Between a Rock and a Hard Place – Learning From Sookie Stackhouse
Between a rock and a hard place. A universal locale. One we’ve all visited. Where some of us even live.
One reason I’m enamored of the Southern Vampire series (Sookie Stackhouse/True Blood novels) is that Sookie frequently finds herself in such a position. (Frankly, even being in one of her vampire lover’s arms is such a place, given the marble musculature, and all that business with the fangs.)
One of the series’ most classic rock-and-hard-place moments occurs in Altogether Dead, when Andre, chief aide-de-camp of the Vampire Queen of Louisiana, demands a blood exchange with Sookie to ensure her loyalty to the Queen. (Another thing I like about the books is their complete silliness.) Before Andre can force Sookie to take his blood, the dynamic and debonairly handsome vampire Eric Northman appears, and persuades Andre that he should be the substitute blood exchangee, since he too is a minion of the Queen of Louisiana. Eric then must convince Sookie that exchanging blood with him is her best shot, the lesser of two evils.
What a dilemma. Sookie must choose between the dry, calculating, mean, Andre and the super-sexy, protective, and ruthless but loving, Eric Northman. (Did I mention spoiler alert that Eric is also wealthy, constantly giving Sookie things like a new driveway, a new coat, and a new cell phone?)
Talk about escapism. Sookie’s choice between a rock and hard place is a bit like a choice between Death Valley in a heat wave and a cliff jump into an exhilarating stream.
In the non-fictional world, unfortunately, our hard choices tend to be a bit more murky (a choice, say, between this sick feeling in our stomach and that sick feeling in our stomach), and it is hard to embue them with a sense of excitement.
Note that my mention of stomach feelings. This may be because I tend to view a decisive step as something that turns my stomach (in the aforementioned sickly way), rather than churns it (with a feel of adventure). The problem is that I seem generally convinced that there is an absolutely right choice, and that that choice, undoubtedly, hasn’t even crossed my mind. This aggrandizes the making of a decision in an awful way– I am not only deciding an immediate issue; I am being subjected to a test–of my decision-making capacity, my wisdom, my worth as a human being.
Since I’m still in New Year’s resolution mode, I ask myself what to do about this problem. How does one turn the spot between a rock and a hard place into a forward-leading path? Okay, scratch that. How does one turn it into a place where one is not simply banging one’s head? How does one recognize that the spot between the rock and hard place is sometimes located in one’s own cerebral cortex?
Back to the Sookie Stackhouse model: she is an example of forthrightness and aplomb, but she is also beaten, shot, or bitten, on nearly every other page. She also has (i) this wonderfully delicious blood, (ii) valuable telepathic abilities, and (iii) a great figure, all of which seem to mean that she can indulge in a fair amount of righteous an extremely vocal indignation whenever she is faced with a hard decision, and always be totally forgiven. She is a good enough character that she suffers regrets, qualms, and remorse, but, generally, once she makes a decision, she learns to make the best of it.
I don’t want to be shot or bitten; and I have no idea of the quality of my blood. (I’m also out of the running for Sookie’s other two enumerated qualities.) So, that leaves me with …regrets, qualms, remorse (I’ve got those covered)…making the best of it. The best in this case has nothing to do with perfectionism.
Good old Sookie.
(Caveat—I’ve never seen the TV show True Blood, but only read the Charlaine Harris novels. Sorry for any spoilers or differences.)
(Post-Script – if you like elephants, check out 1 Mississippi by Karin Gustafson.)Explore posts in the same categories: children's illustration, elephants, Sookie Stackhouse Southern Vampire Mysteries
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