Well-intentioned people often say stupid shit like: “A relationship will find you when you are least expecting it.” That always brings to my overactive imagination images of shadowy figures lurking in corners waiting to pounce on the next oblivious victim with its gnarly teeth, oversized forehead, and bloody dagger. It’s with about 88% certainty that I can say nothing in my life that has been unexpected has usually been for the better. And the other 12% is pretty fucking sketchy, too.
The great thing about living with anxiety is the insomnia that comes with it. Without those hours at night I would never have the time to recap every conversation I’ve ever had and then follow it up with my greatest hits: every decision I’ve ever made. In truth, the insomnia is a double-edged sword. It can be painful and frustrating, but I’ve also been able to create vast universes of stories I may never write, but have been of endless personal entertainment.
And then there are the stories I’ve written from those nights laid awake; three to be exact. All of them with the central theme of girl likes boy, she gets him, she leaves him before he can leave her, or find out who she really is. Last year, writing the third of these stories—Alter Ego Jenna—I was lying awake one night working out the last chapter, or two, and froze. It was the same ending I’d written the two times before. It was the same ending I always wrote when meeting someone in real life.
I didn’t finish Alter Ego Jenna. I simply found myself unable to write the ending I’d come to rely on. It wasn’t the ending I wanted for my characters anymore. It wasn’t the ending I wanted for me anymore. I didn’t finish because I didn’t know how to change it.
Growing up I thought a relationship as an adult meant you got a job, got married, had kids, and fought about any variety of seemingly mundane things. Nothing terrified me more, and I held onto that fear most of my adult life. Kids? No, I’d taken care of others for as long as I knew. I was acutely aware of what being good at that would mean on a personal level, and it simply wasn’t something I was able to give.
It wasn’t until somewhat recently I realized a relationship didn’t have to be defined by any other construct than one mutually agreed upon by those in the actual relationship. The irony is that I used to say I could tell more truth in fiction, but as it turns out writing fiction, for me, has been an exercise in avoiding the truth.
Relationships don’t happen when you are least expecting them and the truth doesn’t happen when you write fiction. But, the greatest lesson I’ve learned in the last year came at the expense of, arguably, the best character I created… and maybe because she was the character that finally allowed me to start speaking with my own voice. However shaky that can be at times.