I was never a tomboy, never a daredevil girl, never inclined toward athletics and sports. In fact, looking back on those “awkward” years of early teens, I was a wimp who sat on the front porch and read books all day. I took riding lessons once in an arena, was grounded from two lessons for some minor infraction (I was never guilty of major infractions) and was thereafter leery of horses. Hated gym classes, maybe liked archery in college, and the closest I came to athletics was when I ran a bit because I was married to a runner. Sadly, a sedentary life (unhealthy) is my style.
So in my forties, I found myself writing about adventuresome women—first a teenage girl who tamed a horse none of the men on her father’s ranch could ride. Then Libbie Custer, who rode horses at breakneck speeds across the prairie with her beloved Autie and survived when he quirted her horse until it ran away. And then there was Cherokee Rose, modeled on Lucille Mulhall, the first female roper in Wild West shows.
Why was I writing about daredevil women when I was such a wimp? I read something today that we write about our fantasies. So maybe I was writing about the woman I would never be—shoot I do well these days to do my yoga. Maybe I was living out my fantasy in my stories. That implies a bit of inadequacy feelings on my part—but I think that’s probably true.
Cissy Palmer of The Gilded Cage doesn’t exactly live out my fantasies. In fact, as far as I found in research, the only activity she engaged in was walking—she loved to walk the “Ladies Mile” from the Palmer House to Marshall Field & Co. But strangely enough I gave her some of my fears. In one passage she is forced to choose between riding the giant Ferris wheel (each cage held 40 people) or creating a scene. Cissy never created scenes, so she rode the wheel, and it was soon apparent to the man who trapped her into the ride that she was afraid of heights.
My oldest daughter has suggested more than once that portions of my fiction, especially the Kelly O’Connell Mysteries, are highly autobiographical, so I guess giving Cissy my acrophobia is just another example of that.
Where does all this lead? I have no idea, except it gives me a glimmer into why I’ve created some of the fictional characters that I have. In my estimation, most of them are more clever and brave than I am. It’s fun to write about them and imagine myself cool in the face of danger. A psychologist once told me I’d be the first on to panic in a theater fire—and I wish he’d never said that to me.
I leave you tonight with another profound thought, this from Julia Roberts. I found it on Facebook today and will roughly parse. If someone leaves you, let them go. It doesn’t mean they’re a bad person. It just means that their part in your life story is over. Sheesh! I should have learned that years ago.