Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Bad Ass You Versus Fear

I've been thinking of fear. If you know me, you know that I enjoy getting scared. I watch horror movies to try and tap into that adrenaline like fear that I used to have when I was a kid and my mind would just run away with itself. It was entertaining and, to a point, still is. But that's controlled and even self-inflicted fear. I mean, all I have to do if I get too scared is flip on light, turn off the iPad, or close the book.

But what about that kind of anxiety pounding fear that keeps us from doing things? That frightened voice in the back of your head that says, "Stop! Don't do that. You'll make a huge ass of yourself. Don't even try!" Or the pessimistic and dreary fear monger in the pit of your stomach who says, "Don't love too much...don't get too close. Don't melt your wings." Is there anything at all that can stop the madness?

I learned something important from my child years ago. He was six. He was a wonderful six. But he became afraid. He was afraid of becoming ill after losing a dear friend to cancer. He was afraid of sleeping. He was afraid of being separated from his parents. The fear came fast and furious, but that little frightened kid taught his mother a wonderful lesson during that dreary time. When asked to draw a picture of what scared him the most, he drew a grotesque picture of a huge dragon that nearly filled the entire sheet of paper. The dragon breathed fire. It wore a stethoscope. Had syringes instead of claws. It was heartbreaking and I teared up when I saw it.

When asked to add a picture of himself to the paper he drew a very small version of himself in the lower right hand corner. In one hand he held a sword and in the other an oversized shield. I thought, "He's so very tiny." But here's the deal: He had a shield. He had a sword. Even though he was standing, almost cowering, in its shadow, he was fighting the thing that scared him the most. Forget monsters under the bed and ghosts in the closet, this kid was encountering the monster that took his friend too soon and he was afraid would come for him and his family too. And all he needed to be reminded of was that he had tools to fight the fear. We worked on making that shield super big and I think, at some point, the shield became bigger than the fear. I hope that lasts throughout his lifetime. 

That being said. Life is scary. Things happen. Families are torn apart. Kids get sick. Parents die. Lovers leave. Marriages end. But your love is your shield. Note I didn't say "shield your love"...no, just love bigger. Love more. Love harder. Love yourself. Be good and be kind. Make your shield bigger than the pain and bigger than the fear. Let your people in and let them be part of that shield.  Surround yourself with people who believe in you so when you think you can't do something or are afraid to something you can turn to them and say, "Help me slay that damn dragon. I need your help."

Last night I found myself warning the teen version of that little boy of getting too involved with his girlfriend (whom I am really attached to and love too). I might have said something stupid like, "I'm just saying don't get your heart broken." Fifteen minutes later I was ashamed of myself because I'd said that. As a mom, of course, I don't want to see my kiddo get hurt. But as a mom I'd rather see him deal with heart ache than be alone or be afraid to love with all his heart. That's what we should strive for as human beings. People are often surprised that we don't use all of our brains, but what about using all of hearts? We will lose people we love. That's how this crazy merry go round works. So be the kid that keeps spinning it, shouting to the all the other kids, "Hang on! Enjoy the ride!"

 So all of this is to say, gather your love, your confidence, your self-worth and make it bigger than the thing that scares you. Make an impenetrable force field. Spend more time thinking about those wonderful things and make the scarier things scared of you. You are bad ass, so be bad ass.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Pondering Stuff While Watching The Exorcist

Better start looking for a different lucky charm, Pal.
I am currently rewatching The Exorcist for the 20th time or so. Oddly enough, after a decade-long break since my last screening, I feel like I'm watching an entirely different movie. This movie that I long thought was about a possessed girl and the battle to win back her soul has somehow morphed into so much more: good versus evil, single motherhood, medicine versus religion, taking care of an aging parent, and, yes, the elusive and slippery nature of faith. But if the movie is exactly the same, then that only leaves one logical option:  it is me, the viewer, that has changed over the years. Given that I noticed this difference right away (during the opening credits in Northern Iraq), I became overwhelmed with trying to figure out why it seemed like such a different movie to me.  That being said, this isn't an analytical review. It's more of an observation and reflection, really.

I first saw The Exorcist when I was around 10 years old. I recall being bored (e.g., having no idea what they were talking about) until the pea soup starting spewing and then I was just terrified by all of the yelling, flailing, and demonic acrobatics. I wasn't Catholic - nor had I ever really believed in God - so the whole religion/faith thing was lost on me.  I wasn't a child living alone with my mother. I had never experienced any real "evil" in the world, so the whole existential good versus evil theme also fell on immature ears.  But I was a young girl.  Two years Regan's junior, actually, and that meant that if it happened to her, then it could definitely happen to me, right? Well, that's what I thought anyway and the fear that movie drop kicked within my psyche included a lifelong fear of MRI machines, needles, doctors, and hospitals.

Oddly enough, I am now more familiar with MRI machines, needles, doctors, and hospitals (I WORK within a hospital) than Young Me would or could have ever imagined.  These things don't frighten me nearly as much these days.  I mean, there's the occasional anxiety associated with having fibromyalgia, a chronic "invisible" disease. You don't just go in and get diagnosed with fibromyalgia.  It's much more about playing a long game consisting of a variety of tests, needles, the slow elimination of the really scary options, and being left with no clear indication of what actually ails you. Once everyone agrees that there's nothing like MS or cancer staring you down, then you just get meds thrown at you, grab a walking device of choice, and just learn to live with "the bad days" and appreciate "the good days."

But, overall, I'm a big girl and I'm now 30 years older than Regan. Even my kid is a few years older than Regan was when she first started flipping her sheets! When I started rewatching the movie last night I noticed right away the dreadful feeling that Max Von  Sydow's Father Merrin begins carrying around with him once he discovers the shrunken Pazuzu head. It's not a lucky rabbit's foot. It's an indication that evil has been around far longer than man and, like a stubborn cockroach, just keeps chugging along no matter what else evolves around it.  When we see Merrin standing in the dessert shoulder-to-shoulder with a demon statue (Pazuzu), we see religion facing it's own history intermingled with human suffering, pedophilia, torture, and even crusades of death.  He might as well be standing in the grocery store flipping through a tabloid magazine: Death! Despair! Deception!

And then there are other scary themes that I noticed this time around.  It never really donned on me that this movie is not so much about a 12-year-old girl turning into a grotesque marionette of the devil, as it is about the people who surround her.  Her SINGLE mother (an actress with little time at home), Father Karras, who makes lots of noise about losing his faith and replacing it with guilt when his ailing mother died, and even the doctors who, when faced with no clear options, turn to psychiatrists. Is it no wonder Chris says, "You want me to send my daughter to a witch doctor?!"

Now I'm the mother. I'm not the girl.  I see things or think thoughts that scare me everyday. What if my kid gets sick? What if he gets in trouble?  What if? WHAT IF?  But what if I walked into his room and heard noises emanating from the ceiling while he's sitting there spouting off and spewing soup?  My first step would probably be to take him to a doctor.  To find a "health care team".  It would take forever.  Would I eventually believe a story of possession?  Would it be explained away by psychiatry? Would it involve medications or surgeries?  Witch doctors?  Oh, the very thought is so much more horrific than anything I ever thought of as a child.

I plan on watching the rest tonight.  I watched last night right up until they initiated the exorcism.  I was watching it with different eyes.  It's a fun experiment.  I wonder what I'll be scared of when I close my eyes tonight!

What's the scariest movie you've ever watched?

Monday, November 16, 2015

Work in progress

This is a drafty draft excerpt from my Nanowrimo project.  I'm way behind, but I've been sick and I was traveling. The point is, I've started and who knows where I'll end up:

Phobophobia: A Novel
Jennifer J. Patterson
November 2015

I am so relieved that the temperature within this room is I-can-see-my-breath cold. I like it cold. I need it cold.  When you spend as much time hopping over Hell’s bottomless puddles of roaring flames as I have, you tend to acutely hone a sincere appreciation for air conditioning, global warming, and the occasional blue-raspberry Icee.

And today, my friends, is an absolutely perfectly cold day. These pale white arms are simply rejoicing in their horripilation. Each of the tiny little porcupine hairs is saluting and standing at attention, puffing up to make this weak human body appear just a little big bigger and more capable of staving off pesky predators. Here’s a fun bit of trivia about goose bumps: I bet you didn’t know that the phrase, “Bitten by a Westchester goose,” was once commonly used by the English in reference to syphilis. The Westchester Geese were, of course, prostitutes in South London (and who didn’t love a good gander at those geese, if you know what I mean). Ah, syphilis, how I do enjoy a good STD every now and again.  You haven’t really lived until you’ve tossed and turned through a sleepless night of mental anguish, unrelenting itching, and excruciating burning.  Satan himself couldn’t have come up with a better consequence for lustful sin, and he’s actually still a little touchy about the subject. (Lil’ side note here: If you ever find yourself standing in front of the Overlord of Hell, I’d suggest not bringing up this tasty piece of trivia, but it’s great cocktail party speak.)

So, yes, it’s perfectly cold and still – just like the place in my chest where I often imagine a warm human heart beating. And here I am wriggling around in this new body, trying it on like a used and wrinkled tuxedo.  I guess it fits okay.  It’s a little saggy for my taste and oh! so pale. This guy must be allergic to the sun because he doesn’t have a single sunspot or leathery wrinkle anywhere to be found.  Either that or maybe he wears SPF X2000.

I’m getting tired and hungry as this is the THIRD body I've tried on today.  Nobody likes me when I’m hungry - I get all Paul Lynd sortta nasty and mean. Sigh. I just don’t know what’s wrong with me these days.  I used to be able to just hunker down and stay in one of these humans for as long as I could get away with it.

Once I lived a whole human adulthood. I’d popped myself right into a 21-year-old guy named Charlie. Stayed there till he was on his deathbed at age 92.  I let him out long enough to say goodbye to the cruel world who had never even noticed he’d been gone for ?# years – imprisoned and alone within the confines of his own mind.  He tried his best to convince the docs that he didn’t have dementia (or demontia, if you will), but they just patted him on the shoulder and increased his morphine (lucky me!). I’m actually quite surprised young Charlie’s liver made it that long.  I tried my damnedest to pickle that thing in his younger days.   

So many games, so little time...

 Next up on my ever expanding list of board games to play: Fury of Dracula. Based upon the blood-sucking character from one of my all-time favorite novels, this game especially appeals to my life long obsession with becoming a Vampire Hunter, Extraordinaire. From what little I've read, it looks like it's right up my alley (or, rather, my erie mountain pass). You either play good old Vlad (whose objective is to turn Europe into a vampy empire) or one of up to four vampire hunters trying to snuff him out. 

Here's hoping it doesn't suck.  See what I did there? 

Starting over

Well, that felt good. I just deleted the "old" blog and am setting myself up for something new. Sometimes it's good to just shed the dry skin and discover what's been hiding underneath.