I was walking to work last week in my beige pump, touted to be comfortable all day long, imagining ways to inflict pain on the manufacturer. Just when I could see my office tower, and relief on the horizon, my shoe was ripped from my foot and I was sent lurching forward. A much younger woman stopped, panicked concern on her face, to ensure I was OK. This bothered me a lot. I looked down to see the spikey heel of my shoe lodged in the crack between two concrete segments of sidewalk.
Step on a crack, break your mother’s back.
Is this what that childhood rhyme was referring to? I’d always thought it was about the danger of the crack. Suddenly I wondered if the reference to mother was the important part. When I was young, and in one of those rare moments when I wore heels, an event like this would have looked goofy and somewhat endearing. Maybe the message in this phrase is that age requires more attention to life because there are more consequences to your actions. You can’t live just hoping for the best, muddling through. You have to learn from your experience – that is the gift of age. Place your feet thoughtfully.
I had quite forgotten my painful feet when I arrived at the office. It was really fun to explore the meaning of things. I think this is one of the gifts of writing. Stories can be laced with symbols and echoes of the growth that the protagonist is seeking. Readers can have their unconscious fed with metaphors of meaning and enjoy the delightful awakening as they rise to the surface of consciousness. Such a wonderful personal experience.
I saw a man walking with his dog. ‘Man’s best friend’ popped into my mind. It made me think of the expression Diamonds are a girl’s best friend. What meaning are we to take from this pair of thoughts (I was on a roll now). Women used to store their nest-egg in the form of jewels. They are much more beautiful than a number in the bank. You can benefit from them by wearing them when you don’t need their cash value, and you can travel with them on short notice. There is always a measure of security and independence when you have diamonds. Women value beauty and self care. Men value loyalty. And someone willing to fight by their side.
That’s what those two phrases side by side said to me. What fun to see life as full of meaning. And we can all find our own meaning and be enriched by it. I think this is a really powerful aspect of writing.
How much thought do you give to symbols that hint to the meaning of your protagonist’s journey alongside the furthering of the plot line? I’d love to know the process, do they come to you as you write, do they get laced in afterwords?