Once Upon A Pandemic - The Story We Want To Tell
Updated: Sep 30, 2020
My parents didn't really read me bedtime stories. When I was really young, my parents did shift work and were often pretty tired. It was a team effort to put me to bed, my house was busy. Between my parents and siblings the triumph came from me just getting to bed, nevermind the routine. I didn't really mind, I eventually had my own system that came in the form of a rhyme: "Brush your teeth and go to bed, unleash the stories in your head." What I lacked in material as I drifted off into sleep I gained in my colorful waking hours of acting out story and watching it on television. I would spend hours on "my island" down the street, a green space in the middle of the cul-de-sac playing out my adventure survival drama. I would proceed to go home, crank my karaoke machine and be the rockstar to thousands of stuffies on my bed-stage. I never wore shoes and detested pants; I was a wild woman and the world loved me on my stage. This would become the material for my bedtime routine. But even with all the stories I wrote for myself, some of the most formative and truly impactful stories came in the form of mythology.
When I was six, my mom worked evening shifts. One of those nights I sat down with my dad to watch Clash of the Titans (1981) after a super fun dinner of Dairy Queen and Dilly bars. Most of it was dreadfully boring. Old dudes talking, walking around with no place to go; I would sit there rubbing my dad's feet thinking, "I need a coloring book" or "maybe it's time for bed". And just when I thought I would die from sheer boredom and annoyance for the sepia-colored screenplay before me, I heard hissing and a low-maniacal groan. I had heard hissing before but this was much more coarse, dense. Like the rattling of a rainstorm on your windowsill. The heavy groan was primal, low, something I had never heard before. It still shakes me. The screen was dimly lit by Grecian fire, the scene ominous and suspenseful. She emerged from Stage Left. Tall, lanky, grotesque, confident...Medusa. I don't remember being frightened, I remember being curious and mesmerized by this creature. In the years following this pivotal moment in a young girl's life, I dove head first into mythology. I read stories of Egyptian myth, painted depictions of Greek stories and art and googled stories of gods and goddesses around the world.
One of my first interactions with Max was when he first read his adaptation of American Gods at a grade 8 coffee shop night. Today, he relays stories of prehistory and old/new dreams as a cave guide. In his spare time creates stories of myths and legend as a D&D Dungeon Master (#talknerdytome). Every now and then, I'll ask him to tell me a story and he'll spew some random made up shit about a sloth taking an adventurous journey abroad to learn how to slumber, and these are my most favorite stories of all time. Mythology changed me. Every human society possesses a mythology that is inherited, passed on and diversified by human experience and literature. They are naratives of a time before us and what may come. I owe a lot of my personality, my spirit, to Medusa, and Dairy Queen.
Medusa was a bombshell of epic proportions. She was once beautiful, soft and feminine, she worshipped Athena, the Goddess of Wisdom and War, believing that she was the most powerful of them all. She traveled to Athena's temple to pay tribute to her and one fateful day, was discovered there by Poseiden. Poseiden forced himself on Medusa in the parthenon to humiliate his rival, Athena. Jealous and betrayed, Athena cursed Medusa to be both grotesque and captivating. Terrifying and yet striking. No man would survive her gaze with the very real threat of turning into stone. A head of snakes and in some depictions, bird legs and metallic wings. And so, looking not so hot, she was banished to a faraway island with her sisters Sthenno and Euryale. In her later years, Medusa was sought out by a demigod, Perseus, to be killed. He succeeded by decapitating her and as the story goes, Medusa then birthed Chrysaor and Pegasus (either sprung from her neck upon decapitation or her blood that fell into the sea). And as Perseus flew her head across the lands, out sprung snakes from her raining blood. RIP.
Medusa = Rebirth
Medusa is a single entity in Greek mythology with numerous symbols attached to her name. You can look at her as a symbol for feminine rage, a rape victim or a symbol of protection, a loss of innocence, feminine wiles, the list goes on... that's the cool thing about stories and art. In this time of oppressive isolation, aimless wandering, fear of what has happened and what is to come, I find myself thinking about her a lot and drawing strength from her story. I always wondered what her life was like on that island between her banishment, isolation and death. Did she forever mourn the loss of her youth, beauty and plans? Was she enraged by the injustice of her victimization or inaction? Did she accept her fate and decide, "I have freaking snakes for hair how cool is this?!". Maybe it's all of it, maybe none of it. She reminds me of the precarious line we tow between surrendering to what we can't control and weaving responses to what we can, as well as, responding to the aftermath. That our lives have been shaken up but we stand to gain so much more from it. She reminds me of the emotional journey we are all responding to in light of the pandemic. That a rebirth is happening, that our own personal paradigm is shifting and the question is: how are you going to respond to it?
We lost a lot the last few months: lives, safety, rituals, jobs, spirit, touch. It's okay to be emotional and it's okay to be in mourning for our old lives. It's okay to be both terrified and excited. But as the world continues to press on, as we collectively respond to the ebbs and flow of disease, we have a choice as to whether we will remain couragous through it all or retreat and sink into despair. Esther Perel said, "from tragedy there can be opportunity.The loss of stability and security allows room for growth instead of staying put". I take great comfort in this. I'm excited by this. We have the opportunity to re-emerge from our chrysalis stronger and kinder, if not a little paler and hairier. We can press forward with new goals or rebuild. We can rebrand or settle in. We get to manifest whatever we want! It's wonderfully exciting.
I'm choosing to reframe this trying time and use these moments in hiding to set my goals. This time of self-isolation was great for giving me a chance to foster my creativity and relationships. I created new habits, played with new and old skills and it gave me a chance to marinate. As the world opens up again, I'm choosing to use my fear to help me stay cautious and grounded but use my hope as a way to project my goals for the foreseeable future.
This exciting movement, for me, is a chance to re-evaluate my commonly-held truths that shaped my beliefs and how they no longer serve me or fit the life of the woman I desire to be. I'm listening and asking why any of this matters and why any of this is important to me. I'm taking these moments to evaluate what I really want, where I want to be, who I want to be with, my strengths, my areas of weakness, what I will fight for and what I will let go. I'm ready to innovate and change but I'm also ready to surrender and allow. When you emerge from your chrysalis or shed your skin, when you come out of your cave to fight the demigod... what will you look like? As I move forward during this tumultuous time, I have found myself asking what I will look like and what do I want to look like. For a woman venturing into the murky waters of entrepreneurship, the prospects of starting a family and the necessary personal development that comes with these responsibility one should expect a lot of fear and hope to be intertwined in this journey. I am here for it.
Movement Defines Story & Stories Shape People
The point of mythology and story is to examine a culture in a way that speaks to the masses... through art, through language, through story. It's a way of exploring who we are, where we came from and where we are going. It's a way of making sense of the world when it seems to be aimless and without point or purpose. We get to look at thousands of years of progress and inaction colligated into story. We get to look at how previous civilizations dealt with our present problems, or how they created them, or ignored them. Stories bestow upon us an opportunity not only to examine ancestral trauma and our own personal history but to take responsibility for what we put forward as human beings; as people just trying to hold space in this world.
...When you come out of your cave to fight the demigod... what will you look like?
You can choose to look at Medusa's life as a tragedy or triumph, I choose both. She was both a victim and a hero in her own story, soft and sinister, light and dark. She cared for and protected herself until her death and from her blood sprung new life. Her death birthed the symbols for transformation, enlightenment and freedom. Her death birthed the curiosity of a six year old and everything she wanted and wants to be.