Do you want to live well? Do you set up your days in order to do so?
Then you need an antagonist.
You are writing a story with your life. Every good story has an antagonist.
Think of it.
Who is Sherlock Holmes without Professor Moriarty?
What if Narnia didn't have The White Witch or Peter Pan hadn't fought Captain Hook?
Even Bambi had an antagonist, right? Who shot Bambi's mother? Bambi would not be Bambi without him.
No good story is idyllic from beginning to end. Neither is a good life. If we want to live a good life, we have to face our antagonist eventually. We all have one. What is yours? Being able to name it is important because sometimes it's not who we think it is.
Here's an example.
When I began to really understand that VENS* had happened despite all my best intentions, pretty much since my chicks were in the womb, HaagenDazs and I became close friends.
CLOSE friends. We were like two girls who live next door to each other and want to spend every summer night at each other's house. Sometimes I even invited Red Vines and Reese's Peanut Butter Cups to the party. MANY pounds later, I stood on the scale thinking, "What the FRICK have I done?"
Losing the weight felt impossible. But if I didn't, I had two other options. Maintain the weight I hated or continue to gain.
Numbing for 40 pounds worth had gotten me nothing but my first experience with Lane Bryant. It didn't bring my daughter back. And it certainly didn't help me be happier.
But who is my antagonist, exactly? Is it the sugar? The pounds? My willpower? Will the battle be won when I lose the weight or is it something more than that?
In my current battle to lose the weight I put on, my antagonist does not want me to accept that I can't control my young adults' choices. My antagonist is the part of my heart that feels being a good mother and them telling me so is the only way I can be at ease in this world. My antagonist is the numbing carrot that still dangles in front of me each day and wants to shove me out of the driver's seat of my life.
Here's what our antagonists don't want us to know. If we choose to face them, we will probably win. But, yes. Blood will also be shed. A linear path will not just present itself because it probably doesn't exist. Others will betray us and fuel our antagonist instead of supporting us with the love and strength we need. But in order to write a good story that keeps us feeling alive we need to accept instead of deny or numb their reality.
Think about a place in your life that just hurts where you're tempted to numb. And then ask yourself:
- What is the name of my enemy exactly?
- What are my enemy's tactics?
- Am I losing ground, trying to maintain ground, or advancing right now? In other words, be honest about where you are in the midst of this reality. Seeing the terrain with clearer eyes will help you navigate it.
If you answer these questions, you will be so much better equipped for what your antagonist throws your way. Someday I will write about how accepting our antagonist as a part of our life can actually benefit us. But in the meantime, know this. Someday, your antagonist might be the one running away from the pain instead of you. When you finally stand eye to eye, he may tell you his story and become a sympathetic character instead.
Write and live good stories. Let other good stories show you how. You do need a strong supporting cast of characters and a denouement or two, but don't forget...stories also have to have antagonists, even yours and mine.
Who is the villain in one of your favorite fictional stories? I would love to hear!
*Violent Empty Nest Syndrome (VENS): When a mother has her youngest leave the nest without warning and is still circling looking for her baby.