Monday, July 9, 2012

More Harvest Mooning, Ponies, and Childhood Trauma Or: More Train of Thought Derailments

I wrote my original Harvest Moon: The Tale of Two Towns review after having played for a little over one in-game year. The other day, I completed to main objective of the game around the halfway point of in-game-year 2. I completed the main objective -making the mayors of the two towns friends again, and opening the three sections of the caved-in tunnel- without having gotten married, expanded my farm or have had a child -tasks that are generally linked to the main objective in other HM games. So after having essentially "beaten the game" without completing the other life tasks within the game, it felt almost anti-climactic, and I felt sort of melancholy about it. I still really enjoy the game, and in reality, the game doesn't really have to end per se -it ends when you just decide to quit playing. In fact, so far the game is easier to continue playing now that the cave underneath the mountain is open, and there are still plenty of mini-objectives. But, now I'm torn between my enjoyment of playing the game on my own terms -making objectives for myself- and the nagging feeling that the major point of the game is completed, so why keep toiling away because the game may never actually end? Maybe I'm just cranky-pants emo today.
I blame the ponies.

The other night, Boyfriend and I went to see War Horse at the Lincoln Center. Boyfriend has been wanting to see it since they announced it was coming to Broadway from the West-End. I too wanted to see it, especially after it won so many Tony Awards last year. However, I was very hesitant to see it because I have sworn off animal movies/stories in recent years. War Horse dissolved me into a puddle of mess. It was beautiful and an amazing piece of art. It touched me very deeply the way few theatre pieces do anymore. I have always felt a special kinship with animals and nature, as well as a love of the performing arts, and have always been (what some consider overly sensitive) empathetic to other's pain. Especially animals' pain. You name a movie where an animal or anthropomorphized part of nature is distraught, I will burst into tears. Sobbing, torrential tears. (You know, the "ugly crying" kind.) This is a fact. Ask anyone who has ever watched a movie with me that has an animal in any part of it. I am a mess, not just immediately afterwards, but sometimes for weeks after. I can't shake the funk, the heartbreak, the feelings. Even if there is a happy/uplifting ending, I remember the emotions as a whole and carry them with me indefinitely.

No puppet will ever make you cry as hard as this one.
My therapist tells me that strong emotional triggers affect me so deeply because it simply means that I'm a nurturing and passionate individual, hence the reason for my sometimes-crippling emotions. My mom probably thinks it's because she didn't take us to church enough when we were young and so that damaged me somehow. My dad probably wonders if he didn't hug me enough.  I think I'm just a little bit crazy, but one thing my parents will probably agree on is one incident in particular where this phenomenon seems to have spawned. My parents probably blame the Ninja Turtles. I think they have a misinterpretation of the situation and may not have asked the right questions at the time, but it's no one's fault really. It just is. The wiring in my brain works differently than most, and since diagnosing mental illness in children in the 80's was not really a thing, it was easy to blame outside sources for my peculiar behavior. So, here's the tale that has been an endless source of embarrassment for me when my parents bring it up:

I was five-going-on-six. I was obsessed with TMNT. I watched the cartoons all the time, I dressed up like them, I ran around the house pretending to be a ninja, and I was totally in love with Raphael -the king of attitude and snark. When The Movie came out in theaters, I was just shy of turning six years old and I begged and pleaded my parents to take me. My dad finally lamented and agreed to take me to see it. Now, my mom sheltered us pretty thoroughly when it came to violence, etc. TMNT cartoons of the 80's and 90's were probably the most violent thing I was allowed to watch.
Waaaay too violent for my innocent little mind.
Seriously, there were lots of things "banned from TV" in our home. I could do an entire blog post on TV shows I was not allowed to watch and toys I was not allowed to play with, but I won't...yet. Instead, I will simply say my mom sheltered me and my sister more than most of our friends.  (Words like "crap," "butt," "fart," and "suck" were considered salty language in our household.) And maybe mom was right, maybe we couldn't handle anything darker than cartoons at the time, but there was nothing like trial by fire to test that, then, eh? So dad took me to see TMNT on the big screen.

In case you never saw it, or don't remember the live action movie, it was a lot grittier and darker than the cartoon (and yes, someone out there will argue that the original comic is darker and the 80's cartoon is watered down for kids, and blah blah blah -I am not denying this, but that's neither here-nor-there in relation to this story. My story.)
So, with the darker grittier live-action movie, I got a little perturbed. Shredder was real scary-looking angry man, not a silly cartoon with a scratchy voice like Uncle Phil. Splinter was kind of a grody-looking sewer rat, not a furry smiling cartoon. And the turtles were "real" and angsty in my soon-to-be-six year old eyes, not quite as toony and light-hearted. The movie had breathed life into these imaginary characters I loved to watch on TV in the safety of my home. The joy and awe this produced in child-me at first was indescribable, but then things got ugly. In the movie, Raphael is being a punk (as one does) and goes outside in a huff, but then is ambushed by the foot clan. Raph essentially gets the shit kicked out of him by the bad guys. Then he's in a coma in a bathtub for like 3 days! I will repeat this: my favorite turtle, the on-screen-puppeteered-interpretation of the animated being whom I credit with teaching me the basics of snark and sarcasm GOES INTO A COMA FOR 3 DAYS!!! I was six. Now, I was not a worldly child, but I was well-aware that being unconscious in a bathtub is not a good thing. Even for a turtle.

Sewer good.  Bathtub bad.
 Short-story-long: it kind of fucked me up for a bit. I'd never experienced any real tragedy in my life up to that point. It made something snap in my wee brain. It suddenly occurred to me that the good guys don't always win. Bad shit does happen. And sometimes it happens close to home. These were very scary realizations to a rather sheltered child. Talk about your violent reality check for a child who already had undiagnosed mental health issues. To this day, I have almost PTSD-like symptoms when it comes to the idea of losing consciousness. I fainted once in my life (a story worthy of a post, I assure you -funny in retrospect) but I have an almost-paranoid fear of doing so again. And I absolutely panic if someone is unconscious near me. I've witnessed car accidents, watched a stranger breathe their last breath, been in morgues, and attended open-casket wakes, but none of these give me nightmares more than the 4 times someone has had a seizure/fainted next to me and lost consciousness. I go numb, completely numb with panic. It's a paralyzing fear, the kind that holds your heart in its icy claw, fills your chest with a red hot terror, and makes your lips tingle.
Wow. My therapist has her hands full.

After the I got home from seeing the TMNT movie, I started acting "really weird" for several weeks (according to my parents.) They were apparently very concerned for me, but I honestly don't remember much of this. I remember being very distraught by my sudden realizations that the world was a lot darker than I had originally known it to be, and I felt quite numb and confused. What if Raph really was lying somewhere comatose in a bathtub? What little I do remember of those following weeks, I can say that knowing what I do now, I was exhibiting signs of some minor psychic trauma (again, not something that was really diagnosed in those days for children who were not subject to regular abuse.) Am I saying that my dad should not have taken me to the movie? No. The trauma, I don't think came from the movie. I was confused about how I was feeling, and didn't know how to express it.  But because of this, I think my parents became exasperated and didn't know what to do and I may have mis-read this and felt shame about my feelings. So I did what any burgeoning performer would do. I buried those little bastard feelings until I either needed them again, or until they festered into a poison-filled dangerous powder keg and I exploded. (But, I'm not afraid of exploding anymore, though because my tears will save me.)

So, War Horse was amazing and touching and beautiful, and the 90's may have partially scarred me for life, but what does this have to do with Harvest Moon? Honestly? I haven't a fucking clue. This post sort of ran away from me.
Welcome aboard my train of thought, if you wanna get off, remember to tuck and roll.

Dear God.

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