Monday, November 15, 2010

Cliches that need to be buried forever

--The bastardized Beatrice and Benedick romance. The sassy female protagonist loathes on sight the arrogant insulting cruel vindictive dirtbag male (but secretly can't stop thinking about him cause he's just so dreamy), and they try to kill each other, literally or figuratively, throughout the story. Yet it turns out, under that crusty evil exterior, the guy's just really an old softy with a heart of gold. And they go from loathing to wedding or bedding within about 4 pages. For examples see 80% of all YA fiction, 60% of all urban/paranormal fantasy, and 100% of all romance.

--As an extension of that bad boy thing, how in period pieces, there's a tendency to Byronify the male hero as much as possible, and make him all brooding, glowering, and mysterious; even if the original character bore very little resemblance to such a character.

--Misery lit and putting characters through every single possible tragedy imaginable without a single ray of hope anywhere.

--The wish fulfillment characters, most notably embodied in the Bella Swann types. If not only the character, but also the narrator, mention almost every other page about how ordinary or plain or awkward or unremarkable she/he is; and the character as written also has zero personality, charm or common sense and is often also self-absorbed in the extreme; don't make every character of the opposite gender fall madly in love with them. Seriously. If your character has all the personality of a rock, and on top of that is whiny, self-obsessed, vacant, and supposedly unattractive--is everyone really going to be falling all over themselves to get with them?

--How many writers have what's touted to be a "feminist" work but their work is only feminist in that it passed a feminist in a subway once. And they can't create their main heroine without making her extremely pushy, shouty, nosy, lacking in any tact or empathy whatsoever; and she must always suffer a huge comedown where she learns her place by ending up in humiliating and humbling circumstances because of her meddling or her reaching outside her sphere.

--The next time I see an female superhero, fighter, police detective or other active profession doing their jobs in high heels and especially stilettos, I can't be held responsible for my actions.

--Protagonists who have never fought or have any training whatsoever going up against a whole gang to bringing them all down single-handedly. Or additionally, a hero/heroine who has never had any magic training or used their magic before managing to save the whole world through their powers.

--The glamor fatal illness, where the character grows more and more radiant and beautiful as they die.

Any others to add?

Saturday, November 13, 2010

My struggle to remain healthy is gradually killing me

So, pain. I've been on intimate terms with pain for some time now. I've had chronic illnesses for 12 years, and so it's not a day goes by that's pain free. Not a day goes by that I'm not in agony. And generally, I don't talk about it. I never have talked much about it. This thing rules my life in so many ways, that I'm bored of giving it so much time and attention, so I don't like to give it additional time and energy by then talking about it. As Thomas De Baggio said: "It is not long before you are under the spell of the disease. Its heartbeat is your heartbeat. There is danger in trying to understand evil, especially when it is so close to you, gaining control...I worry I will become too conversant with this disease in me, and it will hijack my life with my permission."
And additionally, our society doesn't like chronic illnesses or dealing with the differently abled. You need to get better, or it needs to kill you. None of these in between nonsense. And so people often don't really know how to deal with talking about someone else's pain or disability. They tend to back up a little, their eyes glaze over, and you can see them just dying to move on to the next person. You get all sorts of comments along the lines of "You still have that? Maybe if you really just pushed yourself just a little more and didn't dwell on it, you'd feel better. Maybe it's depression. Are you sure it's not just in your head? You can't blame everything on your illness. Yea, I had mono/the flu/broken leg/etc once, so I know exactly how you feel." And you get friends or acquaintances, or family that may say they understand, but after you've had to cancel on them three times in a row, or have a reason why you can't come for the holidays, or whatever else, they take it very personally. It's not your illness, very clearly you are trying to brush them off, and/or you are just being selfish. No matter how much you try to explain, it's never enough. So you get good at trying to hide how bad things really are. And you avoid the elephant in the room for your sake, and for others.

And there's the doctors. Who are not God. Who are not even close.
But who have been set up to be gods, and believe there's nothing they don't know, and nothing they can't fix. So when they come across an stubborn case, they don't like it. They get annoyed, like you are remaining ill just to spite them somehow. Or else they don't try so as to not fail. They give a little pat on the head, say it' s too bad you have this, but there's really not much they can do, sorry. Or if by some chance, you do find a caring doctor who will pursue every possible course for you, and you still remain ill, they throw up their hands and say well, you've certainly got me baffled. And you almost feel bad for putting them through such trouble. While maybe you get one that still doesn't give up on you after that, but still keeps trying, it gets old, hearing from doctor after doctor that you baffle them. That you flummox them. That they don't really know what else to do. And every time you walk out of an encounter like any of the above, another small piece of hope dies.

People like to talk about what a great teacher pain is, and how you must be learning so many Lessons! And Answers! And Truths! And it's true. There is a great deal that you learn from chronic illnesses/pain or disability. But there are probably other ways you can learn the same lessons. Anne Morrow Lindbergh: "I do not believe that sheer suffering teaches. If suffering alone taught, all the world would be wise, since everyone suffers. To suffering must be added mourning, understanding, patience, love, openness and the willingness to remain vulnerable." To which I say, amen. If you don't have some of those qualities, or learn them along the way, your suffering won't teach you are darn thing. It will instead just turn you a cranky bitter person everyone hates to visit like Mrs Snow in Pollyanna.

But you have no choice but to carry on. And so:

and you get through another day and fall into bed and pray for strength to get through the night, and then strength to get through the day upon waking. And you survive, day after day because there's nothing else to do. But you wish desperately for a day where life isn't just survival or mere endurance, but something more. And in the mean time you are still oddly grateful to still be here. To still feel the wind. To see the fall colors, or a waterfall, or the ocean, or the mountains. To have family. To explore the world vicariously through books or movies or the internet, or the stories of others. And if nothing else, pain has taught you to live in the present. To be grateful for those things you can still do. For those rare moments where the pain subsides. For really living in your body--learning your limits, figuring out the signals when a relapse or flare-up is coming on, being hyper-aware of every part of you because you've felt pain in places you previously never even knew existed. For learning that life doesn't ever turn out the way you expect, but even so and despite everything, maybe it's ok after all.
(Blossom of Pain by Edvard Munch)