When I was a child, I learned happiness was fleeting. Because I did not understand that life could be mercurial (especially with an alcoholic parent), it always felt like happiness was being snatched away. Then I started to fear being happy. Any hint of joy had me in an instant panic because that meant pain was sure to follow (or to appear and stomp joy into tiny, bloodied bits).
I know this sounds messed up. But it sure made writing Lucinda Rackmore from NEVER AGAIN easier. She's seeking sanctuary, and when she's finally offered some kindness, she runs away from it. She doesn't trust it because as she thinks: It's like falling into a pit of vipers and finding a plate of chocolate chip cookies.
To write dark elements, especially those stemming from emotional wounds, you must understand them. And by "understand," I really mean "experience."
I am damaged. I know this. Maybe most human beings are, just to varying degrees. We all have sorrows that motivate us, right? Yesterday, I looked in the mirror and was stunned to see anguish lurking in my own gaze. I am better than I used to be, but I have not conquered all my insecurities. Does anyone ever? I think I have to be vulnerable, and risk hurt, and if hurt comes (and it always does, sometimes in small ways, sometimes in big, cry-your-eyes-out ways), then have the courage to move through it. Oh, and as a writer, to remember that moment, in all its dark, ugly pain, so I can give an honesty and depth to my characters. No emotional experience should ever be wasted. So, yes, move through the hurt ... and do not wallow, or write bad poetry, or whine about the unfairness of life.
When I write romance novels, I am creating heroes who can look at heroines and see that anguish, and they don't care. They're in. All the way. Love is about being unselfish. But it's always about truth, about seeing the other person standing there, damage and flaws and all, and reaching out anyway. In romantic fiction, love conquers all, and it should. Love should conquer all.
I understand now that happiness will not be snatched away randomly. Or even if it is, that doesn't mean I won't ever have it again. I know that life is about moments. I can experience joy or laughter even within the ongoing experience of being hurt. We are not meant to linger in that bubble of pain and fear and grief. We are meant to be strengthened by it, to be re-created, and re-born, and better because of it.
So, yes, I am damaged.
But I am not broken.