Luke Skywalker and the Power of Story

While I was listening to Can I Just Say‘s podcast episode about The Last Jedi, I caught some serious Luke Skywalker feels again!  (See my other blog post fangirling about him here.)  What caught me this time was their discussion about his circular arc: how Luke goes from a young man longing to be a hero, to becoming a cynical and bitter man who sees that heroes are just flawed men and women, to finally accepting that despite reality, people need heroes to inspire them toward great things and to believe in the hope of goodness.  The Luke that is disgusted by the idea of people searching the galaxy for him, knowing that he’s committed or allowed atrocities to happen, eventually decides that it is selfish of him to be an authentic hermit.  Instead, he steps into the role of idealistic hero and puts on a show that will continue the legacy of LUKE SKYWALKER THE JEDI MASTER.  What changes things for him?  Leia’s hologram.  And that’s where things get meta!

The newest Star Wars trilogy is, to me, simultaneously an acknowledgment of its past failings AND a love letter to itself.  While it works hard to correct failures of diversity in its casting, it also celebrates the stories that a bunch of white people created.  Luke is the embodiment of that struggle – he is a man who is revealed to be flawed, but he’s still inspirational.  The fact that it is Leia’s hologram, one of the most recognizably Star Wars moments – “Help me, Obi Wan Kenobi, you’re my only hope” – that helps him see his simultaneous roles is so beautiful to me.  It connects the character to the story in which he belongs, and there is a catharsis there for those who need help accepting that their fav is problematic.

In this day and age, it seems like we only get one side of this issue addressed at a time.  Some books/movies/television shows diversify and become more culturally thoughtful and like to pretend that past regressive behavior never happened.  Others entrench themselves in their narrow storytelling, insisting that you have to end a story the same way it began.  I really admire Star Wars for taking the middle road, for admitting their failures and working to rectify them while also celebrating the fact that Star Wars is a hugely popular and inspirational story that encourages us to hope that good can ultimately triumph over evil.

As someone who is simultaneously obsessed with authenticity AND idealism, I love Luke Skywalker.  He wants so desperately for ideals to be real.  When he realizes that nothing can ever truly live up to his ideal, he removes himself from everything.  But eventually he realizes that ideals aren’t there to be attained.  Ideals exist as something to aspire to, something that pushes us beyond what we can imagine on our own.  So he completes the circle, becomes the ideal he always wanted to be, fully knowing it was isn’t his authentic self.  But that’s okay.  What the world needs is Luke Skywalker the Jedi Master who will be the hero of little slave children’s stories.  Who just might, in Episode 9, be the impetus for their reaching beyond what society has given them and dreaming of something more.

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The Woman Beneath the Recovery Participant

About a month ago, the place I work for held a fundraising event in which we told the pieced together story of the kind of woman who might find herself sexually exploited, addicted to drugs, and in need of a recovery home.  I was in charge of pressing play for the first part of her story, in which two actresses told the story of how they were sexually abused as children, tricked, doped, raped, sold, etc, and wound up gazing out of windows wondering “Doesn’t anyone see me?”

The people who went through the experience were…overwhelmed.  I forget sometimes that the gruesome reality of the women I work with is not a common thought space for many people.  I spoke with one woman afterward who was struggling to process the fact that these sorts of things happen (and I tried not to scream SOME VERSION OF THIS IS SUPER COMMON, YOU HAVE JUST BEEN PRIVILEGED ENOUGH NOT TO KNOW IT), and I realized she was kind of mentally thinking of our women as martyrs.  Or victims.  As someone Other and Pitiable.

It made me realize that what I really want people to know is that these women are women.  They’re human!  They have personalities that delight and frustrate me.  One participant likes my Harry Potter references, and another will always say, “Oh my God, NERDS,” and then we nod and high-five each other.  That same mocking participant UTTERLY geeks out about Vampire Diaries and can imitate the voice and posture of every character on the show.

Another is incredibly organized, and when we went on a picnic outing, she was the only one who brought something to share.  That something was gorgeous plastic plates, utensils, pita bread with homemade dip and sun-dried tomatoes.  Another woman struggles with depression, but we decided to try to learn Korean together, so whenever I say “An-yong!” to her, she breaks into the cutest giggles.

Another decided she wanted to apply for a job (her first ever), so she researched the hell out of what to wear/say/do, and had me ask her questions from a list of fifty she’d printed out and answered.  She got the job despite laying down very strict time boundaries because her effort was apparent.

Another repeatedly assures us that she knows cannibalism is wrong but “I just want to eat my baby so bad.  HIS CHEEKS.”  Another wanders listlessly around until you meet her eye.  Then she smiles peacefully at you and wanders the other way.  Another is an over-achiever, the only one interested in completing my daily spelling lists because “It feels so good to be good at something.”

They all revolted when they thought someone wasn’t getting paid enough for her sewing work, and they were all going to donate some of theirs to make up for it.  Another participated in a slam poetry reading at a hipster coffee shop, and at every person before her, she got paler and paler.  She performed amazingly, but insisted we immediately leave because she thought she was going to throw up.

Another grows black flowers.  Another over-tans.  Another comments about how good someone looks “when you draw your eyebrows on.”  Another can’t process quickly in a big group.  Another has to wear our Ugly Shirt often because she runs out of the house last minute in ill-fitting shirts.  Another keeps falling in love with construction workers named Shawn.  Another, another, another…

Some of the stories they tell churn even my hardened stomach.  These are women who have been raised by abusive parents, who have had DESPICABLE things done to them over and over by multiple and varied people, who have DONE despicable things to others as well.  They are wracked by guilt and shame and worthlessness, and they cling to the tiniest hope that maybe they can change their lives into something entirely new so that their kid won’t live through what they did.  They fail and they succeed…and they tell jokes, and they welcomed me, and they’re silly and kind and vindictive and self-deprecating and smart as hell.

I really love them.  Not because of what they’ve gone through.  But because they are each of them beautifully unique humans who deserve to be known and loved and appreciated for who they are underneath all their bad decisions and awful circumstances.

A Canadian Update (4 Months in)

I’ve been living in Vancouver for about four months now, and I’ve been experiencing all of the usual Moving to a New Place things: excitement, loneliness, expansiveness, depression, and at weird times, normalcy.  But the last couple weeks have been pretty good, and I thought I’d share a few things that made it so!

  1.  I moved into my own apartment!  I have my own place, and I LOVE IT.  I moved into my coworkers’ old place, so I had three months to visit and mentally map out what I needed to buy and how I wanted to arrange things.  That helped me space out some big purchases (the couch that Luciana and Giorgos own, the chair that all my Greek cat friends own, all of my possessions are sentimental, etc) before finding out that my awesome coworker/family gave me several of the pricey-but-not-personal things like a TV, refrigerator, kitchen supplies, bed, and dining room table.

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    GUYS.  This is the first time in 30 years that I have furnished my own place with actual furniture that did not come from a second-hand store.  When I was in Peoria in the summer of 2017, I started to feel a creeping Old Person desire for security and possessions and a HOME.  And I have one now!  I LOVE IT.  It’s decorated with just the right balance of “I bought those pillow covers in Cappadocia” and “Why yes, there IS a color scheme.”

  2. I’m once more very into the World Cup!  Now that I’ve got my own place with my own television, I’ve been watching every game since the quarter finals.  This built to a very fun moment when I invited Abi, my English coworker, and her husband over to mine to watch the England/Croatia game.  This was especially monumental because, as I am no longer living in a safe house, I could invite a man into my home!  England lost, but I have FRIENDS, so it was a win for me.
  3. My one true goal for living in Vancouver was accomplished:  I joined a Dungeons and Dragons group!  I politely yelled my desire into a Meetup online, found some other women who were interested in a beginner’s group, and after waiting MONTHS with only one meeting over drinks to establish we aren’t creeps, we FINALLY PLAYED.  I’m over the moon about this.  It was everything I wanted.  I played as a criminal halfling who is loyal to no one but her friends (“Sounds like you were playing by our street life” said one participant when I told her.  “Oh my God, I WAS,” I said). The DM had a similar sense of humor as me, so she let me pick up snake eggs and put them in potions while my quest-mates were rolling their eyes because we had a poisoned victim to save.  However, I won them over with Rory and wine, so everyone left four hours later very happy and willing to play again.  I hope very much this becomes a regular occurrence!!
  4. I started doing Story Times at program.  We’ve realized that our women, while very good at caring for their children, don’t really know how to play with them (since they mostly did not have a childhood that included play themselves).  Somehow it took me weeks of conversations about finding a volunteer to teach them how to sing with their kids before I remembered, “I was a children’s librarian for two years.”  So now on Friday afternoons I bring a bunch of books from the library, print out sheets with songs and rhymes, and we all sit in a circle and I read stories (that put one participant to sleep because “Your voice is just so peaceful”) and we sing songs, and one baby in particular leans forward and looks at me with wondering eyes.  I REALLY enjoyed it, and I’m delighted to find one more way in which I can use my past experiences to strengthen my present.

Those are some of the highlights from my life right now!  It’s still overwhelming, and I still get lonely for a bunch of people, but this week at least, I felt really happy.

My Reasons Why

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Rules are as follows:

  • Mention the person who nominated you
  • List 13 reasons why you keep going/living (This is borrowed from the book but I’m taking it the opposite direction).
  • Nominate 10 or more people to give their reasons why.
  • Use the picture that I created in your post. I’m sorry that I’m a bit bad a making these things… But I tried.

Thank you, Merlin’s Musings, for tagging me in this!  It’s always good to have to think through what exactly are the things that keep me moving forward in life.  Although I generally feel as though I have lived a rich, full life that I would be proud to call entire if I died tomorrow, I’m also happy for it to keep going.  So here are My Reasons Why I keep going/living, both the mundane and the profound:

1) My To Be Read/To Be Watched Lists

There are so many amazing things to read and watch in this world!  We’re living in a time of creative abundance, and I don’t want to die before watching the sequel to Avengers: Infinity War or missing out on Noelle Stevenson’s newest project.

2) My Cat

Rory deserves to live the rest of his life in spoiled bliss, and since I’ve just taken him 2,000 miles away from the only other people who will cater to his every whim appropriately, I’ve got to stick around to make sure he’s okay.

3) My Faith

When I get morose and philosophical, literally the only thing that keeps me from despair is the belief that God is invested in equipping people to change the world for the better, one person and one day at a time.  “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.”

4) My Work

My faith leads directly into my work.  I think God has uniquely equipped me to be an emotional safe space for people in pain.  I’m also hella organized, and it’s been such a joy the last couple years to have found a profession that allows me to wake up each day and think, “I was made for this.”

5) New Travel Opportunities

I’m not allowed to die until I see Japan and Iceland AT LEAST.  Hear that, God?  You respond well to arrogant demands, right?

6) My Friends

There are very special people all over the planet who I love very deeply, and I love looking forward to our next reunions.

7) Future Friends

One of my favorite things about moving is the knowledge that I have potential kindred spirits all over the place.  It’s exciting to think that I might run into a new one at any time!

8) Food

Chocolate and wine and Korean BBQ and good coffee…there is so much joy to be had in eating and drinking good things.  I’m not tired of it yet.

9) Writing

I always wanted to be a writer when I was growing up, and while it’s no longer quite the driving force it once was, I do think I’ve got a project in me somewhere.  I’d like to make it a reality before I die.

10) My Podcast Queue

There are way more podcasts in my subscription list than I can ever get through, and yet I keep adding to it!  If I’m not allowed to go until I get through them all, I’ll never die.

11) There is Always More to Learn

I am already mildly entertaining the idea of taking Japanese classes this summer, and even if that doesn’t happen, I know I’ll find some reason to get back into an educational setting.  I love to learn new things, and the world is vast, so I’ll never run out of new interests.

12) Make an IRL Friend out of Someone I’ve Met Online

I’m very late to party when it comes to being an active participant in online fandom, and now that I’m making friends who share my obsessive interests, I’d love to meet some of them in person.

13) I Want to Pet a Cheetah

Can’t die until this happens.  MAYBE a lion would be an acceptable alternative.  But mostly it’s got to be a (healthy, happy) cheetah who maybe jumps into my jeep while I’m on a safari.


I don’t actually follow a lot of bloggers, but I definitely tag Wild Ginger Blog.  What are your 13 Reasons Why you keep going and living?

This is Why I Love Luke Skywalker!!

When most little girls (and all the older women) were falling in love with Han Solo, I was OBSESSED with Luke Skywalker.  I loved him, I chose to be him when playing “Star Wars” with my cousin Bess, and I was super excited to see him return in The Last Jedi.  And unlike the people who shouted their complaints about Luke’s mischaracterization in that film, I thought it was perfect and I loved him even more at the end of it all.  But I didn’t have the words to explain why.

Here are some words that someone else said in a video review of Return of the Jedi:  “Luke wins by being a stubborn idealistic twerp.  ‘Love will save the day, father!  Love…and friendship!'”

Actually, just watch the whole thing now.  It’s really well done.

Because YES, that is exactly the Luke that I fell in love with: a man defined by his compassion and faith.  It’s worth pointing out that Jill Bearup made that video in 2015 before either film in the newest trilogy had been released, which is why it’s so perfect that I find those words to be perfect descriptions of Luke’s emotional arc in The Last Jedi.

The Luke we meet is a grumpy hermit.  Why?  Because this extremely compassionate man experienced a moment of judgment because he lacked the faith that Ben Solo could resist the allure of the Dark Side.  So he almost killed his nephew, and the consequences of that almost-action were devastating.  Death, destruction, and the loss of his identity.

But in meeting Rey, in being reunited with R2 and Chewie, and in seeing his sister’s famous hologram that once summoned his noblest impulses so long ago, Luke regains his compassion and faith.  He chooses to stop Kylo Ren in a way that will not harm him in the faith that his friends will escape, survive, and win the fight without him.  Which is…exactly the same faith he showed in Return of the Jedi.

Luke has changed when we meet him in The Last Jedi, and like, yeah? But even though he is at his darkest when we reunite with him, he doesn’t stay there.  His emotional journey is one of recovering his truest self, of reclaiming his compassion and faith.  Oh Luke, you stubborn idealistic twerp.   I love you!!

Try This Thing Podcast

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I was never content to run just one blog, so it should come as no surprise that having discovered the world of podcasting, I wanted to try one of my own (in addition to the fun show I do with Lindsay: She’s Married She’s Single).

Today I launched Try This Thing, a recommendation podcast in which I review some of my favorite books, movies, tv shows, and video games.  I will usually be choosing things that are outside of mainstream appeal, because we don’t really need one more podcast talking about Avengers.

…Although if I someday create an episode about Avengers, well.  I sold out, I don’t care!

Today I released TWO episodes about the things most likely to be on my mind at any given moment:  The Lymond Chronicles and Black Sails.  Next week I will release the first of a mini-series in which I will try to summarize the plot of Final Fantasy 7.  A diversity of interests!

You can subscribe to Try This Thing on Apple podcasts or else listen online at PodBean.

 

The Lymond Chronicles and The Fleeting Fame of Twitter

I spent the first couple months of 2018 reading through The Lymond Chronicles, a six-book series of historical novels written by Dorothy Dunnett in the 1960s.  I picked up the first one, A Game of Kings, because a podcast I follow had recommended it.  When the first 50 pages proved to be VERY Scottish slang heavy, I tweeted the podcaster and asked for encouragement to keep going.  That interaction evolved into me live-tweeting my Intense Emotions and becoming Twitter famous.

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Let me be very honest.  By “Twitter famous,” I mean I gained about 50 followers who do not know me in real life, and I had a regular group of 5-10 people who would interact with me about these books, including a couple people who I started to consider friends.  An unexpected highlight was when the author of Flora Segunda (one of my favorite books, check out this review I wrote in 2013) liked and retweeted me because apparently she also loves Francis Crawford of Lymond.

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…And then I finished the series.  And two or three people stuck around to like my real life thoughts, but mostly it ended.  I no longer woke up to 20 notifications.  My fifteen minutes of fame were over.  And I could SEE how it had become an addiction for me, the likes and retweets firing dopamine hits to my brain that I didn’t know how to do without.

So I worked through it, dealt with my return to obscurity, and am now doing just fine!

HAHAHHAHAHAHHAHAHA.

Just kidding.

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I bought Dorothy Dunnett’s eight-book House of Niccolo series because I feel so empty inside without regular validation from total strangers!!

The end, no personal growth, just the sad but relatable truth.