“And I believe that this terror is precisely what must have snagged me, the way a ledge will tempt one to jump off. The very insurmountability of the task, its very unattractiveness, was in the end what attracted me to it.” We Need to Talk About Kevin, by Lionel Shriver
You’ll notice that I will often start my blog posts with a quote from a novel, song, or poem. I used to teach my students that literature imitates life and life imitates literature. The reason why I love reading fiction is because I feel that it so honestly and so nakedly mimics real life. It is—in some small fashion—more historical than history itself because it digs into the darkest recesses of our minds and plants onto the stark paper our innermost thoughts, fantasies, experiences, and opinions.
For example, we may not have imagined eating Turkish Delight in the snowy foreground of our closets, but I’m sure at some point we have imagined that our closets were something much more enticing or foreboding than just an inanimate place to stuff sweaters and shoes. And while fireworks don’t really crackle in the sky when we kiss someone for the first time and evil doesn’t emanate as obviously as it does on Dr. Moreau’s Island and we don’t have portraits that can age for us, we do truly feel these things deep in hearts and at the pits of our stomachs.
It is why it saddens me greatly when I hear that someone doesn’t like to read. Doesn’t like to read? Then who are you? How did you become you? How do you shrink and how do you grow? How do you recognize foreshadowing; how do you grow your sixth sense; how do you dream, and how do you cry? After all, I write better when I read with a voracious appetite, devouring plot, character, and word like tasty morsels on a dinner plate. I am ravenous for literature. As a result, I find that when I read, I want to live.
My grandparents and parents started me on this road of cherishing books. I may have destroyed every Barbie doll I ever owned. I digress, but I used to cut the hair on my dolls until all of them had little pixie cuts, all looking like Twiggy from the seventies. I truly thought the hair would grow back, and in my perfectionist nature even at a young age, I cut and cut until I had straight lines. The lines were never straight. Hence the pixie cuts. But back to my original thought. I didn’t destroy a single book. Kept like diamonds in a safe, my novels outlasted many a doll, shoe, and necklace. As I mentioned on the “Background” page, I still have Where the Red Fern Grows. It’s the original copy that my mother bought for me when I was in the third grade. I have all of my Anne of Green Gables novels. I hate that I allowed my mother to talk me into selling to Half Price Books all of my Sweet Valley High novels. I have no shame; I’ll admit I was hooked on the two blonde twins who had it all and lived in a bungalow in sunny California. (I always wanted to say to someone, “I live in a ‘bungalow’”…cheesy, huh?)
Where am I going with this? Oh yes, I love to read, and so quotes from the books I read and the songs I listen to and the poems that grab my attention will salt and pepper my writings because they strike a chord within me. And the quote above makes me think of my foray into competing. It is the very insurmountability of the task at hand that keeps me climbing the mountain. For the Galaxy obstacle course competitions in the late nineties, the 15-foot high cargo net and 10-foot high rope wall were my nemeses. I am petrified of heights, and yet I felt that by charging at these full force, I would overcome my fears. I never did. But that didn’t stop me from trying.
And with bodybuilding. So many people claim that a woman can’t get the conditioning and muscularity that I have attained without taking steroids. I decided to tackle that like a 300-pound linebacker slams into a darting running back on the football field. I’m the type of person who says “why not” when someone tells me “you can’t.” It spelled disaster for my mother during my childhood but inked out success for myself in my adult life.
Sometimes I still feel like my terror is what “snags” me. Success is scary. I know that might not be easily understood by all, but to me success can sometimes be synonymous with falling. After all, once you reach the top, where else is there to go but down…or to a different mountain? So sometimes I play a little Jedi-mind trick and tell myself that just because I earned a pro card or won a show, it doesn’t spell success. It’s just another step on this mountain of my life.