What Is My Storytelling Superpower

Image credit: Marvel.com

DIY MFA – Storytelling Superpower Quiz

Result: The Protector

Your superpower is writing superheroes! Your favorite characters see their world in danger and will do whatever it takes to protect it and those they love in it. These characters may not wear spandex and capes, but they show almost superhuman fortitude in their quest to prevent disaster, whatever the cost to themselves. From Scarlett O’Hara to James Bond to I̶r̶o̶n̶ ̶M̶a̶n̶, [Captain America] you’re drawn to characters who stand up to the forces of evil and protect what they believe in.

This result feels like “frequency illusion” at play. At first, I didn’t quite know what to make of this. It’s just that 90% of what I write about is about me and stuff I’ve done or gone through. The other 10% is about stuff I like. About 1% of everything I write these days is about superheroes, oddly (?) enough. But is writing about me and the stuff I like really like writing about standing up to “the forces of evil” and protecting what I believe in?
 
In a roundabout way, it is. Well, kind of, but not really. I write what I write because Roxane Gay, Alana Massey, Rebecca Solnit and Mary Karr wrote what they wrote. I’m writing every day trying to save my own life because Steve Rogers, Wonder Woman, Jessica Jones and Natasha Romanoff showed me how to keep fighting and to do what’s right even when it’s not easy.
 
If I’m not writing about a superhero, I’m certainly guided by them. Guided by these heroes and my unshakable and sustained belief that:
 
“Bucky will be heroic. He might not be a good guy, but he’ll be heroic.”
who the hell is bucky
This post is the third writing prompt for the DIY MFA Book Club
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Life + Writing At Odds

Somewhere between the triage unit off the emergency room and the main entrance, I went blind. Not the “everything went black” kind of blind, but the floor now appeared where the ceiling should’ve been, the walls were blurred, and the ceiling disappeared. My spouse had no idea what was going on and I was so shocked and scared that I couldn’t explain it. I stopped dead in my tracks, unable to move. I learned later I had double vision caused by inflammation of my optic nerve, optic neuritis.

This lasted a couple of days until the steroid treatments finally took hold.

Being diagnosed with multiple sclerosis right before Christmas made accessing timely treatment difficult. Experiencing my first “exacerbation” in the days before Christmas made it worse. The outpatient infusion and MS clinics were all closed until the first week of January. I spent Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, and Boxing Day shuttling myself to a hospital in the town north of me for IV treatments trying to slow down the progression of my symptoms.

I was blind and I was sleeping 16 hours a day. I had vertigo so bad I was throwing up twice or three times a day. I wanted to die and the last fucking thing on my mind was writing. Writing, the thing that had sustained me through every major life upheaval could not save me. I was blind and then I was sleeping.

MS left me with “Residual deficits”. I couldn’t read more than a paragraph or two at a time because I could not retain any information. (This still happens to me when I’m tired.) I couldn’t write because after 5 or 10 minutes I would be unable to remember how to type. I couldn’t follow the plot of a movie. (I still forget plots a lot. I remember more about how a movie made me feel than what actually happened.) I couldn’t write longhand because of tremors. I had problems with my brain processing speed and the inability to choose the correct words. For example, when I couldn’t find my mittens I asked my husband if he’d seen my pockets.

My life, for what it was, revolved around doctor’s appointments and sleeping. My neurologist ordered new and pretty aggressive treatments and I stopped barfing, eventually. I started being able to stay awake for more than two hours at a time. And finally, I was able to read short news stories online.

I was miserable in every way I could be miserable, so I did the only thing I could do under the circumstances. I got on the internet, found groups of people who also had MS, started a Blogspot and vented my rage and yelled my fears into the void every day.

Eventually, I found my new normal. Writing came back in fits and spurts. It’s only been in the past three years that I’ve been able to follow a narrative, read more than a page or two at a time, or put any serious energy into writing. The only way I could get on with my new life was to be patient and hope that nothing would get worse.

It has gotten worse, just not in ways that make it difficult to write.

brain takes over the world.gif

This post is the second writing prompt for the DIY MFA Book Club
Photo credit:  Ross Findon on Unsplash

Superpowers – My Origin Story

“You were born with powers due to your mom being exposed to an unusual chemical while doing menial tasks around the house.”

– How Did You Get Your Superpower Online Generator

Until 7 months ago, I never believed in superpowers. The day I watched Captain America: The First Avenger changed all that. Recently, someone told me that being able to write is a superpower. I am hesitant to believe.

Learning about superpowers has taught me several things:

“… good becomes great; bad becomes worse.”
“Compromise where you can. Where you can’t, don’t.”
“Even when I had nothing, I had Bucky.”

Growing up as a pathological liar, I spun yarns about how I wished things really were because being happy seemed like an impossibility. I told my friends fanciful stories under the guise of sharing my “dreams”. My stories made the walk to school less boring. Admitting they were “dreams” was easier than being caught in a lie. Again.

I built a nest with blankets and pillows in the space under the stairs next to the water heater. It was warm and humid and dark down there and I would scribble lists of people who had wronged me, song lyrics, terrible poetry, and bits of stories I wanted to remember from my “dreams”. Trying to get better at this “story” thing. In time, my father stopped me from using my hiding spot because being around the hot water was dangerous. So I built a dark and private space in my closet. I would not give up my flashlight illuminated musings.

No one in my sphere of influence gave a rat’s ass if I was good at writing. They were only interested if I was athletic or well-behaved and I was neither. There’s no future in writing. No job. No pension. No hope at all. Best not encourage that. I read voraciously, at least that’s one that was not discouraged too much. I didn’t share what I was writing often, but every time I did someone would tell me to keep going even when I knew it was pointless.

When I stopped writing it was because I had a story I was afraid to tell. I stopped writing because I had other people’s lives and endeavours to support. I stopped because there’s no future, no job, no pension, no hope in these stories.

Then I met Steve Rogers.

“You start running they’ll never let you stop. You stand up, push back… Can’t say no forever, right?”

While I thought what I had been doing was writing, then quitting, and then getting the “fuckits’,

“What’s the point? No one cares about this shit but you.

“Why bother? All of this is meaningless anyway.”

what I was actually doing was manufacturing the raw materials for the things I most want to complete. The Things I Want To Say. That’s my power, right there; the words that tell the story I want to tell.

Captain America does what’s right, not what’s easy. I have *issues* I can’t keep running from.

“That little guy from Brooklyn who was too dumb not to run away from a fight, I’m following him.”

I was born this way and no one knows what that chemical was.

Cap salute

This post is the first writing prompt for the DIY MFA Book Club

How I Started Cross-stitching in the First Place

My mother gave me a cross-stitch project that she had given up on. It was just a loose, floppy piece of fabric, not in a hoop. She’d finished maybe half of it but got bored and had abandoned it. She gathered the floss and the chart and the half-finished project and handed it to me when we were sitting in the living room of the house I grew up in.

She had been told by The Doctors that what I needed was a hobby. My parents were to monitor what I read and what music I listened to and what TV shows and movies I was watching and to help me find a hobby that was constructive, even artistic. What my mum had around the house was an uninteresting cross-stitch project.

It was an anthropomorphized “Mama Bear” hanging laundry out on a clothes line and had the words “Laundry Day” on it. Allegedly, someone would hang this thing in their laundry room. I was confused as to why anyone would do that, but that’s what the chart said.

My hobbies up to this point were reading anything that struck my fancy, writing terrible, terrible poetry and suicide letters, getting fucked up on booze and drugs and fucking anyone with two legs and an attention span of longer than 15 minutes.

Cross-stitch struck my mother as a plausible alternative to at least two of those activities. There was no stopping my reading and writing. Turns out, the allure of needlecrafts would not stop my partying either.

Who would have guessed?

I spent my first few days after my release from my third (possibly fourth?) trip to the psychiatric ward cross-stitching a honey coloured bear doing laundry and watching my soap opera. (RIP Another World)

While I wasn’t a fan of my first cross-stitch project my mother took me out to the craft store and we bought a couple of these “learn to cross-stitch” kits. They were a few dollars each and came with everything you needed to stitch and display the finished work. I took to it right away and finished that Happy Face and Peace Sign in no time. Those two works of art hung on every bathroom door I rented until I was 26. They were lost in a move or sent to Goodwill, or something, prior to one of the moves I made in my late 20s. I have no idea.

My mum gave up cross-stitching when I was in my late 20s and gave me all her flosses and Aida cloth. I was haphazardly working on really complex patterns which I would then give to someone else or end up putting in the textile donation bag.

In 2006 I met Julie Jackson’s book and the rest is history.

Adventures in Editing – June 12-17

“Now, I don’t know if you’ve ever tried to have sex with someone who is covered from head to toe in an industrial grade insect repellent, but I have some tips. A) don’t kiss any exposed skin other than the mouth, B) make sure that all the necessary body parts required for sexual relations were covered up by clothing at the time of DEET application, and C) make sure that you wait for an hour or two after application before attempting sexual relations.

The taste of DEET in your mouth is not one that will leave you for a while, even with the steady application of Canadian rye whiskey. Incidental contact to your more sensitive areas is… not pleasant. Just trust me on all of this and mind the three tips above and you will be okay. Or better yet, don’t have sex in the back of pickup trucks where there are mosquitos. Then you’ll never go through all that.”

“How can I begin anything new with all of yesterday in me?” – May 17

When I was 16, a boy I was certain I would love forever gave me a gift.

“Beautiful Losers” by Leonard Cohen and a mixed tape of his songs. (Remember when we would make mixtapes for the ones we loved? That was great.) The thing of it is, I don’t remember who that boy was. Which is unfortunate because I would love to thank him again.

It’s been six months since the poet laureate of my heart died. I’m not over it and I think about him at least once a day.

“I heard of a man
who says words so beautifully
that if he only speaks their name
women give themselves to him.”

Poem

Because I am sure that I loved that boy who gave me Leonard Cohen, I ate up his words. I drank up his music. And though Leonard Cohen was 40 years older than me, I knew that if I ever met him I would give myself to him. Because he was beautiful. Because his words were beautiful. Because he knew how to wring every drop of emotion from every interaction he shared with every woman he ever met.

I was sure of it.

“Children show scars like medals. Lovers use them as a secrets to reveal. A scar is what happens when the word is made flesh.”

The Favorite Game

This boy, whoever he was, destroyed my life. He made me want my very own Leonard. I chased every weirdo artist that crossed my path for decades. I wanted, needed, would not survive if I wasn’t someone’s Marianne. I would settle for Suzanne. I would settle for being anyone’s anonymous and unnamed muse.

Please, for the love of everything in the universe, make some art about me. Please let me inspire a great work of yours. Let it all end in a flurry of tears, passion and world renown for you.

“My reputation as a ladies’ man was a joke
that caused me to laugh bitterly
through the ten thousand nights
I spent alone.”

The Book of Longing

To the best of my knowledge, only one piece of art has been made for me. It was a booze and weed influenced remix of Peter Gabriel’s “In Your Eyes” that was made in order for him to have his Lloyd Dobler/Say Anything moment when I tried to end our pairing for the 70th time that month. I loved everything about it.

I listened to it again about five years after I ended the relationship for good. It’s truly completely, terrible. I do not want anything about me attached to that song.

“So the great affair is over but whoever would have guessed
it would leave us all so vacant and so deeply unimpressed”

Death of a Lady’s Man

With the death of my beloved Leonard came the stark realization that no one will ever love me enough to turn our affair into a song or a painting or a screenplay or sculpture or a poem. My window for finding my Leonard closed decades ago. I will inspire no one to artistic greatness. This is the regret of my life that feeds all other regrets.