Drama, instead of telling us the whole of a man’s life, must place him in such a situation, tie such a knot, that when it is untied, the whole man is visible. ~Leo Tolstoy
It is through adversity that our true selves shine the brightest. Imagine a masquerade ball with beautiful masks painted, sequined, and feathered. Women in ball gowns that drag on the floor as they glide on heels through clusters of men in well-fitting tuxedo’s. They smile and laugh and chatter amongst themselves as the wait staff silently bob through the crowd with trays of champagne glasses plucked at random. Little sandwich wedges pop through lipstick painted lips. Cigarettes dangling from the lips as they discuss politics of the day.
Perhaps the scene is a bit cliché, but I like it. We’ll keep it going.
The staff rushes out from the kitchen in a herd. Fire has erupted and is consuming the kitchen.
How easy it is to wear a mask with a smile while the music plays. Delectable sandwiches. Bubbly champagne . Kindly chatter. Masks. When adversity strikes, it doesn’t matter if you have the most beautiful mask in the room. Sequins, paint, and feathers melt in the heat of the fire and the self is bare to the world. Will you be the man shoving toward the door, pushing aside anyone in your way, stepping over the fallen? Or the one who stands back, ushering others while scanning the room to make sure everyone survives? The drunk collecting half-finished bottles of champagne from ruin?
I’ve been through my share of adversity. Sometimes, I conducted myself well. There were times I could have done better. Each meeting with adversity give me new insight that I can carry with me into the next day.
“Adversity is like a strong wind. I don’t mean just that it holds us back from places we might otherwise go. It also tears away from us all but the things that cannot be torn, so that afterward we see ourselves as we really are, and not merely as we might like to be.” ~Arthur Golden
The world seems is in a state of adversity since the announcement of Osama Bin Laden‘s death, which leaves me confused. In the history of the world, we should find peace with the knowledge that our world is now safer. What should be a masquerade ball, with champagne and tiny sandwiches, has turned into a battle between political parties. Sarah Palin gives credit to Bush. Huffington Post delivered an article titled, “What if a Republican President had captured Bin Laden?” It goes on and on.
Where’s the fire? Why the bickering and backstabbing? Shouldn’t we, as members of the world, just be relieved? A simple car accident might have been sufficient in accomplishing the same ends. I wonder if that wouldn’t have served American‘s better.
There’s adversity, poking it’s ugly head through the door. It’s adversity that makes people real, when our true selves are forced into the world with no reservations or preparation. It’s adversity that brings characters to life, sticking them in the middle of a nightmare and watching to see if they sink or swim. “Dolly” was racked with adversity, beating Lisa down at every turn. Her family, Jurnee, Brian, Roy, and even with herself.
As we see in today’s political climate, adversity isn’t always obvious. It’s not always a fire in the kitchen, but rather little cutting remarks in the ladies room about a particularly unattractive mask. Or a wink from one woman’s husband to her best friend. Such is the case with Itsy in “The Weight She Carries”. Itsy’s adversity is so subtle that every block of description and every exchange of dialogue has a specific purpose to convey. Without careful planning and thought, the adversity is lost and the story becomes pointless. Thus, my adversity as I struggle with the pace at which I’m writing. It has never been so difficult for me to lay words on paper. Nor has a story every consumed my thoughts like this one.
I can only hope that the wind shakes loose the clutter to leave behind a beautiful story. For this novel, I pull off the mask, pretty as it may be, and let the world decide how I handled it.