Category Archives: movies

A True Mirror; because “individuality REALLY IS all it’s cracked up to be…”

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It’s a glorious morning. I’m completely socked in a cloud. It’s fifty-five degrees and breezy. The deep green treetops float above the mists like the Isles of Pandora. Heavenly.

Last night I watched the movie Avatar for the first time. A friend had used it as metaphor the other day, and I had to admit to being the last person in ‘Merica who had not seen it. I had not been interested when it was released, and to be honest, I was as disappointed as I expected to be. It was pedantic and oh so predictable. I wonder if James Cameron got a kick-back from the US military, because as a piece of recruitment propaganda it was outstanding. Let’s give the director the benefit of the doubt and assume that is exactly the result he was going for. Had the overly emphasized theme of good versus evil not been so blatantly pounded into us however, the beauty of the animation might not have made it to the big screen.

My friend’s heart was in the right place. It is a fabulous illustration of the out-of-body experience: the work we do while our body is sleeping is never to be taken lightly. The first thing I do when I wake in a strange place is to look down at my hands and feet to see what this body looks like. Next I regulate my breath, and quietly observe my surroundings as best as possible. But sometimes I’m in the middle of war or natural disaster or chaos of some sort. Then you just GO! and figure it out on the move. Quantum leaping is not for the faint of heart. Of course, I’ve never trained for this, or consciously asked for it in any way. God knows I’ve tried to resign. But on some level, in some reality, my soul signed up for this work. Some intelligence somewhere decided I was up to the challenge.

And that was my friend’s point – that sometimes we take a hit for the downtrodden or the oppressed, and it hurts here, when we wake in this time and place. The lifetime we live now is but the tip of the iceberg of our full soul’s experience. It’s hard to remember that when my heart is breaking.

This brings me to the idea I have tried to reconcile much of my adult life: the ongoing argument of PURPOSE. Many loved ones are struggling to “find” their purpose, to “live their purpose”, to fulfill their purpose.

Honestly, it makes me a bit crazy. My friend was right about the best scene in the film:

“We will see if your insanity can be cured,” says the wise leader.

My hope for curing the insanity of my culture is that we can give up this erroneous idea of purpose. I don’t have a purpose; I AM A PURPOSE. I breathe purpose. I embody purpose. WE ALL DO. It is not the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. It is not a goal. It is not a job. There is nothing to find or figure out. You cannot miss it or fail at it. It is not your gift – YOU are the gift.

If we don’t SEE that, then we don’t SEE each other. And until we see each other there will always be an enemy without. There will always be a war. And Heaven will always be a fantasy.

This woman knows. She makes a business out of telling us:

“Who would not go on a little further were it given him to know the way is short and Heaven is the goal?” – ACIM

 

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you can do what you want…

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Friends often hear me say, “On the road to enlightenment, I’m taking the local.” Recently I told someone that I was not interested in spirituality. Least of all in “spiritual” people. They’re so screwed up. Everyone wants to talk about listening to your intuition…living authentically…living your truth. News flash: we all hear our intuition all the time. I am so much happier when I’m not trying.

Pablo Picasso said “Artists live out loud.” They do. They really don’t have much choice. You ignore the direct line God put in place to communicate with you, you’re gonna get unhappy fast. Or dead. They live with their heart on their sleeve, raw, because the process of creativity requires being present…and it creates it…and it requires it…it’s a way of life. All artist’s are making a living. Some of them even make money in the process.

In The Artist’s Way, Julia Cameron recognizes that “going sane feels like going insane at first.” She is acknowledging that when we finally decide to honor our inner knowing, people react badly to our being less available to THIER needs.  This is all the same thing, folks: we are a culture so enmeshed in the HABIT of being co-dependent that we are driving ourselves nuts. We are people-pleasers. We make decisions out of fear and need. Damn we are needy! I’m right there, every day, asking myself what I really want. That’s the pivot point where the healing occurs, what A Course In Miracles calls the Holy Instant: split second, gut reaction, yes to this, no to that.

“I wanted only to try to live in accord with the promptings which came from my true self. Why was that so very difficult?” – Herman Hesse

God is not someone separate from you trying to lead you or guide you or trip you up if you don’t comply. That way of thinking will mess with your head, make you old before your time, or at least miserable today. It will keep you constantly dealing with poverty and disease. Stop asking to know God’s will. It’s hard-wired in. Really, stop trying to figure this out.

Just BE. Make mistakes. Rant and rave. Sob uncontrollably. Breathe deeply. Scream like a banshee. Play like a kid. Make art. Never mind if it’s good or bad – that’s none of your business. Just BE already. That is how we practice loving ourselves.

“God has no secrets. He does not lead you through a world of misery waiting to tell you at the the journey’s end why he did this to you.” – ACIM

The Power of Not Knowing, or, how to Navigate the World with a Sense of Humor

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Artist, author and American icon Maira Kalman says “I love my empty mind.” Meditate, let go, empty, repeat. Michael Strang writes about this practice in The Surrender Experiment. It’s a way of life that requires courage. It’s The Artist’s Way.

In the movie Trouble with the Curve baseball scout Gus Noble is losing his sight. But he can recognize great talent by hearing “the pure sound.” I’m not much for sports movies of any kind, but I loved this one and Million Dollar Arm. They’re as much about life as baseball.

“It’s Space. It Doesn’t Cooperate.”

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It seems that perhaps I do have a story to tell after all. And I am only now figuring that out for myself; perhaps beginning to glean some worth in the mess, some reason to tell it. All of my adult life people have said that I should write my story, and all of my adult life I have dismissed this suggestion as frivolous, egotistical, and frankly, boring.

Embarrassingly, I note that the most recent blog post here was September of last year, nearly ten months ago. Shortly thereafter I “went south” (sounds like I’m on vacation) – my personal term for sinking into depression and withdrawing from all but a few close soldiers. This recent willingness to risk sharing again was sparked – as inspiration is – by the funniest little thing…a photo in a magazine article about a cottage restoration. God works in mysterious ways. Actually, I think God works in any way available, whenever there is an opening.

There I was, reading my favorite blog, drinking my morning coffee, looking at pretty pictures…the blog, Content In A Cottage, (wish I’d thought of that name!) is an almost daily hit of inspiration about life in a small space. Rosemary Beck is a realtor, a middle aged woman like myself, and has shared the huge recent losses of her Mom and her beloved dog, Webster. But she has found a rhythm that suits her in posting often and briefly, sometimes by simply sharing what someone else has already written. Today it was a picture of a cute house with a link to an article in Gardens And Guns Magazine. Well! First of all, I would never subscribe to a magazine with the word guns in the title. It made me laugh right off though, thinking of Will Thacker in Notting Hill, posing as a writer for Horse and Hound.

This article is so well written by Allison GLOCK (God has such a great sense of humor) that I want to read it again. I think it would have been delightful even if it hadn’t been about my favorite subject. The transformation of the house is inspiring, the result altogether enchanting. But, (and isn’t there always a but for me?) frustrated and grief stricken by over sixty years now of not being true to myself, some of the photographs brought tears of sadness and disappointment. Everything that interests me seems bittersweet at this stage of my life. And there – in that split second where delight and discouragement co-exist simultaneously and rises up to shock and surprise us – THERE is the crux of any meaningful story. There, for my son and all the others who live in that juxtaposition, is the gift I will continue to explore in my writing. Because only there do we have a choice to make – that can, and does, effect our future.

That photo showed “freshly cut olive branches” in a vase on a table. That was all it took. The tears could not be denied. My olive trees are gone. I still miss them. Years ago now, my then husband and I drove up to a house we were looking at to buy, and five twisted old olive trees bowed noble along the drive, the stubborn sentinels of a long ago orchard. They were FULL of Cedar Waxwings. I knew immediately this was my next home. It was magic. I fell in love with those trees the longer I lived with them. The leaves were soft green on one side and silver underneath. Thomas Jefferson said “the olive tree is assuredly the richest gift of heaven.” That quote, cut from a magazine years prior, was glued into one of my notebooks. I had always wanted olive trees.

One day I drove home from work to find the olive trees gone, leveled by my husband and a chainsaw. Stumps. “Messy old junk trees,” he called them. I was devastated. I couldn’t talk, and went straight to bed. I had no inkling he didn’t like the trees; never knew they were in danger. Never had a chance to defend them. I knew the Waxwings would not come again. But the real tragedy took hold slowly over time. To this day, my now former husband doesn’t know I loved those trees. I couldn’t tell him. I couldn’t trust him with my heart. I knew he would become defensive and angry, telling me how ridiculous and unreasonable I was being over stupid old trees. It was, of course, also about more than the loss of the trees. It was about not being considered in that decision. I knew then that they were never our trees. They were his. This wasn’t our home, it was his. It took a dozen more years, another move, and many more heartbreaks before I would leave. It took my greedy silence and selfish denial a lot longer to surface before I would come to realize this path of stoic silence was a death trap for my soul – and that I was worth saving.

In the movie The Martian, there is a scene when astronaut Mark Watney must launch himself into space without a ship or any safety mechanism, and soon he will either be rescued and go home, or he will die. Either way, he will never be the same man who left the earth on this adventure. He can’t go back. After fighting for survival all this time, you watch the dawning of this realization move across his face – that this has all been immeasurably precious, each terrifying, hard and painful moment he has endured. Precious. And he cries. Seldom has a movie caused such a response in me. I, too, experienced the moment with him, of despair and terror and elation and hope – all at once. The crux. The “bleed through”, as Nadine calls it, between life on earth, and the Kingdom of Heaven. The Holy Instant, A Course In Miracles calls it. Whatever you may call it, know that these precious moments will come again and again until we live in the “bleed through.” Because life, like space, does not cooperate.

For Faith.

So Many Different People To Be…

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It’s been nine months since my Dad passed away. As time is a fickle and irreverent companion, nine months took but one beat of my heart…and some days take an eternity. I sure do miss him. If you’ve read past writings here about my Dad you know that he was a larger than life character…I love the movie Big Fish with Albert Finney and Ewan McGregor because it reminds me of him, of us. He was also not prone to express his emotions. I suspect much of his generation had no language for it. So in many ways it seems I am getting to know him better in his absence than I did in his presence.

After he died I found pictures of him as a child that we never even knew existed. What a cute kid! Do you ever look at childhood photographs of yourself or your loved ones and see the utter sweetness in our faces? And I don’t know about you, but often at night, in the vast dark silence, I still FEEL myself AS that little kid…I AM still her…perhaps that is always true for us all.

People sometimes ask me why I put up with so much from my family. Did they not see those photos of THEIR family? We are all innocent here. In the end we must give up our beliefs about what the past meant. We must forgive them…we must forgive ourselves. We must. I’m not saying it is easy, or that it means we allow any further abuse. We draw a line; we turn to face the dragon, we pound our staff and declare to our pain, “YOU SHALL NOT PASS.”

Off to BE the Wizard…

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As the new year begins, I too have a resolution. I am taking Edwene Gaines’ 21 Day Challenge: to fast from complaining for twenty-one days – the length of time psychologists say it takes to change a habit. Complaining is a bad habit. Addiction specialists tell us that the easiest way to overcome any bad habit is to replace it with a healthier one. And so, I will begin each of the 21 days by listing at least eight things in my life that I am grateful for. It’s a wonderfully sneaky exercise as it starts you thinking in terms of gratitude…and you tend to keep thinking this way throughout the day. I’m so grateful someone else figured that out for me…

I’m on Day Three today, and I have a big confession: I have done Day One over more times than I can count. You see, if you slip up you must start over the next day. If you know me, you find it remarkable that I’ve made it this far! Meaning, of course, that if I can stop complaining, ANYONE CAN STOP COMPLAINING!

But I am putting my “money where my mouth is”…as Edwene says in her Four Spiritual Laws of Prosperity. It’s time to walk the talk. My friend Nadine gave me this book for Christmas (grateful.) IT JUST WASN’T THIS CHRISTMAS! It was a year ago. That should give you a hint about what I’m working with here….sheeeeeeez….but in my defense, the book was packed in a box for months during my  l o n g  move (not complaining) and I just re-discovered it. With prompting from Nadine…

Last week Nadine sent me this YouTube video which reminded me that I had that book around here somewhere. I invite you to listen to this Yoda in the form of a munchkin…and follow the yellow brick road with me.

“The more you complain, the longer God lets you live.” -unknown

With Tuppence for Paper and String…

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I don’t know about you, but I see an awful lot of myself in P.L. Travers. The uptight intellectual snob who wrote Mary Poppins fought with Walt Disney over creative rights for twenty years. She needed the money, but she was utterly opposed to her beloved characters frolicking in a musical –  lest they be made to seem trite or unimportant, powerless. Sometimes a push is needed to allow truly magical things to happen that would otherwise never come into the world. It allows for healing to take place. I suspect that is true of all art. It gets away from the artist and takes on a life of it’s own.

To this day this is one of the best selling stories of all time, and I know why. It speaks to us all, to overcoming heartbreak and becoming powerful again, to healing. Heroes come in so many unexpected ways, don’t they?!

For my dear Dad and my beautiful sister Shelly, who both played piano and sang the soundtrack of my childhood.

Growing Up is Hard to Do…

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This happens to be one of my favorite scenes from one of my favorite movies, the very romantic comedy, The Holiday:

“You’re supposed to be the leading lady of your own life, for God’s sake…” I think it’s one of my favorite movie scenes because I have spent thousands of dollars and hundreds of hours in therapy trying to learn some common sense – the common sense that says: if you are trying too hard, stop. Just stop. You checked your self-respect and integrity at the door of Narcissist Land. Pick them up on your way back out – running!

My life has been changing rapidly these past few weeks. In transition now for the past couple of years, I hope to be able to settle soon into a new home in a new city, and begin a new life…it is terrifying and exciting. With the impending move, an acquaintance is becoming a friend, and she is going through a painful breakup.  We are examining our addictions to emotionally unavailable men, and reflecting on our co-dependent behaviors. Blah blah blah…there’s THAT ugly subject again.

But I am more intensely -and consciously- dealing with my loneliness as I distance myself from close proximity to the alcoholics and addicts I LOVE…some of my closest family and friends. According to Melody Beattie of Codependent No More, I am not an enabler…I am a Master Enabler. And having just celebrated my sixtieth birthday, it is time to grow up…insert here Neil Sedaka singing…but replace the word BREAKING with the word GROWING! That’s a gas, man…

“It is not easy to find happiness in ourselves, and it is not possible to find it elsewhere.” -Agnes Repplier, The Treasure Chest

“The light has come.” -ACIM, Lesson 75

For my darling women friends, and my dear new friend…she knows who she is!

Daylight Come and We Wanna Go Home…

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Life in a human body is pretty terrifying much of the time, isn’t it?! I woke at four a.m. this morning in a state of terror, as I often do. I am talking physiological adrenaline rushing hot nauseous get to the toilet my life is being threatened terror. Not panic – this is not your run of the mill anxiety attack. Xanax won’t help this.

Is my life being threatened? Only by stress. I will spare you the tedious list of accumulated problems, but in fact, I am not in any immediate danger. I do not have any life threatening disease. I am not going hungry. The wolves at the door are virtual…my brain and body, however, are taking the information fed them daily from the onslaught of difficulties, and creating an emotional swamp of harmful interpretations…

Pardon me, but fuck this shit.

At this rate the miss-interpretations themselves might kill me. At four in the morning there isn’t anyone to call…and so, I do the only thing I can do: I turn on the light, sometimes several – and chase the demons by reading from The Course in Miracles. I know some people can get solace from reading the Bible. It doesn’t work for me. This does. Something in these pages seeps in through the heart pounding terror and the tears blurring the pages and slows the effects…even though, most of the time, I don’t understand a thing it is talking about.

The itchy hotness becomes a comforting warmth…my heart rate steadies…I begin to notice clues in my immediate environment that would indicate danger is abated – like my dogs are snoring. And slowly my body begins to relax, and then finally I am in the world…but not of it. Love wins.

This is freedom. The goal, of course, is to live in this state, whether danger is real or imagined…whether pain is physical or psychological, whether the words make sense or nothing does. It takes practice…and it’s the only game in town. This is the science of magic! Sometimes, I even get my sense of humor back…daylight come and we wanna go home…

“You’ve Had the Power All Along, My Dear…”

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I am an artist struggling with where I belong in the world. I am an artist like Isabel is a witch in the movie “Bewitched”…like Vianne is a gypsy in Chocolat…like Sally in Practical Magic…it is no use pretending to be anything else. Of course, these are movie characters and I am not. It is much harder to actually try to live outside of your nature on a daily basis.

These movies are hilarious and poignant in their depiction of  women trying to fit into their surroundings – to be something they are not – because the world is afraid of their power. Every mature woman on this planet knows all too well what THAT feels like. This is why movies about witches are so successful…(that’s my working theory…)

I don’t remember drawing as a young child, but my Mother told me I began to draw as soon as I could hold a pencil…long before I started grade school…I entertained myself, my younger siblings…I explained my world.

But these days I struggle with everything: my health, my emotional intensity, my house on the market, my financial stress…I no longer know my place in the world. I don’t seem to know much anymore…(but I know everything you never wanted to know about moving as my house is for sale!) I am displacing my elderly Father who has become increasingly more difficult to live with. What made me think this could work? I couldn’t live with him growing up, and left home at fifteen – albeit to boarding school. That was an ultimatum that I presented my parents with, by the way. I announced one day that I WOULD BE leaving home now – they could help me with that, or I would simply disappear from their lives and make my own way in world (ha!) As it happened, I confided in my friend Laurie Miller about the abuse going on in my home, and asked if I could stay at her house for awhile…her parents took me with their family on vacation, and when we returned home to Trenton, her grandmother had scheduled me to take an entrance exam at Kingswood Cranbrook School for girls.

I started a few weeks later. I went to school twelve hours a day and took every art class I could, including any at the Cranbrook Academy of Art that the instructors would let me audit. It was HEAVEN to me, as close to Hogwarts as you can get in the real world. My parents agreed to send me if I would come home two weekends a month and TRY to get along…you see, I was the problem.

As it turns out, I have always BEEN the problem. But as Glinda informs Dorothy: “You had the power all along, my dear.” Finally – FINALLY – at the age of sixty, I’m done compromising. Pretending to “get along” was killing me. Too bad it seems to have come down to them or me! But so be it…

I’m going back to being an artist. I don’t know where I’ll live or how I’ll eat or pay the bills; apparently I don’t know how to play well with others, heck, maybe I’ll die…or maybe, the life I have left will become worth living. Ich habe genug.

For Anne-Marie.