The Question of Being Single

If music be the food of love, play on. – William Shakespeare

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Dating Vs. Mating

When people ask me my relationship status, I generally seize up internally and begin to scan my brain for the latest and greatest excuse for why I’m not married, have no children and, in general, have been chronically single for most of my adult life.

My quick, go-to response is usually: “I’m better at dating than mating”. This is an honest response. Although I’ve experienced romantic love numerous times, I don’t have the personality of a caretaker. It’s always been more about me – my needs, my goals, my dreams. The only reason I’m not ashamed to admit this is because I’ve tried living the other way, making it about the other person. And I found, time and again, that the other person was the wrong person to be on the receiving end of this type of affection.

So here I am. But I know I’m not alone. I can jump online to any dating site and see there’s a lot of folks out there just like me…sorta. And I have quite a few single friends of a certain age, some because they want to and others who simply can’t find “The One”.

What Creates A Singleton?

As a young person, I’m sure a relationship therapist could have helped me answer this question. But I had so many other more pressing issues that a partner seemed like an afterthought. I was trying to get an education, build a career. From ages 17-23 I also experienced a couple of disasterous encounters with inappropriate partners which made me more than a little gun shy. Growing up as a minority in what was essentially an predominately white school system, I never had the childhood sweetheart or the girly prom. Instead, I was shuttled out of the suburbs to hang out with kids who lived a less privileged life, something which often led to trouble, destructive behavior and choosing the wrong playmates. In between the bad moments, however, I did meet and date some really nice, really sweet gentlemen suiters from all different backgrounds. For whatever reason, however, they evaporated into the ether and I was left wondering what my next partner would be like and how they would make my heart sing.
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I learned along the way that finding friendship first is important, if not critical, in establishing any kind of romantic relationship. A serial dater in my early 20s I was once set up on fourteen consecutive blind dates. I didn’t find one keeper in the bunch but many of them eventually became friends.

Back then, youth and naivete drove my relationship choices. I didn’t value myself as much as I could have. These days I’ve learned that, while maintaining standards and self-esteem, it really helps to know your worth on the dating market. Moving to Los Angeles by way of the Bay Area, I had a rude awakening early on. Instead of being an attractive girl, unique from the suburbs, I became one of many average pretty women in a large metropolitan city. According to one rather rude dude I dated, “my stock went down” and apparently continued to do so with age. By the time I was 40, I had had only two semi-serious relationships and both were with men who would never be potential life partners and due to health issues I was unable to have children which also made me less of a catch. I used to joke that the best way to find a man not spoiled by the riches of beautiful women was to meet them when they stepped off the boat. One recent example: Not long ago, I was shopping in the market and a handsome man wearing a Hawaiian shirt, clearly new to L.A., was following the store security guard around, joking with him and gawking at all the women. He turned to me, mouth open, and turned back to his friend smiling like a puppy that was getting adopted. Initially flattered, my face fell when I overheard the security guard dismiss me, saying, I wasn’t a “10” (he resembled an aging walrus so I took that comment in stride).

When Love Knocks…Answer the Door

download.jpgAs silly as it sounds, I was so happy to see to see a third sequel to the Bridget Jones franchise (and no, I didn’t watch the second film). I enjoyed how the character never deliberately to set out to have a nuclear family and was content with who she had become but always wound up bedding the most attractive men. She wanted, but didn’t need, a man to complete her. And she’s getting older, as one does, so it makes her character that much more relatable.

They say you find love when you aren’t looking for it. I do cherish the healthy, happy relationships I have had and look forward to finding my next soul to mate with. That said, it’s really easy to get comfortable in the single life, especially if you enjoy your own company. You tend not to want to bring in any energy into your world that isn’t fully loving and supportive. Being single means you don’t have to work at any relationship but your own.

Still, it would be nice, if not to get married, then at least to have someone solid to hang out with. Dating over a certain age requires fortitude..and luck. I’m friends with a woman who in the fifteen years I’ve known her has had three relationships, back-to-back. She’s 55+ and never alone. No kids, prefers to stay unmarried. But finding a man is no problem for her. In fact, each time she met them differently – one online, one through her work, the last one while shopping at Target! The other day I met a woman in her 40s who told me she was sitting on the beach minding her own business a few years ago when her partner came up to her, struck up a conversation and asked her out. They haven’t been apart since. Turns out she also writes books about serendipity, so maybe that her secret.

Thankfully, I still have time to find Mr. Right. The best piece of relationship advice I ever got was this: If you want to meet a nice man, go where nice men go. Rinse and repeat. Maybe it’s time to start taking that advice. Because when love knocks, I want to be home.

 

Meditating on Meditation

Sleep is the best meditation. – Dalai Lama

A few weeks ago I splurged on a three-hour meditation workshop, hosted by a meditation for-profit company. This is one of those  places where post-hippy millenials wear flowy clothes and flip flops and find solace in the crystals section of the store. images-2.jpg

As a meditator for many years in temples, sitting groups, yoga studios, retreats, church, etc, this space was a bit foreign to me. Donation or member-based non-profits are usually grounded in a educational discipline or spiritual philosophy. Yes, they may also have crystals in their store but the money they collect is tax-deductible.

So my first thought was: Only in LA.

Two strict rules were enforced: 1. No shoes on the floor and 2. No cell phones in the room.

Phones couldn’t even be turned off, they had to be relinquished at the door, sort of like at a Dave Chappelle concert.

images.pngSeemed reasonable. I took off my shoes and took my phone back to my car (because no one gets my cell phone, period). When I returned the women who checked me in gave me a small pitch on their services and instruction on how much it cost to become a member (I can’t recall the amount but it was prohibitive at the time). I could also take one-off classes to the tune of $24 (which, I mentally noted, was more than the most expensive  yoga class in my neighborhood, where at least I would get a workout AND meditation). While I waited for the workshop to begin, I watched the young, mostly white middle-class women file out of the previous session, seemingly refreshed by their meditation immersion. I attempted to ask one young woman a question about her experience and her whole body threw shade at me. It was like a cloud darkening. Luckily, another young lady with a completely different energy sidled up to me and asked if she could sit down. She and her husband had driven three hours to see the teacher and she had been following him for years. They were both writers, she an aspiring mystery novelist. It was her husband’s first foray into meditation and he was as earnest as a school boy, bringing along his notebook so he could record everything. They were lovely and charming to interact with.

The guest teacher was the draw: An elf-like, Santa Claus guru type of throwback to the 70s, he arrived in a semi-frenzy in the lobby wearing a dark jacket, under which he wore a dark t-shirt with a spirtually inspired emblem. On his feet were a pair of colorful socks, cartoonish in nature. It seemed he had a pretty big following; everyone had come because he often does big retreats in faraway lands that no one can afford. Hence the $60 admission to spend a few hours with hidownload.jpgm.

The group was a bit more diverse group than the previous one. There were many males and more ethnic representation, including a few older women and one elderly Asian man. The most impressive aspect of the room for me was the seating. Each person had an individual meditation ‘lounge chair’ that contorted to your body.  There was no way to be uncomfortable in it, even sitting as we were on the floor.

I had followed the meditation recordings of this ‘guru’ for a couple of years having discovered him on Deepak Chopra’s website where he was part of the administration of their organization. However, I never really knew what he offered besides a weekly recording. Turns out he left Dr. Chopra to do his own thing. So, in addition to teaching meditation to anyone who will have him, he also has a radio show where he picks topics and then incorporates his standard meditation (it’s pretty much the same each week with a different spiritual topic).

Being a positive sceptic, I knew he wasn’t a renowned counselor nor was he  a doctor or therapist. In other words, he’s not Wayne Dyer. Yes, he learned a technique but it is his charisma, his soothing voice that draws you in. His videos are all taped on the beach. He’s like Surfing Santa with a DJ vibe. He’s also written a couple of books on destressing. In other words, he’s got the relaxation gig down cold.

He wasn’t exactly nice as much as he was a firm parent – there to guide you but not be your friend. Listening to his suggested methods, I was pleasantly surprised at how structured his presentation was; it flowed so easily that the hours went by very quickly.

download-1.jpgEven more interesting was the manner in which people were responding to him as a person. The audience was both rapt and respectful; they reacted as if they were being read a bedtime story instead of learning how to go deeper within. Not everyone was practicing mindfulness, however. A younger woman in front of me came in with a male friend and hadn’t gotten the memo about the cell phone rule. A middle-aged woman sitting next to them had sat in one of their chairs when they first came in so there was tension there; she later sharply demanded that the woman give up her cell phone, which the woman did readily but not without a return rebuttal on the tone of the woman’s voice. Meditation drama.

A young Indian girl who attended was particularly heartbreaking, interrupting throughout the session asking basic questions. She would periodically get up on stilts – her legs were painfully thin – and hobble out of the room, presumably to the bathroom. She was the absolute worst case of an anorexia I have ever witnessed. Literally the walking dead. As she passed me for the third time to leave the room, another woman to my right muttered, “Jesus”. The teacher addressed her every question on the edge of disgust and impatience, even at one point trying to interject some wisdom on addiction and impulse and how people even have a problem with food – as he looks straight at her.

images.jpgMeditation techniques were shared. Three of the four were unique to any I had experienced anywhere and I was glad of the new information. We meditated periodically throughout the talk; his goal being to get the audience to understand that meditation can be built in blocks over time and doesn’t have to be overwhelming. Five minutes or a day, doesn’t matter.

When the workshop ended, I was ready to go home. I didn’t swarm to buy the teacher’s book or get his autograph. However, I did begin to contemplate my own practice to see how or if I could incorporate any of his techniques into it. The answer was yes, of course. But do I need to? The door he opened for me was choice: Of all the types of meditation I’ve done over the years in various disciplines and religions I’ve always felt an obligation to ‘see-through’ the process of getting still as if it is an end goal and not a journey in and of itself.

images-2.jpgThe truth is that there are many forms of meditation out there – each with it’s own set of benefits, including relaxation, contemplation and healing. I have learned to seek out what I need, when I need it. And because of this I wouldn’t necessarily recommend one guru over another. In fact, while this teacher was appropriate for the moment, I know I that personally I will need deeper, more experienced teachings over time. The teacher matters but, in my opinion, the message is more important.

In the end, this workshop was a gift of insight and whatever tools I learned that day are now at my disposal. If I learn a new meditation tool and it seems to feel good, then I will use it. If not, then I won’t pick up the throne. The intention was and is, to be still and, in that stillness, allow life to unfold.

Namaste!

Creating Sacred Space

Do not look for a sanctuary in anyone but yourself – Buddha

I’ve always envied the rich with large, cavernous homes because they can, if they so choose, devote a whole room to pampering and solitude. Being a renter my whole life means unless I’m using my bedroom, I’m challenged to find an empty corner in my home dedicated as a contemplative space. The bedroom as sanctuary works, of course – it should act as a retreat. But if you share it with someone else, that space is not entirely your own.

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As Buddha said, the only true sanctuary is within you. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t try to carve out a special niche in your environment that belongs only to you. It’s how home offices and man caves are created, with the intention of function and purpose. You work hard, you deserve it.

Years ago I started a new job as a business development consultant. The office manager there was in the middle of a transition – she was trying to have a baby and her husband wasn’t working. She wanted the baby more than she wanted her husband to get a job and they were preparing at some point to move back in with her parents. I asked her if she had a special place to meditate in her home and she said she didn’t. So I suggested that she find a shelf or table where she could set up an altar where she could pray for her request. She liked the idea and immediately went home, found candles, a cross and a statue of Jesus and created a prayer corner. The next day she thanked me profusely. A year or so later her prayer came true and now she is the mother of a beautiful son.

The Altar of Experience

The word ‘altar’ reminds me of my experiences as a child watching Catholic priests and young altar boys lighting tall, white candlesticks in heavy, golden holders and then kneeling before them, making the sign of the holy trinity across the their robed chests. These days I think of an altar as spiritual protection, a way in which to honor and appreciate what is important to remember in my life. A place I can go to in order to remind myself what is a priority, what is meaningful. My sacred space.

When I moved into a new place three years ago, my intention was to work with the spiritual energy of my home. I chose the windowsill beneath my bedroom window to create my simple altar. The ledge provides the perfect space next to my bed: Beneath the window on the floor is a cushion in case I get an urge to pray or meditate. On the altar itself I have a few memories, sometimes I’ll add a vase with fresh flowers, a spiritual symbol or a picture of someone or something I am praying for. Currently there is a book with wise quotes called A Bag of Jewels, written in calligraphy and gifted to me by a dear friend. It honors the power of friendship and the quotes within speak to the fact that none of us is alone, we all go through the same stuff. The next item is an embroidered bag I bought in Singapore, reminding me of my travels there. The next is a velvet cloth bag of violet and turquoise, filled with coins from various countries. It’s represents the ability I have to find the funds to continue my journey. A pretty empty purple box sits next to the bag, awaiting a purpose.

Finally, there is another box, multicolored with flowers. It is this box that is the important addition because it is filled with intentions. I’ve scribbled them on post-it notes and put them in the box. It’s called my God Box; its primary purpose is to allow me to release my troubles to the Universe. If there is an ongoing issue in my life, I write it down and fold the note and release it. Weeks or months later, I check the box to see what has been resolved and remove the note. It’s a way of ‘letting go and letting God’ in motion.

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My Altar

Another item in my sacred space (on the cushion because it won’t fit on the windowsill) is my vision book, a binder containing positive images I’ve cut out or printed that help me align my desires with how I want my life to work. When I was younger and much more ambitious, my vision book was filled with all the things I wanted to accomplish. Now it reflects more of the kind of human being I want to be.

Intentional Sanctuary

I know people who feel selfish when they lock their bedroom door so they can have a few minutes of alone time. And yet when they tell me how resentful they feel when people don’t respect their space, I want to ask, how much better would you be able to care for them if you took 30 minutes out to care for you? Whatever form that care takes, be it silence, meditation, prayer or just playing music, reading – imagine how much better of a human being you could be if you silence your phone and stop checking your messages, how much better you could engage with the world around you.

I’ve grown increasingly introverted over the years, after years of being what others might say is a gadfly. The last decade or so, in particular, has brought many challenges and struggles so I’ve had to try to learn healthy coping skills, to the point of avoiding certain people. It is a sacrifice, but through the creation of silence, in a space where only I belong, I am learning more about survival and self-care.

Evolving Space

I have a lifelong intention to pretty up my space. I’m not a natural decorator and have been accused of living my life like a college student, with minimal furniture and not much design sense. Yet, I feel good here. And if my home is a reflection of who I am, then I would say I am someone who does not need much at the moment but if I find myself wishing for more structure in terms of furniture or color in my decor, then I trust that my self-care mechanism will kick in and I will go out and find it. But for now, I take comfort in that I have what I need and that my environment provides a truly respite from the world and a sacred space to soothe the soul.

 

Following Feud: Bette & Joan

“We were two different types entirely. I can’t think of a single part I played that Joan could do. Not one. Can you?”
– Bette Davis

Following Feud

I was almost late to the party.

I’ve never been much of a TV watcher. No longer a cable subscriber, I cut the cord last year and embarked on an Internet television adventure. At first it was a bit disconcerting and laborious, having to “program” my own entertainment. I struggled to find my way through a mire with B-level and C-level channel content, combined with standalone pay-per-view premium options. But once I got used to being in charge of my viewing destiny, I quit whining and began to navigate the webby waters using my old TV career strategy of checking out the trades first for network and cable launches and then adding them to my searches and feeds.

imgres-6.jpgThis is how I stumbled upon Feud: Bette and Joan. I was reading a short piece in Variety announcing that FX was launching a new series, the first featuring Susan Sarandon and Jessica Lange as Bette Davis and Joan Crawford. The show would focus on their time spent filming the film Whatever Happened to Baby Jane and continue until Joan’s death. Ryan Murphy, creator, is the driving force behind this and all the hot new shows that I have seen clips of but never actually explored.

Now I’m intrigued.

(And in the spirit of full disclosure, I must admit that Bette Davis and I share a birthday. So I’m already biased). 

Watching the pilot as part of an internet channel promotion, I must say, I was initially a bit underwhelmed. The story centers around the ongoing professional and personal battles between the two Hollywood legends. Much is made in Feud of Bette and Joan’s rivalry against the backdrop of women’s limited opportunities in Tinsel Town, how they were pitted against each other by the studios and the ways in which they survived.

The Download
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Susan Sarandon’s Bette Davis eyes make her an obvious casting choice. And Bette herself even thought so, asking Susan early in her career to play her at some point. Jessica Lange, as much as I love her acting, seemed less of a natural fit. She wasn’t angular enough, her makeup and eyebrows not as extreme as Joan’s were in real life. Forgetting Faye Dunaway’s operatic portrayal in Mommy Dearest for a minute, Lange, by contrast, didn’t have the same kind of authority in her face that Crawford held onscreen. From what I could hear, she sounded like Jessica, not Joan. It was also strange that while Sarandon may have nailed the physical characteristics on the surface, thanks to good genes and a great plastic surgeon, at 70 she looks too young to play the hard-drinking, chain-smoking Bette who was at the time a couple of decades younger. Couldn’t they have aged her up a bit? She also didn’t do “The Voice”; I mean, if you are going to be Bette Davis, isn’t that one of her most distinctive traits outside her bug-eyed demeanor?

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Well.

It was unsettling; I didn’t want to watch two actresses I love fail at playing two actresses I love. So I wasn’t convinced I wanted to follow Feud: Bette and Joan into the FX sunset. Still, I loved the premise so I loaded up an unused Christmas iTunes gift card I was saving for something special and decided to take a leap of faith and purchase the full mini-series. Maybe iTunes would provide a refund if it didn’t deliver.

Thankfully, the subsequent eight episodes of Feud: Bette and Joan did not disappoint. I couldn’t wait to download an episode each week on my MacBook Pro.

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Frothy & Filling

After working several years for a company that produced Emmy-winning graphic design for television, I predict that the opening sequence of Feud: Bette and Joan is about to win some awards. It is that effective and compelling, exquisitely setting the tone for the whole show.

As the story builds, the audience is gently rewarded by an installment of splendid storytelling, lush cinematography, candy-colored decadent sets, camp and just plain old binge-worthy dishy fun. And as Bette and Joan (Susan and Jessica, respectively) start to do their ‘thing’ it all begins to come to life. The casting suddenly makes sense. Jessica has gained a few pounds more than Joan would have carried, but her eyebrows grow in size and stature as the series progresses. What makes her performance special is that her Joan Crawford shines more light into Joan’s humanity and deeply disturbing childhood. Susan’s portrayal is a flat-out refusal to impersonate – until she gets the opportunity to snap and fight. Then all the mannerisms come flowing out of her as she spits out an accent and clips her words in a way that needs no reminder of the titan actress she is playing.

Feud is frothy and filling..different writers and different directors contribute, some more dramatically than others. Although Episode 5 highlights the arc of the story, fellow Oscar winner Helen Hunt ‘s direction of Episode 7 is easily one of the best.

imgres.jpgThe supporting cast members are no slouches either. Judy Davis, playing Hedda Hopper (whom I just watched chew scenery in the kooky indie The Dressmaker), tries hard and it shows. Then there are characters you learn about that have a lot of influence but likely didn’t a lot of visibility, such as Mamacita and Bob Aldrich. Stanley Tucci’s devilish Jack Warner, twisting his dastardly moustache, speaks for the entire movie industry’s misogyny. I’m not sure why she is a talking head, but Kathy Bates gives a decent portrayal of the brassy Joan Blondell. The girl playing Bette’s daughter B.D. is sufficiently bland and spoiled enough so you can see how Bette lost control of her early on by treating her as an adult. And let’s not forget the man playing Victor Buono, little known young British actor Dominic Burgess. imgres.jpg
Scary good with mad acting skills…he actually made me remember watching the original What Ever Happened to Baby Jane and Hush, Hush Sweet Charlotte. And not in a good way.

My only quibble was with Catherine Zeta Jones (I know I’m not alone because I’ve seen the reviews). Sorry, but Catherine has way too much sex appeal to playimgres.jpg Olivia de Havilland convincingly. And she, unlike all the others, never aged throughout the series. This might have been deliberate, maybe a fun choice for the writers, but it honestly felt just weird.

Karma is a Bitch

My understanding is that Ryan Murphy intended the plot points in Feud: Bette and Joan as commentary on how opportunities and roles for women in Hollywood have both changed and remained the same. It’s also about missed opportunities: Two powerful women, at the expense of their petty egos and professional jealousy, drive their own downward spiraling destinies.

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In my mind, however, this feud boiled down to choices. Karmically, there’s a good reason why Olivia de Havilland is still kicking it in Paris at 100 years old. She wisely bowed out of the game gracefully, leaving no blood and all goodwill behind to pursue the rest of her life, as valuable as any movie career. By contrast, the series illustrates how the choices that Bette Davis and Joan Crawford made in life, relationships and movies affected not just their lives, but the lives of everyone they were supposed to love. And as Feud: Bette and Joan shows us, this turns out to be the most fascinating plot point of all.

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My Beautiful Life

Anyone who keeps the ability to see beauty never grows old.
Franz Kafka

The Power of a Pedicure

The beauty industry knows something that I’ve only recently come to appreciate: There is power in a pedicure.images.jpg

Everyone has a friend who, in the midst of chaos is happening around them, will indulge in something frivolous. You know the type: When there’s an earthquake and the electricity is out and pandemonium in the streets, they will go and get their hair done. Or, maybe it’s the BFF with limited resources who has several small children to feed who blows her entire food budget for the month treating herself to a sushi dinner. Or, if there’s no chaos around them, there’s always the girlfriend who will simply HAVE to get her nails done, even though she just got them done a week prior.

Why? For no reason other than it makes her happy.

I used to scoff at such behavior, believing myself to be a practical, reasonable human being. Now, however, I see there is a method to the madness. There’s something hopeful about continuing on in the face of potential uncertainty and adversity, as if nothing adverse is going on. Grasping and clinging to what feels good and comfortable distracts from the underlying knowledge that perhaps things are not so great, not so secure.

Grounding in Ritualimgres.jpg

Being a low-maintenance girl, my beauty ritual gets less and less consistent as the years go by. These days I’m more inclined to choose comfort over creating a wow factor, opting for ballet flats over sky-high heels.

Recently I attended a focus group on a popular skin care product, knowing I have no real issues with my skin other than the inevitable loosening of the facial muscles. The women participating in the group were of “a certain age”. They were discouraged and skeptical. They had been trying, unsuccessfully in most cases, to slow the aging process with creams, masks and rejuvenation products. Few, if any, saw tangible results.

And yet they are part of the demographic that keep trying, keep buying, spending thousands of dollars on products that basically do the same job as an egg white, apple cider vinegar, a rare steak and a dollop of extra virgin olive oil. When asked why, most conceded that it temporarily made them feel as if they were still trying, making an effort to erase the wear and tear of time.  The women who had money felt it was a good emotional and physical investment. The women on a budget felt the treatments were a treat. In either camp, the consensus was that keeping themselves together made them feel good, raising their self-esteem.

Looking around the room, I could also see that at least half had their nails done professionally. Another investment, another treatment. Having spent the majority my childhood  at the hairdresser all day on Saturdays, the idea of spending more time in a nail salon never appealed to me. I do my own nails and it shows.

Beauty is (sometimes) imgres.jpgin Eyes of the Beholden

What most intrigued me was that, of all the women in the room, only a couple would qualify by Hollywood standards as remotely pretty. The rest appeared attractive at best, plain at worst. Perhaps in their youth they turned heads, but in middle age, the inner beauty didn’t radiate any more than their outer appearance. A few of the women expressed in depressed, angry terms that they felt invisible. They only felt validated by society or a significant other. If men don’t notice them they don’t feel they have any self-worth. A single participant, not the most attractive but possibly one of the more polished, stylish women in the room, positively embraced her age and appearance, saying it was natural to age. Might as well embrace what comes with it. She was just happy to be alive. And then she asked, why would you want to turn heads? Aren’t you married?

Loving What Is

At the end of the session, I had a strong urge to change my nail polish, dye my grey hair and buy some new clothes. I went home and realized that I only one colored nail polish (the other is clear), all of my clothes are worn out, out dated are don’t fit and I am running low on hair color. I began to panic a bit…could this be why I’m not engaged, married or otherwise in a relationship? Is a makeover in my future?images.jpg

Perhaps. Hopefully, however, I’ve grown into the woman who has learned that no matter how many products I use, no matter what I’m wearing, the fact that I’m alive and breathing spiritually on the planet is the best and most beautiful gift of all. Because the better I feel about myself on the inside, the more beautiful my light will shine to the world.

May you walk in beauty.

Namaste.

 

Facing the Fire

This post is dedicated to my beloved father Leonard Ross
July 16, 1934-February 5, 2017

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When my Dad passed away a few weeks ago I was grateful: He lived long enough to see the dawn of a New Year. He was able to have his Thanksgiving Dinner, his Christmas dinner, his New Year’s fireworks and even his beloved Superbowl. He said his hellos and goodbyes. He lived purposefully and died peacefully. It has been a privilege to love him and to know him. 

The Opening Door

When one door closes, another opens they say. I hope so. This has been a surreal time in my life. I’m trying to find my moorings in shifting sands. And I’m not used to feeling this level of insecurity. It is palpable.

My father, an inventor among other things, used to say he got every morning and challenged himself with what he wanted to accomplish that day. This ritual sustained him through a lifetime of successful and not-so-successful missions and adventures. And in my mind that is the backbone of any fact-finding endeavor, any justice-seeking vocation. You don’t have to be a big splashy player to be heard…sometimes you just have to set an intention to be heard and let others find you. It is now that I listen to the lessons of my parent who looked toward each day as an opportunity to bring more love, more discovery, more understanding into his day-to-day living. Now, as I look in the mirror, my daily question becomes, “How can I make a difference?”

Looking Forward to the Past

One thing that grounds me in times like these is to review moments in hisimages.jpgtory. Over the last several years, I’ve become a big documentary fan, gravitating toward stories of people whose singular lives have impacted the lives of others.

Recently, I had the opportunity to screen I Am Not Your Negro and The Lost City of the Monkey God.  Two more different films you will never find. One is the biography of the brilliant, once famed but now fading in history story, of James Baldwin told in his own voice. The second is a post-production wildlife documentary film based on a best-selling true story about a group of adventurers led by Steve Elkins, a cinematographer and explorer, and Doug Preston, author and writer for The New Yorker.  Together they assembled a quasi-professional team of rogue cinematographers, researchers and archaeologists and spent a couple of decades trying to penetrate seemingly impenetrable jungles in Honduras and Nicaragua. Complete with a mysterious malediction, the story follows them through to a discovery filled with artifacts from a long-lost indigenous civilization…and then a quasi-personal tragedy as they experience first-hand the real-life, deadly “curse”that wiped out an entire population. imgres.jpg

In my mind, it’s not such a stretch to draw comparisons between the subjects of these films. Both are personal stories. Both illustrate the struggle of people trying to enact change in circumstances where the odds were against them. The through-thread for me is the passion and persistence in Baldwin’s voice as he writes to find the truth while Elkins and Preston used technology and the media to uncover not only intellectual truths but also definitive, concrete results.

Facing the Fire of the Future

imgres.jpgWhen confronted with the unknown, we always have a choice:  To move forward toward what is possibly fearful and uncertain or to hide, run and duck for cover. There’s no judgement on which road to take; one only hopes there is an awareness of the consequences. Where we feel compelled to take action, we face the fire of life, the heat of the battle, because we feel we have no other choice, regardless if there is actually another option.

In I Ain’t Your Negro James Baldwin embodies the idea that he had to be heard. He was a son of a minister, black, poor, gay, emasculated. He demanded to be treated as a man despite what society was telling him about himself. He confronted what he felt was a vast, white, anonymous audience, eventually leaving the country for his own safety and well-being. Still, he shared his story with the world. And in doing so, his books gave all nationalities, all colors of people, the inside of him, the truth of what it is is like to be in his shoes. And so we who read his works became witnesses and collaborators in his cause.

By contrast, in The Lost City of the Monkey God Steve Elkins and Doug Preston’s journey is one of desire. Yes, they had a story but it wasn’t necessarily theirs to tell. And in fact, mainstream researchers and historians tried very hard to stop them, saying they weren’t legitimate archaeologists and so had no business digging up the history of indigenous people for material gain. And yet that didn’t stop them from believing and striving toward finding a way to educate and enlighten the world, releasing a burden that had overshadowed a tribe of people for hundreds of years.

Karmic Victory in Action

For every action, there’s a reaction. This is Universal Law. Even in victory, the war can continue on. James Baldwin is having a rebirth because someone saw his influence during the Civil Rights movement waning and decided that the truth of today’s world is worryingly beginning to backslide into the America of Baldwin’s time. After uncovering The Lost City, its team of adventurers continue to struggle to help the country maintain and protect the integrity of the archeological findings.

There is no recipe for making a mark in this lifetime. You can strive and strive and still not see an immediate result. But as my father, James Baldwin and The Lost City crew found out, you can get up every day and try to make sense of what’s in front of you and what’s inside of you. You can throw a pebble in a pond and know the water will ripple. You can add your voice to the choir and know the volume and tones will swell. You can join hands with others and feel the collective rise up and connect. You can also get up in the morning, make your coffee and complain about having to work that day. Or you can get up, wake up and ask yourself how to make a difference in the day and see how the Universe rewards your actions.

A subtle shift in perspective perhaps. But I would deem it a worthy one.

Namaste.

 

 

 

Birthing An Activist

“There may be times when we are powerless to prevent injustice, but there must never be a time when we fail to protest.
Elie Wiesel

I’ve never signed so many online petitions in my life.

Less than two weeks into the new presidential administration and I’m already firing off emails and sitting in on conference calls so that I can better understand the rapid-fire changes in policy that the current U.S. government has unleashed on our country.

(Note that throughout this post I will pointedly refrain from using anyone’s actual name so as not to give them additional psychic fire to fuel what on the surface looks like insanity).

You may be one of those people who passionately marches and supports causes dear to your heart.

I salute you.

I am more of the lazy armchair type, the person who gets riled up and then forgets why I was so heated to begin with. Once a battle rages on for too long, I will admit that I get distracted, turning my short attention span to other pressing issues.

“Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot,
Nothing is going to get better. It’s not.”
Dr. Seuss, The Lorax

So it shocks me that I’ve managed to stay this engaged with the un-presidential antics of this campaign. Sure, the guy I didn’t want to win, won. I’m over that part. But it is almost as if he began rubbing his hands together in glee, tweeting, “And let the games begin!” Whatever agenda is playing out seems to have no sense of consequence, just a serious desire to wreak havoc in the most dramatic way possible.

From what I’ve read, many of the government and political players have changed and will continue to change. That’s not what’s new. In fact, even though some of the current policies put forth sound horrendous, they are not new either. The attention paid to them is simply conducted differently. And with different leaders in place, of course the concern is that the outcome will change things.images.png

I’m not even mad at the incumbent for leading with his strongest skill set. Being a ‘deal maker’ is not bad skill to have in government. Being a liar and a poor communicator, however, is a liability in any field.

“You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.”
R. Buckminster Fuller

I’m no longer opposing the current administration. I’m turning my energy toward something more positive and uplifting, something that will enable me to remain engaged, concerned and involved in my country. Little does the current president know that his residency has given birth to something in my heart that I hope never leaves: The right to fight for my country and my countries freedoms.

So let the games begin.

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