Monday, March 17, 2014

Roland Deschain, Danny Torrence, and Me

It will come as a surprise to few that, well, I have issues.  Maybe it's because I'm an artist, maybe it's because I've struggled with depression, maybe it's just because I'm me, but for whatever reason I spend most of my days walking around feeling like I have a perpetual sunburn.  Everything, good or bad, I feel so much more than I think I ought and everything, good or bad, has the potential to hurt.  Over the years I have developed a system for working with this issue. It all started with the death of my son, named appropriately enough, Roland. You see, Roland died. In my arms. Due to surgery, I wasn't at my best at that time either, and suddenly I find myself having to deal with not just the soul-crushing pain but also the minutiae of death, and then of life.  "I'll feel it later," became my mantra. "I don't have time for this now, I have to plan the funeral. I don't have time for this now, I have to get ready for my husband's deployment. I can't do this now, now while P is deployed. I can't do this now, I have a new baby and I"m all by myself.  I can't do this now, P is readjusting." And then another new baby. And so on and so on. It started as a one time thing, and became a habit.

 It may not be the healthiest, but for me it works.  In this regard, I'm a little bit Roland Dechain.  In one of the amazing Dark Tower Series (and if you haven't read this, you must - at least books one through six; I remain convinced that in the seventh Sai King lost sight of the Beam completely) Roland twirls his finger in that impatient motion at someone's story and says "Gone days."  Eddie Dean of course disapproves, but it won in me a wholehearted recognition. Gone days.  They happened, they are gone, there is nothing you can do to change it. Dwelling on them will not change them, it will only weaken my ability to deal with the issues of today.  Regret over my repulsive behavior in my early 20's? Gone days.  Pain from childhood? Gone days. Remembering the humiliation of high school? Gone days. The betrayal by my first publisher? Gone days.  Keep marching.  In another way, I'm a bit Danny Torrence from Dr. Sleep.  There are pains that I'm pretty sure will eat me if I let them.  So I've put them in a box and placed them on a shelf.  Pain of the death of my first born?  Box. The pain of remembering the first golden days of being newly in love? Box. The betrayal of friends who could handle me "just how I was" until just how I was was happy and healthy and well.  Box.  And it's a good system. It's worked.  Until now.

What's changed?  Well, you see, I'm writing this story.  I'm writing this story that is a cyberpunk homage to Flowers for Algernon. In it this girl who has suffered her entire life from depression agrees to have a cybernetic brain implanted.  Well for the first time since the abuse she suffered as a child, she makes her way into her world.  So, she's' going to fall gloriously, newly in love. And she's going to have friends turn out not to be what she thought they were. And she's going to slide unaviodably, inevitably, cyberbiologically into utter and complete despair. And it's going to be incredible.  But, to do it right it will have to be authentic.  It will have to have the ring of utter truth.  And to do that I'm going to have to open some of those boxes and actually feel what is inside them.  That terrifies me.  It completely and utterly terrifies me.

So, the writing is slow, much slower than I'd like, and i"m having to take lots of breaks.  But, I think if I can make it through I might discover a new way to live. One where I can let myself feel all of these things knowing that I will survive it.  One wherein I can not use the past as an excuse for bad or dysfunctional behavior, but wherein I can acknowledge how it can harm us, help us, and affect our behaviors.  I think this will be a good thing.

But man, it's scary.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Women's History Month - Don't be a Buttercup

"Never grow a wishbone, daughter, where your backbone ought to be." -Clementine Paddleford

We watch a lot of movies at my house.  It's unfortunate, I know, but they really are family affairs, curled up on the couch all together in this massive dogpile, talking and chatting our way through the flick.  I've been amazed at how many lessons we were able to teach using the shows that my family enjoys.  Gollum was the introduction into the dangers of addiction.  Dr. Who and Sweettown showed us greed. Then, there was Buttercup.
Ah, Buttercup, the female lead in the delightful classic "The Princess Bride." She drives me nuts.  In a land of "hello, my name is Inigo Montoya," "Iocaine, I'd stake my life on it," and the rest we have the only significant female character.  Of course, my daughter fell in love with her instantly.  With the amazing dresses and that incredible sheaf of hair, why wouldn't she?  Then I noticed something.  She started getting bossy.  More than that, she started playing at helplessness.  She wouldn't get things for herself, wouldn't play, would just sit and watch and give orders.  Granted, this is a consistent problem considering both her background and her mobility issues, but it became extreme.  Finally, it had to be addressed.  Being the extremely sensitive and tender mother that I am, I of course approached it with delicacy and tact.  "Hey," I said, "why are you being so bossy lately?"  "Well that's how Buttercup acted when she loved Wesley." Oh.
So, we sat down again to watch the movie that night, and we talked and the talk went like this.  "Honey, don't be a Buttercup.  She is bossy, see there, that's not how you love someone.  She is naive. See, you must learn from your experiences.  She is, well, useless really.  See how she acted in the fireswamp?  All morose and weepy and hysterical. Look, she got Wesley hurt.  Don't be afraid to fight and remember above all you must not panic.  And look there, there she just gave up.  You never, never give in to despair.  Yes she's pretty but honey you must NEVER be a Buttercup.  That's not what being a girl is all about."
The next day I was walking through the living room at full speed, carrying a load of laundry and tripping over the kitten.  That's when she decided to ask the follow-up question.
"Mommy," she said.
"Yeah baby."
"What is being a woman about then?"  Oh. Gosh.  Okay.  I crossed over to her.
"Being a woman is hard, honey.  It's very hard. You have to be independent and know your own mind and be able to defend it, but you have to know how to serve others because nurturing and caring for others is important.  And how have to be able to tell when to do which.  You have to be strong, and feed your talents, but above all you have to love people with all of your heart and trust in your strength."
That night we watched another movie.  The next day I heard my kids playing outside.  Suddenly, above all of the voices I heard my daughter's.
"I am NO MAN!" she yelled.
That's my girl.