For the Throne! (Aka: International Women’s Day)

Winter is here, people.

Those of you who know what I’m talking about are glancing at your calendars, counting how many days remain before the series finale of Game of Thrones — one of the most exciting TV shows of this decade. Who will be brutally murdered next? Who will sleep with who? Most importantly, who will take the throne and become king (or queen) of the seven kingdoms?

But that’s not really what I want to discuss. Today is International Women’s Day. All around the world, people are taking a moment to acknowledge women and the contributions we have made and continue to make to society. So it only made sense to take a look at the women of Game of Thrones. Why? Because their timeless archetypes are common among many women, young and old, throughout the globe.

Arya Stark

The tomboy, who eschews femininity in favor of wearing pants and wielding a sword. Later, we see in the character Brienne of Tarth, a glimpse of the great knight Arya could become in the future.

Sansa Stark

The feminine “good girl” princess, who dreams of marrying her fairy tale prince, Joffrey. When her prince turns out to be a sadistic monster, and the world turns harsh and cold, Sansa quickly grows up and develops an exterior of steel.

Catelyn Stark

Catelyn is deeply devoted to her husband and children, which is apparent in everything she says and does. Far from perfect, Catelyn struggles with her role as a stepmother to her husband’s bastard son, Jon Snow.

Cersei Lannister

The opportunist (some might say bitch), who will stop at nothing to get what she wants, for herself or for her children. Seduction, betrayal, and murder are only a means to an end for her.

Daenerys Targaryan

“Miss Independent.” Plays her role as the dutiful, obedient sister and wife until she figures out who she really is. Once she embraces her true self, her power is unstoppable. She gathers an army and pursues her goals relentlessly, all without having to rely on a man to rule at her side.

My personal favorite? The Khaleesi, Daenerys Targaryan. Not only is the badass Mother of Dragons born to be a queen and rule the seven kingdoms, but she is true to herself and always tries to be kind and just (though sometimes she fails). I identify strongly with her sense of independence.

Other women may read this and find that they identify more with the disillusioned princess, the tomboy, or the devoted wife and mother. But most of us may agree that we are multi-faceted. That many of us are sometimes the princess, and sometimes the tomboy, and sometimes the devoted wife and mother, and sometimes the bitch. Kind of the Game of Thrones version of the Breakfast Club archetypes.

But whatever type of woman you define yourself to be, and no matter who you are rooting for to take the throne at the end of the final season, I hope that today you will celebrate being a woman, or celebrate the women in your lives.

Everybody Wants to Be Superman (aka: Useless Goals)

Supergirl TV ShowLook! Up in the sky! It’s a bird! It’s a plane! It’s…it’s…Supergirl? A collective groan runs through the crowd. Oh come on! What a gyp! Everyone knows that Supergirl is a total wannabe. No matter how supercool she tries to be, she will never live up to the badass standard set by her cousin, Kal-El.

Really, no one can.

Here’s the thing – I am totally not a superhero person. I get the Green Hornet mixed up with the Green Lantern, and the Hulk mixed up with the Jolly Green Giant. I think that Batman lives in a cave and likes bats, and drives a weird car, but I could be wrong about some of those.

Super SomethingBut here’s what I do know: every superhero and supervillain wants the same thing. They all want to be Superman. But no one – not even Clark Kent himself, can be that awesome. Want superspeed? Fine – but that’s the only superpower you get, Flash. So you wish you could fly? Here – have some stretchy spider-webs so you can fake fly around the city. Have an invisible jet (seriously, Wonder Woman creators? Was that the best you could do?). Want to be strong enough to push a ginourmous meteor deeper into space so it doesn’t destroy Earth? Yeah, good luck with that one. Good luck with freezing a lake with your icy breath, cutting through rock with your laser vision, and super-self-healing, too.

SuperheroesJelly yet, Justice League losers?

It’s hard not to love someone who is the ultimate superhero. I mean, his only weakness is kryptonite. And unless you live in Smallville, kryptonite is pretty rare stuff.

Okay, okay, maybe I’m judging too harshly. I should acknowledge that the other superheroes all have their special, unique gifts, too. Where would we all be if not for Wonder Woman’s incredible ability to lasso people and force them to tell the truth? And the Wonder Twins’ ability to turn into animals and…um…water? So much better than the ability to keep an entire jet plane full of people from crashing into a crowded stadium.

There’s simply no way to compare. Nor should we try. Superman is just…super. But as super as he is, he is not my most admired superhero. Who comes to mind when you hear the words, Go Go Gadget car!? A truly impressive superhero, right? One who can use technology to fight crime, chase super-villains, and do amazing things. No, not Inspector Gadget! Don’t be ridiculous! The true superhero was his niece, Penny, who kept saving the world while sitting in front of her computer screen. Now that’s the kind of superhero act I can get behind.

Penny and her computer book

People Watching (aka: What I Learned From Dr. Seuss)

Dr. SeussOne of the things I enjoy doing, whenever I venture out of my cave, is to observe people. Not in a creepy, staring kind of way, but discretely, to satisfy my writerly curiosity about people. While those around me think that I am engaged in reading a book on my iPad, I am occasionally taking sneak peeks, or catching snatches of their conversations. People are fascinating, and one can learn many things just by being still and observing. And what have I learned lately?

That Dr. Seuss was kind of a genius.

read to learn to grow to go places

I know. Most people probably don’t look at his legacy of cute, silly rhyming stories for children and think of the word genius. And in fact, perhaps I am overusing the term. However, it became apparent that Dr. Seuss, like myself, and like most fiction writers, was an avid people watcher. And that somehow, he managed to capture perfectly some of the most common archetypes and struggles of humanity through his humorous and whimsical rhymes. Perhaps the language he used lacked the sophisticated eloquence of Shakespeare, Frost, or Whitman, but he was, in my opinion, no less of a talented poet.

racial prejudice bug

Did you know that Dr. Seuss was once a political cartoonist?

When children listen to Dr. Seuss stories, they may be entertained by his clever rhymes and fantastic characters, like the silly but loveable Cat-in-the-Hat, or the persuasive Sam-I-Am and his strange green eggs and ham. However, if you were to take a closer look at the themes of his stories, you may find some strong political statements   and surprising universal truths revealed.

For example, in the famous book, The Lorax, Seuss uses a humorous children’s story as a barely-disguised political platform against corporate greed, consumerism, and destruction of the environment. In The Sneetches, one of my all-time favorite works of children’s literature, Seuss spoke out against racism, prejudice, and anti-semitism. The SneetchesThe Zax, a very short story about two very stubborn creatures who both refuse to budge, and so neither one goes anywhere. Sound a little like Republicans and Democrats, perhaps? And then there is the well-known Yertle the Turtle, another of my personal favorites. Hitler – oops, I mean Yertle is a turtle who lives in a small pond, but gets the idea that he is king of all he can see. He begins to climb upon the backs of the other turtles in the pond, despite their misery, in order to expand his rule. He takes his superiority complex a little too far, however, and down he falls, as all megalomaniacs eventually must.

“I’m Yertle the Turtle! Oh marvelous me! For I am ruler of all I can see!”

The Storyteller (aka: Everything is a Story)

The Great Story  Everything is a story. From the beginning of time to the end of human civilization, everything that anyone has ever done, thought, or dreamed is part of the Great Story. And each person, whether we are doctors or mothers or teachers or plumbers or nerdy computer technicians, contributes to the plot in their own small way.

Who am I? We all wonder this during different stages of our lives. Sometimes our role is unclear. We feel as though we are wandering aimlessly through a fog, lost among the shadows. Step after step, we move without sense of direction, hoping that somehow, the fog will clear, and we will find our purpose. And then, slowly, or perhaps without warning, the fog dissipates. Our talents, passions, and dreams collide together to form a galaxy within us, our sense of purpose shining like a new sun.

storytelling fire Ahh, we think. That is who I am. That is the character who I am meant to become; the role which I am meant to play. When we know it, we try to hold onto it, revolving like planets around our new identities. Some people manage to remain in that orbit throughout their lives. Many of us do not. Our roles may change or multiply, or, due to life circumstances, we may lose our way. Sometimes, because we are weak or afraid, we defy our destiny by choosing the path of least resistance. Or our purpose dims, like an eclipsed star.

What is my role? It is almost a silly question, because we all know the answer. It is that thing that pulses inside us like a heartbeat, that that which breathes life into us and makes us feel complete. Yes, today, I am a mother and a student. I am building a career which I enjoy. But that is not all. Those are not the thing which transforms me. Those are not my shining sun.

the storyteller I am a storyteller. I have been a storyteller since I learned how to form words on paper. It is why I do not experience the world in the same way as many other people. We storytellers have the strange gift of seeing. I see you, well-dressed woman with the nervous smile, and your smooth, blonde ponytail – dyed just yesterday, because your husband has a wandering eye and an affinity for blondes. I see you, pale, wrinkled man, ignored on a downtown bench, wishing for more than handouts – wanting a warm smile, and listening ears; wanting to see your grown daughter who now lives so far away. I see you, dark-skinned young man on the train, head down, hands shoved in the pockets of your hoodie. I hear the music pumping through your ear buds, which is not what they’d expect, but a silky jazz solo you wrote yourself. I see all of you.

We storytellers are collectors of people. I store every detail, from their shuffling gaits to their booming guffaws to the way their eyes light up when they discuss their favorite topics. I collect these precious details, and then quilt together each vibrant, colorful piece. Then I present the new story like a quilt to the world, to offer warmth when the journey is too cold. Or perhaps it is more that I turn what I see into a mirror, and then hold it up so that the world may see its forgotten reflection. See? See us? We are terrible, wonderful, frightening, and kind. We are creative and selfish, helpful, and beautiful, and filled with so much despair and joy and indifference, and love. And we all give, and we all take, and with our many, many roles working together, we are a story that never ends. That is who we are.

Whats your storyA great and interesting story