30 Days of Blogging–Goal Achieved!

After a month of blogging for the sheer joy of sharing my passing, quirky thoughts with people, I pause to celebrate my self-assigned challenge of posting every day for 30 days, fully well realizing this particular project isn’t complete. I met the construct of the assignment I gave myself, and in so doing, I saw what I care most about.

For instance, in everything I decided to consider, so many more ponderous ideas flitted around my noggin. There is a huge part of me that would have commented on the whole Donald Trump running for President scenario, but I haven’t written about train wrecks yet, so I won’t start now. You’re welcome. I also realized that I type almost the exact opposite of what worries or concerns me on a particular day. For those of us who read as a form of escape, the same is true for those of us who like to entertain and inform. I don’t type specifically about the issues pressing most on my heart and in my mind largely because I can’t address the larger issues of my life’s focus in fewer than 1,000 words. There’s no particular word count limit to what I produce, but I have considered my blog a drive-by along the path of someone’s day, not a sit-down experience. I may change that soon.

I have learned that verb tense switching is annoying and also runs amok on my pages, the byproduct of the fact that I live in the present with nods to future and past imperfect (subjunctive because it is, after all, myself I write about, and perfection isn’t the motif of my days). Time is a nebulous concept to me, as evidenced by the boxes I sorted through recently. If my children’s graduation programs can sit in the same box as their preschool artwork, believe me that I have no trouble with the notion that past, present, and future are all hanging out in my noggin clamoring for representation on the page.

Carving out a spot of time to participate in something I love, it turns out, is part of the USRDA for self-actualization. I am pretty sure my husband feels the same rejuvenation after working on the truck – even when the truck isn’t cooperating. My words haven’t always run out of my brain into my fingertips, as can be seen in the range of topics I write about. There was one night I almost wrote about what I had for dinner a la the YouTube “What I ate today” genre, but I stopped myself because my fingers refused to type something quite that idiotic.

Here I sit, a few hours before I go to vote because, wow, do we all need to engage in the democratic process this year. I may go back to posting once a week, I may continue to post more. Either way, I am grateful that I decided to see what would happen if I wrote every day.

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Video Games Hate Me

My daughter loves video games. She’ll play anything from little critters flitting over sweet little carnival lands, hopping into pipes and running away from little mushrooms (the Mario series) to mercenaries losing their arms and still fighting (Metal Gear). I sit beside her, occasionally commenting on her manual dexterity and focus as things explode and little angels hover about the screens. My challenge: video games hate me. I can’t manipulate the controller the way I am supposed to. I move my head sideways instead of the A or B button (or is it #1 or #2?) and my fingers don’t work correctly when I’m trying to jump and punch/kick/toss/eat/whatever.

The first time I played a Mario game, I kept dying in a pit of molten lava. Not only did I not advance beyond level 1, I doubt very much I made it past the first frame. I was laughing at my daughter’s good-natured remonstrations. I love it that she thought I’d learn from practicing. Nope, kept dying. Then I realized she had accidentally let me borrow her controller so I wasn’t killing Mario on my name. I quietly passed the controller back to her and left the room. She eventually made up for my mistakes.

We tried again, this time with MarioKart. I loved choosing my racing vehicle and the scenes as they unfolded. The problem: the game went too fast for me. Just as I was rounding the first curve, all the other drivers had passed the finish line. In fact, my daughter’s character lapped me twice. Rather than being upset by this, it was a great achievement when I finished in second to last place. I was told to hold the remote just so and not turn it. In other words, I finished in second to last place because I didn’t do anything but press the “go” button.

One of her greatest attributes is that my daughter is patient. We tried again, this time with Shovel Knight. I love this game: the knight has to shovel its way through terrain, leap on top of dragons, gather bags of money and more. Does this game accept me any more than anything else I’ve ever played? Nope. Not a bit. Player 1 kept losing life points because instead of hopping over the bubbles, I thought I should shovel my way through them. That was incorrect. Player 1 wanted to whack me over the head with her shovel, but she refrained. Oddly enough, the game started becoming interesting much more quickly when I wasn’t a player.

I’m happy enough to observe. Video game graphics and story lines are multilayered, complex interfacing systems that entice and then assimilate the player into an alternate experience. I admire the daylights out of people who can actually play – and win – a video game. It takes an incredible amount of strategy and skill to unlock a level, achieve a goal, raid the castle and save the (dragon, princess, insert character here). Or in all fairness, an equal amount of skill to strategically blow things up. I just wish I could play one and not kill my character within the first five minutes.

Modern Romantic Fiction

The Romantic era – that post-Enlightenment phase of literature and expression that embraced both Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein and Victor Hugo’s Les Misérables – knew how to feel the feels. Commentary wasn’t limited to the placid appreciation for love and beauty; it necessarily included extremes in human emotion. Wordsworth may have reflected in tranquility, but Mary Shelley brought horror and rage to the page via Frankenstein’s monster while Victor Hugo’s Jean Valjean was a Superman before Superheroes even existed. Given a numeric representation, the characters experienced their fictitious lives at about a 14 on a scale of one to 10.

In modern-day experience, we have romantic characters hanging out with absolute intellectuals who are then tossed in with amoral and/or immoral characters who remind us of the complexity of all humans. We can even drop all these character traits into one setting and call it the Starship Enterprise (tip of the hat to Star Trek). Our heroes are either charismatic mavericks who rely on intuition and sidekicks (Harry Potter, Captain Kirk) — or they can be mutant geniuses who could control the minds of people but who are so clearly good they would never willingly do so (Professor X). The occasional character of ethical and moral ambiguity can enter the fray, but they usually end up fighting for some version of “right” (Deadpool, Wolverine, pick most of the Marvel characters).

Why ponder the Romantic genre? For one, why not, but for two because the notion of romance doesn’t have the same connotation it used to. One of the reasons that literature is so fun is that I like to play connect-the-dots between characters and current events. Whether the good guys are in the Resistance or the morally ambiguous guy wants to tell his beloved that he’s still alive, I take comfort in knowing that the more things change, the more they stay the same. Jean Valjean may have morphed into The Fugitive and Frankenstein’s monster may have morphed into an X-Man or the Hulk, but our characters are not as desensitized, or as desensitizing, as we might think at first glance. We’re still feeling on a level 14 even as we’re pretending to be all aloof and cynical. Romance novels may have morphed from breast-beating protestations of innocence to bodice-ripping flights of fancy, but people still like it when the good guy emerges victorious.

The Courage to be Yourself

In a recent classroom activity, when asked what constituted bravery, most of my middle schoolers answered with some version of ‘doing the thing that no one else will do.’ This included jumping off cliffs, skydiving, and other truly foolhardy adventures. If you are a skydiving cliff jumper, I mean no offense. I just think there are other forms of bravery less likely to make me vomit.

As a devout fan of the Venn diagram, one of my favorite books is a Venn diagram collection of ideas for living a good life (Jessica Hagy, How to be interesting in 10 simple steps). Her illustrations depict various tasks and challenges designed to remind us that our life is our life, not someone else’s. We know that, but all too often we don’t choose to actually live that.

Hagy’s passage on bravery: “Bravery is needed to have contrary opinions and to take unexpected paths.” As the quality of life increases, so renders her diagram, the amount of fear decreases. I really, exponentially like that. This doesn’t mean the cliff diver is brave just because they take an unexpected path. I’m quite sure it’s great fun, but my lack of a desire to plummet and experience the Earth’s gravitational pull in a very real way does not make me a coward. However, I enjoy the whole ‘contrary opinions and unexpected paths’ notion.

I am an abundantly uncool person. I have too much energy combined with too little desire to hang around water coolers and talk about other people. I don’t generally go out to clubs. Sorry if I’ve disappointed you, but there it is. One of my acquaintances tends to ask, “Do you, like, have plans this weekend?” as if my potential negative answer is a reason to pity me. I can’t summon the energy to worry about it overmuch, because I’m perpetually looking forward to pursuing any one of my skabillion interests.

In one sense, though, this makes me brave. I live unabashedly happy in my skin, and I don’t apologize for being who I am. Occasionally, I feel like an ostrich in a field of swans until I remember that I love ostriches and swans are simply pretty.

There are days where I annoy the living daylights out of myself. Wouldn’t it be easier to blend in, to follow someone else’s lead? Probably, but that’s how lemmings jump off cliffs and we’ve already established I’m not a cliff jumper. I am convinced that ‘doing the thing no one else will do’ most assuredly includes being myself. Living out loud as a self-fulfilling person is pretty brave. Not cool, often annoying, but most definitely brave.

Carrie Fisher is My Superhero

 

There are no spoilers here, so no worries to anyone who hasn’t seen Star Wars yet. I grew up watching the original trilogy and as an adolescent me-in-training, I loved Princess Leia’s kick-ass qualities. Now as a full-grown version of me, I still love the Princess Leia archetype. She still kicks ass, she’s the founder of the Resistance and she still has a soft spot for Han Solo. I’m in. Her character has also suffered, which mirrors actual life for those of us not blessed with long hair that we can wind round our ears in cinnamon-bun fashion.

Carrie Fisher has come under scrutiny for the fact that she is older. Really? Because anyone thought that she’d stay exactly the same? She has aged, my friends, and maybe I should have warned you to sit down before I started typing, but this is the quintessential difference between celluloid (movies) and cellulite (real people’s bodies): actors age. People age. We’re all getting older. I didn’t think this was particularly newsworthy, but evidently it is.

Since when did superheroes have to be young? I’m sorry to the people in their 20s out there, but you’re going to age too. My favorite superheroes have a bit of time, gravity, and life under their polymer-enhanced costumes. Wonder Woman probably wears a Wonder Bra now so that “the girls” don’t sag all the way to her starry briefs. Iron Man has weathered and Tony Starke is still sexy as all get out.

I remind us that we’re talking about works of fiction here. The reason for the archetypes is so that we can identify with a particular character trait and then, through suspension of disbelief, ride their adventure as if we were the ones holding the reigns. It’s called “let’s pretend,” not reality.

In reality, Carrie Fisher, brilliantly reprising the role that made her famous, is older. She’s gained a bit of squish around the middle, and a couple lines around the eyes. All the better to quip with, my dearies. If we haven’t already cross-stitched this into our psyches, it’s time: we are all getting older.

In response to critics mentioning her aging person, Fisher recently texted, “Please stop debating about whether or not I’ve aged well. Unfortunately it hurts all 3 [sic] of my feelings. My body hasn’t aged as well as I have. Blow us.” Of course, this was done with emojiis that I haven’t included here. I don’t know her personally, and probably won’t have occasion to meet her. My life’s goal isn’t to meet the people I see in movies anyway, though I’m grateful for their talent.

Nope, she just became my superhero because she is a kick-ass person. Lots of ass-kicking in a few short paragraphs, but I’m not inclined to edit them out. Fisher’s older, with a little more life to her eyes and a little more wisdom in her noggin. Do I care whether she can still rock the cinnamon-bun hair and flowsy warrior princess costume? No, I decidedly do not. She has a Resistance to lead, after all.