A Crisis Point

This past weekend I went with some friends—Me, Myself, and I—to see Spider-Man: Homecoming. Thoroughly loved it.

There’s a scene in it where the hero, Peter Parker, reaches a crisis. That’s not exactly a spoiler. If you know the hero’s journey model, you know that a hero usually goes through a crisis before the end of the story. I have to quote a line here from the movie in order for the point I wish to make in this post to make sense. So, if you don’t want spoilers of any kind, stop reading at the bold and start back up again at the next bold point.

⭐ SPOILERS!!! ⭐

After Peter messes up so badly that he has to get help from Iron Man, Iron Man decides to take back the suit he had given Spider-Man to use while fighting crime. Peter declares, “I am nothing without this suit.” The sign of someone in crisis.

⭐ END SPOILERS!!! ⭐

In The Writer’s Journey—Christopher Vogler’s look at mythic structure as discussed in Joseph Campbell’s The Hero with a Thousand Faces—Vogler talked about the ordeal or crisis a hero faces. This is part of the hero’s rebirth.

A crisis is defined by Webster’s as “the point in a story or drama at which hostile forces are in the tensest state of opposition.” We also speak of a crisis in an illness: a point, perhaps a high spike of fever, after which the patient either gets worse or begins to recover. The message: Sometimes things have to get worse before they can get better. An Ordeal crisis, however frightening to the hero, is sometimes the only way to recovery or victory. (Vogler 161)

I teared up at the scene from Spider-Man that I mentioned earlier, because it hit close to home. For most of my life, I’ve been writing stories and other things. But lately, I haven’t been able to write much at all. Anything I attempted seemed strained. Even writing a blog post has been difficult. Most of my friends are busy with their books. But I got nothin’. Some of this is due to the steadily mounting rejections I’ve received for my fiction books or criticism I’ve received for nonfiction work. But to be honest, it’s mostly due to self-doubt—feeling like a failure. So, I freeze up every time I think of writing anything—even this post, which took twice as long as posts usually take.

“I’m nothing without writing,” I found myself declaring. I had reached a crisis.

I knew I had two choices: (1) to believe that declaration and continue to go on a downward spiral; (2) to get up again and find out what’s really true about myself.

After some soul searching, I got up. Instead of writing, I’ve been doing other things. Like making miniature rooms out of paper and fabric. (Um, I’ve always been a little quirky.) Like taking photographs of flowers. Like crocheting. Like hanging out with friends. Like watching great movies. Like babysitting. Like taking walks and enjoying the wind on my face.

    

I think you already know by now that what I’d believed about being nothing without writing wasn’t true. I’m more than what I do or don’t do. I’m still who I am—me, warts and all. Life will go on, whether I put pen to paper ever again or not.

I’m reminded of the phoenix and how it had to die in order to be reborn. This season of my life has been a kind of death and rebirth. Old as I am, I still needed to be reborn; still needed to see life anew.

Who am I? I’m L. Marie. Daughter. Sister. Friend. And right now, that’s enough.

Is it me, or do you see a face in this tree, like a person saying, “Ooo”?

Vogler, Christopher. The Writer’s Journey. Studio City, CA: Michael Wiese Productions, 1998.

Spider-Man: Homecoming movie poster from heyuguys.com. Phoenix image from clker.com. Photos by L. Marie.

Mission Impossible

A group of friends and I tried an Escape Room the other day. What is an escape room? A themed room where you’re locked in for sixty minutes. You have to solve some puzzles to find clues leading to the ultimate clue that will unlock the door. Nine other people can join you in this adventure. (There were six of us.) You have to reserve the room in advance, and are expected to be there early.

We started by signing a waiver in which we agreed not to reveal the secrets of the room and agreed that we wouldn’t hold the company liable if we somehow harmed ourselves in the room.

Sounds ominous, right?

Then we were briefed on the room and the rules. We went into it, boasting that we could beat the record time for getting out of the room (a little over 29 minutes). We assured ourselves, “We got this. We got this.”

The clock was visible high on the wall. We tried not to look at it at first. We started off strong, finding the first clue early. Forty-nine minutes left? Ha. Piece of cake.

Tick.

We worked well as a team, splitting up to solve separate puzzles when necessary. “Oh man, we definitely got this,” we congratulated ourselves.

Tock.

But then one puzzle stumped part of our team. So we delegated it to another part.

Tick.

But that didn’t work, so all of us gathered around, trying to solve one puzzle.

Tock.

Oh man. Still couldn’t get it. So, we moved on to another puzzle, leaving the hard one for the present. But then we had to come back to it. We couldn’t ignore it forever.

Tick.

It took so long to solve. Sooo long. One person sat on the floor, unsure what to do next, unsure where to find the next clue. We asked each other if we should ask for clues. We could get up to three. So, we asked for clues. One at a time, they came sliding under the door.

What a relief. We’re back on track. Yes! And we’ve still got time. Still got time.

Tock.

Finally, one last clue to go. But where to find it?

Tick.

Oh good grief is that all the time we have left? Hurry. Hurry!

Tock.

Where is the last clue? Where?! Why are you just standing there? Why aren’t you doing anything??

We came out with our heads hanging low, having failed to discover the very last clue that would have unlocked the door.

Isn’t it interesting what happens when you add pressure to the mix? You can be convinced initially that you can conquer, only to later discover that you couldn’t. Instead, you’d caved under pressure.

In a number of heist movies, a thief or a team of thieves would rehearse a heist by listening to a countdown. In this way, they would get used to the pressure of time as they worked through the obstacles. This helped them avoid panicking as the seconds ticked away during the heist.

Before we arrived at the Escape Room, we played an Escape Room board game. But it was far different from the reality of the room.

Though articles have been written about using Escape Rooms for corporate team building, the biggest lesson for me was not that aspect. Instead, the Escape Room showed me how I often react under pressure—I panic and give up—and how much growth I need to survive the pressure cooker of life. Granted, this kind of pressure was a little contrived. How often are we locked in rooms after all? But life will throw plenty of make-or-break episodes my way in the form of deadlines, unexpected news, rejections, etc. One thing I know I can do—brush up on positive ways to deal with stress.

How do you react when you’re under pressure?

Escape room image from twitter.com. Pressure image from warriormindcoach.com. Panic button from justcourses.com.

Finding Dory in You (and Me)

If you saw Finding Nemo (2003) and the sequel Finding Dory (2016), you know that Dory (voiced by Ellen DeGeneres) is a blue tang with short-term memory loss. In the first movie, she accompanied a clownfish named Marlin (voiced by Albert Brooks) on an impossible journey. In the sequel, she went on yet another impossible journey that I won’t spoil here.

    

I thought about Dory recently, because I acquired this Dory vinyl figure.

Dory had some of the funniest lines in Finding Nemo. Though her character was endearing, I found her a little annoying, because she would rush off without thinking through anything. That aspect didn’t change in Finding Dory.

On the Dory wiki, I found this description

[H]er optimism proves an invaluable quality to help overcome the impossible. To Dory, the glass is always half-full.

Marlin, the doubtful dad ruled by fear, is pretty much her opposite. While Dory’s motto could be, “Nothing ventured, nothing gained,” a good one for Marlin is, “Anything that can go wrong will go wrong”—Murphy’s law. I can relate to that.

I’m like Marlin—cautious to nth degree. But that’s not necessarily a good thing. After all, some of the greatest achievements come through taking a risk.

Dory knew that. She would rush into action, never once doubting that she could accomplish what she set out to do.

In Finding Dory, two characters in trouble asked each other, “What would Dory do?” They admired Dory’s ability to think outside the box and persevere through incredible obstacles.

I have to admit that Dory’s can-do spirit annoyed me at times. But if I’m honest, I have to say I’m not really annoyed with her. I’m annoyed with myself. Can do? It only takes one rejection to turn my can do into “I guess I can’t,” which leads to “Nope. Not trying that again.”

But Dory never met a challenge she didn’t accept.

With Independence Day coming up on Tuesday, I can’t help thinking of the risks taken and the battles fought to bring about this independence. What would Dory do? She would have taken any risk to be free.

So it’s time for me to shed my Marlin approach to life. Time for me to turn the “Not trying that again” into “You know? I think I will.”

What about you? Do you think of yourself as Dory—can do, will do? Or Marlin—don’t try and you won’t fail? Or are you like Nemo—ready to do whatever Dory does? Or maybe you’re like Becky—just carrying a bucket ’cause somebody asked you to? (See the movie if you’re wondering who Becky is.)

Maybe, like me, you’re inspired to find the Dory in you.

(Having internet problems right now, so I will sign off for now.)

A great article on blue tangs: http://www.npr.org/sections/13.7/2016/06/03/480556852/please-lets-not-find-dory

Finding Nemo poster from funny-pictures.picphotos.net. Finding Dory poster from disneymovieslist.com. Becky from ohmydisney.com. Marlin from beafunmum.com. Dory vinyl figure photos by L. Marie.

We Can’t Let Evil Win

Today, I began a post called, “What Is Happening to the World?” which was full of my anxious thoughts about recent events. I had gone to bed the other night, feeling anxious and angry after the news account of the attack on London. I woke up with the same anxiety. Hence the post I just mentioned.

But I scrapped that post.

Look at this.

    

And this.

And this.

I’m reminded that the world isn’t totally full of sadness and evil. There is beauty, kindness, love, joy.

Yes, there is grief. I’m grieved by acts of senseless violence.

Maybe that’s why one of my favorite comic book characters is Wonder Woman. I haven’t yet seen the movie. But my friends and I plan to see it on Tuesday. When I was a kid, I read Wonder Woman comic books, and dreamed of being a superhero. While I didn’t love her outfit, I loved her strength and outlook of hope. I loved that she used her gifts to make a difference in the world—her way of combatting the darkness.

See that glint of light on the poster? I chose this poster because of the light. Though darkness might seem to hold sway, a little bit of light always shines through.

We can choose to bring the light of hope to someone in the darkness of despair. (Yes, there is a way to do that without sounding Pollyanna or giving false hope.)

We can choose to be fully present to those around us who need a listening ear.

We can choose to let a child show us the wonder he or she sees in the world.

We can choose to be kinder to each other.

A friend sent this video to me on a day when I needed a laugh. Maybe you need this right now. It’s not the cure for cancer or hopelessness. But it’s a start.

Wonder Woman movie poster from dvdreleasedates.com. Other photos by L. Marie.

What Is Beauty?

In case you’re wondering, this is not a review of the movie Collateral Beauty, starring Will Smith, nor a review of Beauty and the Beast, starring Emma Watson. Neither was the catalyst for this post, though each has beauty in the title. I’ll tell you what was in a minute. (Oddly enough, I mused about this subject four years ago. You can find that post here.)

   

I sat down with Lippy Lulu, Beauty Guru, to ask her opinion on the question, “What is beauty?” Before you ask, I didn’t give her that name. You can thank Moose Toys for that. She came with tiny lipsticks, a makeup case with brushes, and an eyeshadow array.

    

“Are you asking for a makeover?” she asked, as she reached for her makeup kit.

“Um no. Just want to know what you thought of beauty. What is beauty?”

She didn’t have an answer. And I shouldn’t have expected one from someone who makes her home on my desk.

In a BBC.com article, “The Myth of Universal Beauty,” author David Robson posted the question, “Do standards of beauty change over time?”

At first, I thought about writing a post about his findings, which you can discover for yourself if you click here. But I soon discovered that I wasn’t so much interested in the prevailing standards of beauty as I was in wanting to feel secure within myself if I don’t fit those standards. So, only one statement in the article really resonated with me:

The deeper you look, the harder it is to define beauty.

Ain’t that the truth?

The catalyst for today’s post was my discovery that an acquaintance (let’s call her Sue; not her real name though) was soon to undergo a double mastectomy because of breast cancer. This happened in the same week that a friend (I’ll call her Amy; not her real name either) had a biopsy. I mentioned that in my last post.

Throughout our lives, starting in childhood (Lippy Lulu is a child’s toy after all), we see various images or hear opinions about beauty, particularly what’s beautiful about a woman. Makeup ads advise women to accent their best features through various products. But when you’re a woman faced with the loss of something that is a fundamental part of being a woman, you can’t help pondering the whole subjective notion of beauty and why a paradigm shift might be needed.

When faced with the prospect of having a mastectomy like Sue, Amy asked her husband how he would feel if she had to face that loss. He said, “I’ll take you as you are, no matter what.”

Now, that’s beauty.

Robson, David. “The Myth of Universal Beauty.” BBC Future/BBC News. BBC, 23 June 2015. Web. 07 May 2017.

Collateral Beauty poster from blackfilm.com. Beauty and the Beast poster from impawards.com. Other photos by L. Marie. Lippy Lulu Shopkins™ Shoppie doll by Moose Toys.

Sometimes, Storms Come

Last week started off like a gentle breeze literally and metaphorically. The temperature was warm and inviting. I had a lovely time with Kate Hosford on the blog. (In case you missed that post, you can read it here.) And I read a beautiful post by Penny over at her Life on the Cutoff blog. The photos of colorful flowers paired with a poem by Robert Frost made a powerful and uplifting combination. (You can read that post here.)

   

My birthday happened midweek. I spent much of the day in a windowless room without wifi. I’ll say more on the why of that in August probably. I can’t discuss it now. In celebration of the day, a friend gave me flowers (below) and a ton of my favorite tea.

Inspired by Penny’s post, I went in search of flowers to photograph, but found many of them windblown and defeated looking.

   

The gentle breeze earlier in the week had turned cold and dreary, thanks to the relentless rainstorms that shoved their way into the area. Fitting weather for the events ending the week. First, a friend texted me to say that her mammogram resulted in the need for a biopsy of “something suspicious.” And then my sister-in-law texted to announce that her mother had been rushed to the hospital.

It doesn’t look good, she wrote. Less than half an hour later, I heard back from her: She’s gone.

Yes, sometimes, storms come.

Even if a loved one has reached old age after living many years in poor health, you still aren’t ready for that person to leave. But after taking turns with my brother to desperately give her mother CPR (no response) until the paramedics came (still no response) and watching the medical team at the hospital try to rouse her mother (no response), my sister-in-law reluctantly let go.

So that was the week—a grim reminder of the cycle of life: birth and death.

On Saturday, the friend who learned of her need for a biopsy handed me this hyacinth:

A reminder that though storms sometimes come, life goes on.

Speaking of life going on, thanks to the random number generator, Lyn Miller-Lachmann, you can expect a copy of How the Queen Found the Perfect Cup of Tea to come your way. Please comment below to confirm.

Photos by L. Marie (except for the author photo). The paintings in the background of one photo were painted by Rick Smith. Copyright © 2016 Rick Smith.

Bending in the Wind

Happy post-Easter! I had a great Easter. If the celebration of Easter is part of your tradition, hope you had a good one too.

While out for a walk in a high wind the other day, I couldn’t help noticing the flowers. Many were doubled over, their stems bent by the wind. Bent, but not broken. This roused my curiosity. Why was this the case?

Botanists have studied why plant stems can take the pressure of the wind without breaking. The vascular tissue in a plant stem helps stiffen the plant enough to take the wind, while keeping it flexible enough to bend and not break.

While searching the Internet on the subject, I discovered a new word: thigmomorphogenesis, which is

the response by plants to mechanical sensation (touch) by altering their growth patterns

A “mechanical sensation” like wind can cause a plant to change the way it grows. A plant hormone like ethylene also aids in this process.

Imagine that—change inspiring growth in a new way.

You’re probably not here for a botany lesson, so I’ll get to the point. I couldn’t help comparing myself to the plant stems I observed. When the winds of change come, I tense up, rather than welcoming the change as a catalyst for growth. Instead, I plant my feet—the very image of inflexibility. I’m not overly fond of change—especially change involving discipline.

Growing up, my mother used to say that I was stubborn. I preferred to think of it as firmly resistant. But lately I’ve also noticed that the more resistant I am toward change, the easier it is to be broken by an unavoidable change. Bending seems a lot healthier.

For those of you who are reading these words (and I’m grateful you took time to do so), please don’t think this post is a veiled attempt at calling you or anyone else out. It’s totally not. This is what I observed about my own life.

Since Easter is a celebration of new life, I can’t help being reminded that new life can mean a new attitude. I desperately need one. Because like it or not, change comes like the wind. I can either bend with it or break.

How about you? Do you bend with change or resist it?

Photos by L. Marie.