Heroes, Villains and Hindsight Some thoughts on editing your life in progress

I saw Wonder Woman twice last week.  Both times, I teared up during the “No Man’s Land” scene. Despite everyone’s attempts to sideline her, Diana refuses to do nothing. It’s a powerful moment – watching a protagonist become a hero. If there’s one thing recent comic book movies have clearly demonstrated, they’re not the same thing.  Frankly, I’ve missed heroes. Villains can be fun, but I’m really over the whole antihero thing.

I’ve been working on a short story, another retelling of Snow White, where the protagonist is the “evil” queen. Except in this story, she’s not evil. She’s vulnerable, and because of that vulnerability, subject to the influence of the Magic Mirror. In the end, she may not be fully heroic, but she’s a character you can root for without feeling bad about it.

I’m a little over two years into the process of making some changes to my own life story. The main prompt was the realization that if I were a fictional character, I wasn’t sure I’d be rooting for me. To quote Death Cab for Cutie, “When you find yourself the villain in the story you’ve written it’s plain to see, that sometimes the best intentions are in need of redemption.”

For me, that meant making some changes in my attitude, but also the external circumstances which were poisoning my attitude. You can always work on improving your responses, but if something is making you miserable, you’ll be fighting a losing battle until you deal with it.

It’s been weird, learning how much anger I had built up. I didn’t think I was an angry person, because the anger often turned into depression. It was only when I couldn’t turn it inward any more, and kept catching myself contemplating doing things that could wreck my relationships, that I realized I was sitting on a big, scary reservoir of anger.

It was like a lake of gasoline just waiting for a match to set it off.

After two years, the “lake of highly flammable rage” is more like a “fairly large pond of stagnant bitterness.” I’ve come a long way, but I still have a lot of work left. Unpacking old hurts I may be able to release. Addressing current, active frustrations before they become a fresh wellspring of misery. I’m not ignoring my anger anymore, and that’s an improvement.

Two years ago, even looking honestly at it seemed like No Man’s Land. A minefield surrounded by a razor-wire fence of fear and anxiety. I was truly worried that if I climbed that ladder, if I poked my head out of the tunnel, doom and disaster would surely follow. Now, I can see that staying where I was would have been the more dangerous path, by a long shot.

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