The other day, I was talking to someone about how I’ve been feeling lately, and the only way I could think to describe it was this (more or less):
“I’m finally starting to feel like the Angel…you know, when he decides to stop hiding his wings? And there’s that big moment where he takes off the straps that have been holding them down and his wings break free, and they are so broad and strong and beautiful, and he just jumps through the window and soars into the air? It’s such a relief since I’ve been stuck in such a Jean Grey/Phoenix funk for so long.”
To which I got the reply of:
See, it would make my life so much easier if everyone knew as much about Marvel’s X-Men as I do, so that when the only way to describe my physical/emotional state is through the parallel story lines of one or more of the characters, you will all know what the heck I am talking about.
My first Marvel love was the X-Men.
I had a vague knowledge of these mutant superheroes from Saturday morning cartoons when I was little, but it wasn’t until the first movie came out in 2000 that I really delved into this magical universe.
Quick backstory on the X-Men: X-men are so named because they are born with an eXtra power that humans don’t possess. A mutation causes them to have a “difference,” whether that difference is the incredible power to self-heal, to turn to fire or ice, or to have wings. Some mutations are obvious- the Beast is bright blue and furry, Toad is, well, toad-like. Others, not so much, as in the case of Rogue who will literally suck the life from your pores if you touch her, but looks totally normal.
When I fell head-first into acute chronic illness in 2002-2003, the X-men started to mean something special to me. If I think of my illness as a mutation, then doesn’t that qualify me as an X-(wo)man? Doesn’t that make me special?
I wish I could say that I had immediate, self-righteous acceptance of my “gift” a la Pyro, who can control fire and really should have been named Cockatiel for all the strutting and pruning he does.
No, at first, I felt more like Jean Grey/the Phoenix (as mentioned above).
Jean has always been my favorite of all the X-men. I like her because she has one of the most complicated stories, and I felt/feel complicated too. Jean is also one of the most powerful mutants and sometimes has to deal with her powers taking on a life of their own where she is not in control. (Ditto. I get you, Jean!) Jean can move things with her mind, read your thoughts, and talk to you inside your head. But she also has something more inside her- an alter-ego known as the Phoenix. In the comic books, Jean is overtaken by the “Phoenix force” while on a mission in outer space- it’s some weird cloud of fire that looks like a bird that gives the power of life and death to the one it inhabits. Jean absorbs the ability to destroy worlds. In the movies, it is explained that Jean has always had this darker, more powerful force inside her and that as a young girl, head X-man Professor Xavier had to put up a mental blockade in her psyche in order to keep the Phoenix from getting out. If you want to find out what happens when the Phoenix takes over, check out the third installment of the movie franchise: X-men The Last Stand.
So pretty much, Jean Grey/the Phoenix is this:
Which is a feeling I am familiar with. Sometimes with POTS, you look perfectly fine on the outside, but your insides are boiling (lack of temperature control), your heart is racing (tachycardia), your thoughts don’t make any sense (brain fog), and you are trying so. flippin. hard. to just do whatever it is you are doing. Again, I get you, Jean.
But Jean does not have a monopoly on varying emotional states.
Take Storm, for instance. This Glamazon (she’s an African princess!) can control the weather. She’s the girl you reference when you are having the sort of day where one minute it is sunshine and a cool breeze and the next it’s storm clouds and thunderclaps.
Feeling invincible? You are having a Wolverine Day, my friend, good for you! Unless you are being reckless and not thinking through the consequences of your actions, in which case you are also having a Wolverine Day, just in a different way. (With the power to heal himself, Wolverine can never die, and pretty much never ages, so he gets himself into quite a few jams. Played with much bravado by Hugh Jackman in the movies, he’s a fan favorite.)
Sometimes in life, you might do a little bit of shape shifting in order to fit in with your surroundings. This is when you channel the power of Mystique, who, while blue and scale-y in her natural form, can adopt the form of any other person. Sample reference: “I wasn’t feeling that great today, but I had to go to <InsertImportantEvent>, so I pulled a Mystique and masqueraded as a non-Chronic for a few hours.”
Other times, you don’t need to shape shift, you just have to be yourself. Coming back around full-circle, this is where we bring in the Angel Attitude. Angel’s true identity is Warren Worthington III, the son of millionaires who don’t get the whole mutant thing. Angel has wings (duh!) and they try to make him hide them. In the comic books, Warren is simply ditched by his parents, who sign over his guardianship to Professor Xavier at the first possible moment. In the movies, Angel’s dad is the guy who tries to develop a “cure” for the mutations. In an effort for his son to be “normal” or “just like everyone else,” his dad completely misses 1) the fact that his son’s mutation doesn’t have to be a bad thing and 2) that his son is a independent person who doesn’t need to be fixed, just loved. At the end of the movie (SPOILER ALERT), Angel realizes that making his dad happy at the expense of his own happiness is not worth it (so it goes for Chronics too!) and chooses to become fully himself, ripping off the literal and figurative chains that bind him and jumping from the window only to then soar triumphantly over the city, his wings out in their full glory. (See the end of X-Men: The Last Stand for this moment! I tried to find it on youtube, and just ended up with weird fan videos that don’t actually show the scene. It’s beautiful and wonderful and everything I want for all of my readers and myself in Chronic-Life-Acceptance. Below is what it looks like in the comics.)
So, yes, there is an X-Men reference for every emotion (I could keep going-there are approximately 9 million X-men) and a Marvel-ous explanation for every life situation. Why shouldn’t there be? We are all the heroes of our own stories, aren’t we?
Have an Angel Day, Chronic Readers! Or a Wolverine Day, or an Iceman Day, or a Cyclops Day…whatever floats your boat, you know?