Saturday, March 31, 2012

...and not a tu-tu in sight.

One of the things I promised myself when I returned from the desert was to incorporate more culture into my life. So Anna and I went to the ballet at the Kennedy Center tonight to see Ballet Preljocaj in Angelin Preljocaj's Snow White. Wow, is all I can say. The wicked stepmother wore thigh-high spike-heeled boots and a black bustier as envisioned by Jean Paul Gaultier.

In the program, the choreographer said everyone knew the story of Snow White, so he wanted to use the symbols to convey the story, "not the myth or the legend of Snow White," but the story of Snow White herself. He did a magnificent job, in my opinion. I'd gladly watch it again.

I was entranced by the wicked stepmother. Preljocaj says, "The wicked stepmother is without doubt the central character in the tale. She is the one who I examine through her narcissistic determination not to give up on seduction and her role as a woman, even if it means sacrificing her stepdaughter."

Well, I guess the power of this ballet is because of my particular developmental milestone in life (not that I would sacrifice any members of my family or meet clinical criteria for narcissism). Anna, on the other hand, found this whole event incredibly boring. "Mom," she said as we walked out of the theater. "Didn't you realize the prince was dancing with a dead girl? Gross!" I, on the other hand, found his grief heartbreaking and I marveled at the athleticism required by the prince and Snow White to convey the depth of love and sorrow he possessed.

On the way home, we listened to Anna's playlist on the iPod. She has two songs titled, "Wonderful." The first one is by Annie Lennox and I thought this was the one she woke up to in the middle of the night when I was in the desert.

"I want to have you 'cause you're all I've got..."

But she told me it was actually the second song by Everclear.

"Promises mean everything when you're little and the world's so big."

Anna said, "I loved the chorus so much that I played it 33 times in a row so now it's still the top of my iTunes list. No songs have beaten it yet."

I just want my life to be the same
Just like it used to be
Some days I hate everything
I hate everything
Everyone and everything
Please don't tell me everything is wonderful now.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

The Two Most Important Words? Me, Too.

This weekend has been interesting for the reading and viewing I've done in distinctly different venues, but on the same theme. The first video discussed regret. It's a human condition and we really need regret in our lives. As Kathryn Schulz says,
"If we have goals and dreams and we want to do our best, and if we love people and we don’t want to hurt them or lose them, we should feel pain when things go wrong. The point isn’t to live without any regrets, the point is to not hate ourselves for having them… We need to learn to love the flawed, imperfect things that we create, and to forgive ourselves for creating them. Regret doesn’t remind us that we did badly — it reminds us that we know we can do better.”

Regret, though, is frequently accompanied by guilt. Guilt happens to be a very protective emotion. As Brene Brown says, feelings of guilt are inversely related to such harmful activities as suicide and violence. That's not the same as shame, however. Shame is a distinctly deadly emotion. You cannot selectively numb emotion. It's like spot-reducing in dieting. It doesn't exist. Brown says that might account for the fact we are the most indebted, overweight, addicted cohort in American history. We haven't learned how to live with shame. We also haven't learned how to live with being vulnerable. To many of us, vulnerability equates to weakness.

It doesn't have to be that way. To be vulnerable means to be brave, to expose ourselves as being less than perfect, as not having the answers, being scared. I don't think it necessarily means fearless. The Latin root for courage is "heart." In Brown's research, the people who have been able to be most vulnerable are described as living whole-heartedly.

Vulnerability is the birthplace of joy, creativity, connection, loving, and belonging.

Brown says three elements must be present for shame to grow: Secrecy, Silence, and

In this article from Kyria, the author says we're locked in to cycles of hiding and blaming. I believe these can be traced back to shame.

To the degree you hide and blame, you will ruin the very thing that you most deeply desire. To the degree that you open your heart and give to the other, particularly in the context of some of your hardest moments, you will have the opportunity to develop true and lasting intimacy.

As Brown suggests in her talks, the antidote to shame and vulnerability is compassion. She says the most important words we can express to each other are "Me, too."

Alhough I blast La Roux' "Bulletproof" from my Rockford Fosgate speakers and loudly sing "burning bridges shore to shore...", it really is the last thing in the world we should do. That is, if we want to be loved and connected to others.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Why I Can't Stay in the Moment (or The Futility of Abandoning Expectations)

"Feeling better?" My colleague asked.

"Yes," I said. "I went to Confession."

"Is that a Wednesday thing?"

I paused. Was it a Wednesday thing? Confession was something I had done weekly on nearly every day of the week over the past year. "It's a Lenten thing," I finally said.

"Is Easter done?"

"No, Lent is the period leading up to Easter. Don't you know that?"

"Why would I know that? I don't observe it. My parents raised me Buddhist."

So I sat down and talked with him about how Buddhism had held a strange magic for me following our trip to Thailand.

Buddhism still has its allure for me: the smells, the rituals, the seeking. The control of emotions when faced with loss and the establishment of boundaries to avoid becoming too attached. In my readings on Buddhism, one writer said that to attain the highest level within Buddhism, one ceased being human. I suppose if one no longer felt, that might classify as non-human, but does the definition of human neccesarily need emotions? It is interesting that a commenter on a blog that cited this article, asked, "If a human succeeds in “ceasing to desire,” as Edelman puts it, he will suffer less, but will he also lose the ability to fully enjoy?"

What a relief it would be to be able to abandon expectations, to never feel disappointment or to disappoint others.

And in Confession, one of the things I asked was when does this detachment become pathological? When does willing oneself to not feel and setting boundaries become sick and maladaptive, and not spiritual? "That's a good question," he said.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Every Miracle Has An Aftermath

The sixth Sunday after Epiphany kicked off our Lenten discussion about when bad things happen to good people. The reading from Mark 1:40-45 was the perfect lead-in. When we pray for and receive miracles, this can bring about challenges we may not have predicted or prepared for.

When the leper requested healing, Jesus gave it to him and instructed him to keep quiet. The leper didn't, and Jesus lost his anonymity. But what happened to the leper? What was his life like after being healed? What, as Paul Harvey would say, is the rest of the story?

The only story that really appeared in a Google search about the aftermath of a miracle was this one:
“I do know when I was getting better in the hospital, it was the longest period my parents didn’t fight. . . . Maybe that’s why God put me through all this pain, maybe so they would realize they couldn’t be together anymore. They’re both much happier now."

“Suppose tonight while you sleep, a miracle happens. When you awake tomorrow morning, what will you see yourself doing, thinking, or believing about yourself that will tell you a miracle has happened in your life?”

Last Sunday morning following Communion, God let me know he had been there all along. That he hadn't left me bereft. It was such a relief after a long hard year of going through the motions, of pretending everything was all right. It hasn't been easy in the days and hours since those few minutes of grace, but they're a start and they're sustaining me. He loves me and he is enough.