Elizabeth Barrette (ysabetwordsmith) wrote,
Elizabeth Barrette

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Poem: "You Can Only Go Forward"

This poem is spillover from the October 2, 2018 Poetry Fishbowl. It was inspired by a prompt from [personal profile] pantha. It also fills the "Home" square in my 9-30-18 card for the Fall Bingo fest and the "Lean on Me" square in my 2-1-17 Love Songs card in the Valentines Bingo fest. This poem has been sponsored by Anthony & Shirley Barrette. It belongs to the Calliope thread of the Polychrome Heroics series. It follows "A Double-Edged Sword," so read that first or this will make no sense.

Warning: This poem contains intense and controversial topics. Highlight to read the warnings, some of which are spoilers. It features a hangover from heavy-duty energy work, bond consequences including shortened distance and energy backlashes, awkward interactions, different food preferences, superpower revelations, exploring new options for therapy, self-loathing, and other angst. If these are sensitive issues for you, please consider your tastes and headspace before reading onward.

"You Can Only Go Forward"

[Monday, March 23, 2015]

Calliope woke to spring sunlight
pouring through the windows of
the living room where she lay
sprawled on the hide-a-bed
with Vagary on the other side.

She felt hungover, and when she
remembered why, she felt guilty too.

She could hear soft sounds from
the kitchen. Hyperspaceman
must be puttering in there.

Groaning, Calliope sat up.

Vagary whimpered and then
pushed himself up on his elbows.

"Morning," Calliope said. "I need
to pee. You can have a turn when
I'm done in the bathroom."

She made it out of bed,
but the closer she got to
the bathroom, the worse
she started to feel.

A sharp ache in
her chest echoed
her throbbing head.

"Cal," called Vagary.
"That's too far. Back up
a few steps, it hurts."

She walked back to
the hide-a-bed. "Great.
Now we're right back
where we started."

"Not quite," Vagary said.
"You got, what, about
twenty feet before it
really hurt? When we
first bonded, we could
only make it ten."

"So about double
our original distance,"
Calliope said. "Okay,
that is encouraging."

"Come on, we can go
together," Vagary said,
getting up to drape an arm
over her. "We don't have to stay
in the same room, just close enough.
I can prop up the wall while you're
in the bathroom, then switch."

"Do you two need help?"
Hyperspaceman asked them.

"Nah, we can lean on each other,"
Vagary said. "Thanks for asking."

They wobbled to the bathroom,
where as promised, Vagary
leaned against the wall and
let Calliope go in first.

She made it through
her morning routine,
but she could feel him
more keenly than ever,
even through the hazy ache
of the cut-and-spliced bond.

She could hear his thoughts
a little, a soft murmuring in
the back of her mind, as well
as the familiar emotions
now somewhat muddled
by what she'd done to him.

"Your turn," Calliope said
when she came out, and
waited for him there.

His feelings brightened
as he started to wake up,
which lifted her spirits a bit.

Soon Vagary came out, and
they headed into the kitchen.

"What's cooking?" Calliope asked,
staring at the array of food laid out.

"Well, I tried looking up foods for
soothing a broken bond, but I couldn't
find any," Hyperspaceman said. "There
isn't much of anything about bonds."

"Tell me about it," Vagary muttered.

"So I just went with foods for healing
a broken heart," Hyperspaceman said.
"I figured it would be hard to go wrong
with clinical-grade chocolate, so I made
chocolate-chip pancakes. Also sausage,
scrambled eggs, and a yogurt bar."

"You are the best friend ever,"
Calliope said, sinking gratefully
into a chair. "Have I told you
how much I love you lately?"

"You just did," he said,
patting her on the shoulder.

"No wonder Cal likes you so much,"
Vagary said. "What's to drink?"

"I made a pot of green tea with
adaptogens," Hyperspaceman said.

"There's milk and orange juice
in the fridge, too," said Calliope,
but she grabbed a cup of tea
to wash down the painkillers.

She dished up a bowl of yogurt and
piled on strawberries, blueberries,
and sliced bananas, then topped it
with a generous sprinkling of granola.

She was dusting ginger over the top
when she noticed Vagary putting
cayenne on his yogurt bowl.

"You're putting pepper on fruit?"
she said, wrinkling her nose.

"Keeps it from being too sweet,"
Vagary said. "Besides, I like
food with a little kick to it."

"The whole point to making
a yogurt bar is that everyone
can choose what they want,"
Hyperspaceman said.

Calliope chuckled. "Voice
of parental experience,
I can respect that."

Now the painkillers
were kicking in, she
felt somewhat better.

Breakfast was delicious,
with the juicy fruit and
the sweet pancakes.

Spicy sausage patties
made a nice contrast.

"Thank you for breakfast,"
Vagary said to Hyperspaceman.

"I just cooked," Hype replied.
"All the supplies came from
Calliope's pantry here."

"Then thank you too,"
Vagary said to Calliope.

"You're welcome," she said.
"Hyperspaceman did all the work."

"Team effort," Hype said, and
the other two nodded agreement.

Calliope hated to break the mood,
but somebody had to address
the elephant in the room.

"So what now?" she said.
"Yesterday was a wreck.
We need to deal with that."

"I assume you want privacy
for that talk," Hyperspaceman said.
"Wobbly as you two are, I don't want
you climbing stairs today. So you can
have the living room, and I'll go up to
the bonus room, but I'll leave the door
open. Just holler if you need me."

"Okay, we will," Calliope said.
"Check the reading nook up there --
I just threw in some back issues
of craft magazines from work."

Whenever new issues came in,
the store's reading copies of old ones
became available to any employees
who wanted to take some home.

"Ooo, what did you get?" Hype said.

"Upcycle Magazine, Creating Keepsakes,
Woodworker's Journal, Fiber Art Now,

annnd ... Art Doll Quarterly," said Calliope.

"Woohoo!" crowed Hyperspaceman,
who collected dolls and enjoyed
sharing craft days with his daughter.
"Thanks, Cal. I'll see you later."

He scampered up the stairs.

Vagary look at the remains
of breakfast. "Would you rather
clear the table, or put away leftovers?"

"You clear, I'll stash," Calliope said.
"I know where everything goes."

It didn't take too long, because
three soups could eat a lot.

The swath of dirty dishes
was more daunting, though.

"Following the same logic,
I wash, you dry and put away
the dishes?" Vagary said.

"Works for me," Calliope said.

It wasn't as bad as it could have been,
because Hyperspaceman had clearly
begun cleaning up as he went along.

The energy from breakfast was
starting to kick in too, and there
was a certain soothing domesticity
about doing dishes together that
helped Calliope to relax a little.

After cleaning up the kitchen,
they went into the living room.

They put the couch back together,
then Vagary sat on one end of that
while Calliope took the loveseat.
That way they could be close but
not right on top of each other.

"So, this is awkward," Vagary said,
looking down at his hands.

"I'm sorry," Calliope said.
"I know I messed up everything,
but I will do whatever I can
to make amends for it."

"Thanks," Vagary said. "I feel ..."
Then he shook his head.

I don't know what I feel right now.

"Me neither," Calliope said.
"Everything is just a jumble."

"Cal, I didn't say that last part
out loud," Vagary whispered.

"Oh," she said. "I've been
getting some odd spillover
from you, like hearing
your voice in my head?"

"That's how my telepathy
works," Vagary said. "I've been
getting feelings from you, and it
doesn't feel the same as spillover
from you, if that makes any sense?"

"So in addition to torturing you and
mangling our personal lives, I've
also screwed up our superpowers?"
Calliope said. "What a disaster."

"Maybe not," Vagary said. "Okay,
it's unsettling and I feel crummy now,
but it might not be something wrong.
There's a tendency for congruent or
complementary powers to merge
as a bond develops over time."

"You think instead of my empathy
and your telepathy, we could both
wind up with telempathy?" she said.

"Yeah, it's possible," Vagary said.
"We should try to keep track of
our experiences, like we did
when we first manifested."

"Oh god, don't remind me,"
Calliope groaned. "That was
the worst trip I've ever been on."

"I'm sorry, Cal, I forgot manifestation
wasn't voluntary for you either," Vagary said.
"I chose to take my chances with a metagen,
and I lucked out. I also had a lot of support
while my powers were growing in -- I could
go and test things as often as I wanted
to find out what was happening to me."

"I got sucked into a tornado,"
Calliope said. "It took a while
to find people who could teach me.
I needed more than one because
my talents are so different."

"Did that make it harder for
you to connect with a mentor?"
Vagary said. "I really clicked
with mine, but you're different."

"I think so, yes," Calliope said.
"I don't form deep connections easily.
I had to spend too much time hiding,
so holding back is just ... instinctive."

"I'm here now," Vagary said,
and put his hand over hers.

The stinging backlash of
energy startled them both.

"We really need to work on that,"
Vagary said, shaking his hand.

"I don't know what's wrong with
the bond," Calliope said, her voice
tight with worry. "Cleaver was
supposed to fix it for us."

"He did," Vagary said. "I can
feel you. The bond is just ...
confused right now, and hurting."

"Then how do we make it stop
zapping us?" Calliope said.

"Let's try something," Vagary said.
"Hold out your hand, but don't
touch yet, just come close."

He moved until their hands
were almost touching, and
Calliope could feel the heat
of his body across the air.

"What's this supposed to do?"
Calliope asked. "It feels funny."

"I'm hoping that if we can sense
each other's energy and come
into contact slowly, then it won't
create such a backlash," Vagary said.
"Let your fingertips touch mine now."

"Okay," Calliope said, and closed
the fraction of inch between them.

It felt like static this time, crawling
and tickling over her skin, but
at least it didn't hurt them.

Vagary heaved a sigh of relief.
"That's an improvement," he said.
"Try opening up a little, and see
if we can do a real exchange."

"I haven't been blocking,"
Calliope said. "Have you?"

"No, but it's like ... cramped
closed or something," Vagary said.

Now that Calliope thought about it,
she could feel something similar.

She called up a mental exercise
for relaxation and tried to focus on
the bond instead of her mind or body.

After a minute, the cramped sensation
eased a little, and she could feel more
of Vagary through their connection.

Then a sharp spark made them jerk apart.

"Well, that's going to take some practice,"
Vagary said as he rubbed his hand.

"Maybe more therapy would help,"
Calliope said. "You suggested
couples therapy, and it's working."

"There are not enough days
in the week for all the therapy
we need," Vagary muttered.

"So let's look at our schedules,"
Calliope said. "We can spread
things out as much as possible."

"I was joking," Vagary said,
regarding her with dawning horror.

"I wasn't," Calliope said. "Everything
is a mess right now, and it's not going
to get better unless we work on it."

"Cal, I don't think I have the energy
to do headwork every day of the week,"
Vagary said. "That stuff is hard."

"Okay, I guess every day may
have been a bit over-ambitious,"
she admitted. "I think we need
more than once a week, though."

"Yeah, you're probably right,"
Vagary said. "We need to call
Mr. Gallagar, too, and let him
know what happened to us."

Calliope cringed. "I dread
the thought of that phone call,"
she confessed. "I don't think
that I'm ready to face that yet."

"Then let's try to work out what kind
of help we might need, and where
we can fit it in," Vagary said.

So Calliope set up her laptop,
and they opened the website for
the Tranquility Counseling Center
and browsed the offerings.

Vagary pointed out the classes
in meditation that he wanted to try.

"You think that would help?"
Calliope said dubiously.

"It's supposed to calm
the mind," Vagary said.
"I figure that it can't hurt."

"Okay, it's worth considering,"
she said, jotting down times.

Then they looked at a list of
couples counseling methods.
Some of that sounded like
what they had already done,
but some seemed different.

"What about this one?"
Vagary said, pointing. "I
don't know about you, but I
feel like crap. Anything that
might fix that would be good."

"I feel awful about what I did,"
Calliope said, looking at the page.
"Positive psychology? Really?
That's just junior high stuff."

"It's supposed to teach skills
for happiness and appreciation,"
Vagary said. "Just because
some people learn it as teens
doesn't mean everyone has.
The blurb says they have
sessions for all ages."

Calliope thought about it.
"Well, I liked it in school,
so I wouldn't mind revisiting
the material," she said. "I'll
put it on the list of possibilities."

"Hey, look," Vagary said.
"They have happy apps!"

"A gratitude journal?"
Calliope said. "I've kept
those before in classes, and
it doesn't do much for me."

"Yeah, but there's an app for
pairs to use together, CoupleUp,"
said Vagary. "It has messaging and
calendar stuff like a family app, but
you can also save your snapshots
and other happy memories. Plus
there are things to do together."

Calliope looked at the description.
"Some of this sounds useful for more
than romantic relationships," she said.

"They also have a BuddyUp version for
friends," Vagary said. "Wanna try it?"

"I'll think about it," Calliope said.
"I don't know if I want to jump right in."

The way the bond pulled them together,
then snapped at them for touching,
she wasn't sure if an app like that
would make it better or worse.

"Okay," Vagary said. "Well,
I'm getting BuddyUp for friends."

It suddenly occurred to Calliope
that she and Hyperspaceman
could try the app, and that might
give her an idea whether it would
be good for her and Vagary too.

"That's a good idea, I know folks
who I can test it with," Calliope said.
"Then if it pans out, you and I can
try either that or CoupleUp."

"Sounds good," Vagary said.
"Mood apps, but they're pretty meh."

"Oh, they have Hoppy Habits!"
Calliope said. "I haven't had this
in years, I must have lost track
of it when I changed phones."

"Isn't that a kiddie book?"
Vagary said, peering at
Hoppy the Wobbit with
his four ears that grew or
shrank in response to
his changing emotions.

"Yeah, so?" Calliope said.
"I love it. I used this thing
to help figure out my empathy."

"I'll keep it in mind, then,"
Vagary said, making a note.

Calliope found another one that
she liked, too. "Forward Hoh!
sounds like fun," she said. "This
encourages random acts of kindness."

"So not my thing," Vagary said,
shaking his head. "Supervillain."

"Whatever, I'm getting it," she said.

"Happiness Here & Now looks interesting,"
said Vagary. "It's more than just a mood app,
it tracks food, meds, and weather too. It
stamps time, and you can turn on location
if you want to. Then it gives you tips on
how to improve your happiness, based
on what made you happier in the past."

"That could be useful," Calliope said.
"I'll pick it up and see if it works for me.
Hmm, it even has a synch mode."

"Yeah, you can share your data and
compare tastes," Vagary said.

"Ours are probably miles apart,"
Calliope said, sadly remembering
the worksheet where almost all of
their priorities were different.

"Maybe not," Vagary said.
"We both enjoy going to parks."

"That's true," Calliope said.
"What else is in couples therapy?"

"Enhancing intimacy," Vagary said.
"We could probably benefit from that,
but we should be careful with it."

"Let's do couples yoga," Calliope blurted.
"You suggested that once before, and you've
said that the other yoga classes are good."

"No," Vagary said gently. "It's kind of
you to offer, and I'm flattered that you
remembered my interest. That would
be too much, too soon, I'm afraid. It's
more intimate than I realized before."

"Oh," Calliope said, lacing her fingers
together. "What about some other yoga?
Maybe we could work our way up to couples."

"Now there's an idea," Vagary said,
clicking over to the center's yoga page.
"Tranquility offers some classes for
each of the Eight Limbs of Yoga,
among various other themes."

"Which would you recommend?"
Calliope said. "I don't know much
about yoga beyond the name."

"I can think of several," said Vagary.
Yama means restraint, and it focuses
on things like not doing harm. Asana
is just the poses, without the philosophy.
Pratyahara means turning inward, and
it's good for reflection and self-awareness."

Calliope winced. "I could sure use
a class in how not to hurt people."

"It's more symbolic and meditative
than practical, but yeah, I think that
would help," Vagary said. "You might
need to work your way up to it, though.
You sound upset about what happened."

"I got you tortured," she said grimly.
"So yes, I'm upset about that."

They had done more talking around
the topic than dealing with it directly.
The experience was still too raw.

"Cal, I don't want you to hurt
yourself trying to fix everything
at once," Vagary said. "That won't
help, it'll just make matters worse.
Start with something comfortable
to get the hang of yoga, before you
throw yourself in the deep end."

"I guess that makes sense," she said.
"I just ... kind of hate myself right now,
and I really wish that would stop,
but I feel like I deserve it."

"I actually know some resources
for that too, but they're not on
this site," Vagary said. "SPOON
has written some good ones, and
they've copied a few from elsewhere."

"Like what?" Calliope said, leaning forward.
"Do they really have brochures for things like,
'Oops! I Tortured My Frenemy' in there?"

"I haven't seen that exact topic, but I do
recommend 'How To Apologize And Make Nice:
The Healthy Supervillain Edition' for starters,"
Vagary said. "See also 'How to Fix Your Fuckups:
Relationship Repair for Supervillains' as a followup."

Calliope laughed. "Oh, now you're pulling my leg,"
she said. "Those can't be their real titles!"

Vagary tapped at her laptop and brought up
the SPOON menu. "They're real, all right."

"Huh, so they are," she said. Then she
laughed again. "What about this one?
'Making the Best of Things -- Because life
is a box of hammers and you still got screwed.
Obviously there are more tools around!' Seriously?"

"Oh, that's a good one," Vagary said. "I read it.
The first part talks about kinds of mistakes,
and then there's a long list of techniques
for dealing with all of the aftermath."

"Those all sound relevant," Calliope said.
"Thanks for helping me to find them."

"I don't want you be miserable, Cal,
any more than I want us to be broken.
We just have to find a way through this.
No matter how much it hurts, we can't
give up, we have to keep going."

"But what I did was so horrible,"
Calliope whispered. "This was
way worse than just hitting you."

"Yeah well, some of what I did
to you was awful too," Vagary said.
"I didn't realize until later how bad
some of it really was. We deal."

"I don't understand how you
can make mistakes like that and
still be around me," Calliope said.
"I can't even look you in the eye."

"Of course I make mistakes.
I’m human," Vagary said quietly.
"If I didn’t make mistakes, I’d never learn.
You can only go forward by making mistakes."

"And we have to go forward," Calliope said.

"Yes," Vagary said. "We can't go back,
Cal. We have to patch things up as best
we can, and find a way to move on."

Everything inside Calliope ached
with a strange, stretchy hurt that
made his proposal seem impossible.

She still couldn't meet his eyes,
so she looked around the room.

It was quiet and beautiful,
spring sunlight picking up
the green and gold furnishings.

Calliope felt grateful to have
a home so soothing, and suddenly
she wondered if Vagary had this kind
of sanctuary or if he had broken into
hers that time because he didn't.

She hadn't thought about that before.

In fact, she hadn't thought about Vagary
much at all, and that would have to change.

Calliope held out her hand to Vagary,
and he moved his toward her, slowly,
so the bond only nibbled their fingers
instead of delivering a sharper bite.

"Maybe," she said, "if you lean on me and
I lean on you, we can make that happen."

* * *


"Of course I make mistakes. I’m human. If I didn’t make mistakes, I’d never learn. You can only go forward by making mistakes."
-- Alexander McQueen

A soulbond is a subtype of the bound together trope. These terms actually cover a wide range of mystical or material circumstances in which two (often poorly-matched) characters are stuck with each other. In some situations -- especially when a bond is new or has been strained -- the bond may require them to stay touching or within a certain distance.

Yogurt is among the best of healing foods. Other foods to heal a broken heart include chocolate, eggs, fresh fruit, ginger, and cayenne. A yogurt bar is a good way to serve these things. You can buy or make granola to include.

Seasonal food offers many benefits. Strawberries and blueberries are the first fruits to ripen in Oklahoma. Bananas have to be imported anyhow. Some people like to put pepper on fruit.

Enjoy a recipe for Banana Chocolate-Chip Pancakes. Hyperspaceman is making them with dark chocolate chips.

Sunny's Perfect Scrambled Cheesy Eggs are good too.

Organic sausage can be bought or made.

Green Tea with Chinese Herbs includes multiple adaptogens.

Upcycle Magazine offers ideas for repurposing things.

Creating Keepsakes suggests projects for family memories.

Woodworker's Journal includes plans for wooden crafts.

Fiber Art Now features projects with yarn and cloth.

Art Doll Quarterly is all about dolls.

Relaxation techniques include progressive relaxation, autogenic training, and more. Everyone needs at least one method to unwind, and more is better.

There are many types of therapy suited to couples. Counseling centers in Terramagne-America customarily offer a wide variety.

Positive Psychology uses exercises and worksheets to build character strengths and enahance positive emotions. Most people in T-America learn this in school, but it's also widely available at counseling centers.

Happiness is a skill that benefits children and adults. Learn some ways to be happier. Here is a workbook on happiness.

Various apps are designed to promote happiness and mental wellness. Couple, Happy Habits, Happy Now, and Pay It Forward are some examples.

CoupleUp and BuddyUp are two versions of the same basic app in T-America, one for romantic and one for platonic relationships. They offer lots of features to help people connect and coordinate activities, improve happiness, chat, and save favorite memories. Some features such as the art pad and games can be done alone or together. These somewhat resemble the L-American app Couple.

Hoppy Habits is a T-American app that teaches happiness skills, helps people identify what makes them happy, and encourages them to do more of that. It uses techniques from positive psychology, cognitive-behavioral therapy, mindfulness, and other disciplines. The mascot is Hoppy the Wobbit, a rabbitlike character with two pairs of ears. One pair sticks up like jackrabbit ears, while the other hangs down like lop ears. The happier Hoppy feels, the bigger his perky ears get and the smaller his droopy ears get; the sadder he feels, the bigger his droopy ears get and the smaller his perky ears get. The app includes games for the user to help Hoppy find his happy thoughts, with pointers on supporting a friend's happiness and seeking your own. Despite its origins in a children's book, the character is popular with adults as well. This somewhat resembles the L-American app Happy Habits.

Forward Hoh! is a T-American app based on the pay-it-forward principle. One feature serves prompts to do a random act of kindness, for which the user can set frequency and select categories or free choice. Categories include Animals, Civic, Classroom, Family, Friends, Nature, Peace, Seasonal, Strangers, Work, and World. Filters allow users to select acts suitable for young, adult, or old people to do; choose between free acts or those that cost money; indicate disabilities or other limitations; and set a level of time commitment in hours, days, or weeks. This encourages more participation by prompting for acts that each user can probably do. Completed acts are stamped with the time, location, and/or doer so other users can see local or worldwide activity. Users can also share pictures or videos of their acts, suggest acts of kindness, or report ones done for them. This somewhat resembles the L-American app Pay It Forward.

Happiness Here & Now is a T-American app that identifies things which boost your mood. It tracks six contexts: Drugs & Herbs, Food & Drink, Weather, Activities & Events, Household Products, and Location. It measures six states in two clusters: Mind, Body, Spirit and Health, Energy, Mood. The user can rate each of these on a scale. The options include a three-point scale with happy, okay, and sad faces; a five-point scale; and a ten-point scale with options to add more detailed notes. Users can interact with the app at whim, or set reminders to log their contexts and states at certain times. After a week of regular use, the app starts generating helpful hints to improve happiness based on things that have worked in the past. Happiness Here & Now has a synch mode for friends and family, so people can see what makes each other happy or unhappy, and how well their tastes and needs coincide. It somewhat resembles the L-American app Happy Now.

Enhancing intimacy is another mode of couples therapy. There are group sessions on healthy relationships. Here are some questions for increasing closeness. Taking small steps toward intimacy can improve relationships.

Safety is both a human need and a human right. However, there's a difference between being safe and feeling safe. People with a difficult past -- such as Calliope's transgender struggle or Vagary's unsupportive family -- often find it difficult to establish a subjective sense of safety, even when there are no objective dangers. Here are some ways to feel safer and to help someone else feel safer.
Tags: cyberfunded creativity, family skills, fantasy, fishbowl, poem, poetry, reading, safety, weblit, writing
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