke early to watch the sunrise from our villa, and to try and memorize every piece of that once-in-a-lifetime trip. I prepared a cup of my favorite jasmine-green tea with the last of the teabags I brought for special days on the holiday.
The morning started with me thinking about my late mother. Our last day in the Maldives would have been her 71st birthday, and I thought about how much I wanted to tell her about this latest adventure. She would have lived and loved so vicariously through my letters and postcards (she would have only tolerated this online blogging ). These thoughts have become less sorrowful in recent years, and I know that means I have healed considerably. I think I will always be able to cry easily when I think of how much I miss Mom, but I can now laugh almost as easily when I imagine her commentary on my adventures.
I allow myself to linger in these thoughts while watching the night turn to day. I make a point to embrace the images, love them, and then let them go with daybreak. The sunrise soon distracts me and I’m in the moment.
I am wearing my yellow silk robe from Viet Nam. My thick, long hair is billowing in gusts of ocean wind. Waves crash at the break in front of me. Streaks of coral rise from the cloudbank horizon and stretch across the sky. Below me our netted hammock hangs over the tiny piece of Indian Ocean we have called our own for the last seven days. Brightly colored fish dart into and out of view.
I sip my tea and write in my journal. Perfect.
Everything feels right about the moment, and suddenly I feel like the heroine of a paperback novel. My hair lifts and falls as warm wind gusts. I am barely covered as it tugs at my light robe, only a thin piece of fabric keeping it tied around my waist. The wind sweeps back the silk to bare my thighs and expose my breasts to nothing but the ocean. I feel more sensual and tantalizing than I ever have in this morning wind and the flattering light of sunrise.
I consider seducing Kurt awake, but decide this perfect moment is better left mental than physical. I take my teacup to rinse it and catch myself in the mirror as I pass. I already know what I will see, because I’ve seen it in my mind: windswept hair; sunkissed face; flowing silk robe; and the glow of world-traveling seductress in my eyes.
Mirrors can be such assholes.
The “me” who doesn’t reside in my head, the one reflected in the mirror, reminds me more of Maxine from Shoebox Greetings than a paperback heroine. I I am wearing glasses, my breasts sag gently against my middle age body. Though I am perfectly content and happy, I look haggard and suffer from “bitchy resting face,” a trait I most definitely inherited from my mother.
Although my reflection catches me by surprise, it doesn’t make me sad to see the contrast of my image to my imagination. Because while fantasy is intriguing and sexy for a moment, I have never been that kind of heroine.
Mine is more of a romantic comedy, or maybe a comedy-drama, and that’s okay. I’m more Steel Magnolias than Danielle Steel anyway. Except in my story, it’s Sally Field’s character who dies, and Julia Roberts is left with a lifetime of health struggles, a broken heart where her mother once was, and the most incredible husband in the world.
But my character doesn’t get children. Because in real life, you don’t always get the legacy after the loss.
And that’s okay, too.
Because my heroine’s strength comes from learning to be alone, and to be at peace with the solitude. It comes from finding fulfillment other than in lineage, or in legacy.
How about you? What kind of hero(ine) are you?