Sunday, April 25, 2010

In the Facebook of Judgment

I started using Facebook only a little over a year ago (I'm always a late bloomer!). Prior to I had absolutely no interest in participating in one of these social forums, and still don't outside of Facebook. I finally decided to start a page, thinking it could help build my freelance business, which I had just started at that time. I'm honestly not sure that it, so far, has done much in the way of business, but I have surprisingly enjoyed it very much on the personal socializing front. I have come into contact again with many people from my past and also stayed in better touch with some of the people from my present. I am often very bad at consistent communication with many people, so this has been a helpful tool for me in nurturing some of my relationships. Plus, I really enjoy taking those silly, little quizzes. :)

I never would have guessed this before, but Facebook has also been an effective tool in my journey toward complete authenticity. It basically provides a person with a format in which they can make daily self-proclamations, humorous, serious, strange, or whatever you like. I have used it many times to shed my inhibitions and let people know the real me. If you've read some of my other blogs, you'll know that that has not always been easy for me, due to having a low self-esteem. Now that it has improved greatly I'm beginning to get more and more comfortable in shedding my onion layers and letting people see my stinky core! Only kidding . . . well, sort of. It really has been helpful for me to show more of my authentic self, and to be okay with that. Whether or not other people are happy about that is yet to be discovered. :)

I'm going to be very honest here . . .
since exploring this playpen of Facebook, there have been many instances in which I wondered if my attempts at authenticity were indeed a good thing. And I think there may be a couple others on here who have wondered the same. There are some people, myself included, who use Facebook to make social commentaries about the world -- politics, media, religion, etc. Not always, but often these comments lead to more comments from friends, and sometimes to arguments. I have been a participating party in many of those "discussions." At first I tend to think, "Okay, this is good. People are being honest and sharing ideas and viewpoints . . ." And then as they sometimes mutate into more heated discussions, where one or multiple parties involved seem to have become offended and/or hurt, I begin to wonder, "What was the point of this anyway? What did this accomplish?"

Anyone else been privy to that sort of scenario? Do you ever question yourself and your involvement or feel any guilt over it? I do. But I pretty much question everything around me and in me. I am always wondering whether or not I did the right thing. I guess I do not have the luxury of automatic self-assurance. And honestly, I'm not sure that I would want that. A little self-doubt is good for everyone. Although, I'm quite sure that I take that to a fallible extreme.

Because of the nature of Facebook, it is all too easy for words to be misinterpreted, taken out of context, or misused. We don't have the addition of facial expressions or body language in order to help us completely assimilate the true and intended message. I have done this many times . . . utterly misunderstood what someone was meaning to say. At times, the original poster could possibly have been a bit more clear, but other times it was simply due to my own filters and assumptions. I do not ever mean to do so, but I admit, I sometimes jump to broad and far away conclusions. For any of those friends whom I have done that to, I am truly sorry. Please know that it was not my intention.

Giving one's opinions is a tricky business. As Bilbo would say, "It's a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the Road, and if you don't keep your feet, there is no knowing where you might be swept off to." (I find myself quoting Mr. Baggins of Bag End a lot these days for some reason.) Authenticity is a scary journey -- you decide to step outside of yourself, not quite sure where it will lead. You will make progress and you will stumble. But the trick is to always be true to yourself. I am trying to do just that, including in my communication on Facebook. I have spoken up more on there than I probably have in the rest of my life. Course, it is an easier place to do so; it doesn't take quite as much courage. But for me, it's a start.

For those of you who may not know . . .
I am a Christian. I grew up a minister's daughter, still am in fact. My political views are progressive and independent. I am, what you could possibly say, conservative in my lifestyle, but very liberal in my ideologies. I am an idealist. I am a paradox, always holding views that are seemingly contradictory on the surface. I am passionate, often intensely so. I don't believe I have all the answers, or even many of them. I realize that I have much more I can learn and am still trying to figure out many things. I believe that open-mindedness, tolerance, acceptance, and compassion are four of the most beautifully gracious and least-used commodoties in this world. I believe that people should be allowed to live their lives fully, how they feel they are meant to be, without having to be harshly judged. I believe in the capital "T" truths of the Bible . . . that it is not meant to be used as a book of facts, but rather a book of ideologies, guiding us to become better people. I believe that the things many people hold as absolutes are actually quite gray. I believe that all things are relative and must be taken circumstantially and within context in order to be understood. I believe that the Bible may be literal, may be figurative, may be somewhat both . . . and that there is no way for us to know for sure. I believe that there is no way to prove or disprove God's existence . . . I choose to follow out of faith, not fact. I believe that absolutely anything is possible, and that no one can convince me otherwise.

As you can see, I don't fit very well into any demographic's views, especially the ones that I am surrounded by, namely the midwestern Christian demographic. It's probably quite obvious to you now why I've been involved in several Facebook "discussions." I know that my views are perhaps scary to some, confusing, or maybe even downright offensive. I am not trying to offend anyone, only simply trying to express my perspectives and offer other ways of looking at things. I accept that I could possibly be wrong in every way . . . I have been wrong before and don't expect to never be wrong again. But I hope, no matter my rightness or my wrongness on any issue, that I treat others with the respect and compassion that they deserve, even if I am not receiving it from them.

I admit, I am quick to anger. The anger itself is not the problem, but it is my sometimes heated response that is one of my faults. Nothing angers me more than when I feel there is intolerance or self-righteousness. Partly because of my genetic make-up and partly because of my experiences I have grown rather hypersensitive to these qualities. And I am sure that there have been times when I, trying to combat self-righteousness, responded with my own level of it. But one credit that I will give myself is that I am willing to concede to the other side at times. And unfortunately, I have come across a number of people who do not ever seem willing to do the same. And that is a difficult frustration to overcome.

For those who may not understand where I am coming from, or where someone else in your life is coming from who has expressed frustration over intolerance and the like, I will do my best to explain. It is difficult being in the minority. No, I'm not an ethnic minority or even in a religious minority. It's nothing like that. The minority that I am in is a minority of thought -- a minority in outlooks or viewpoints. I am a liberal Christian surrounded by mostly very conservative Christians. On the surface, it doesn't seem as though there is a huge difference here, but trust me, the gap is VAST. And to be the one that is different is both immensely frustrating and exhausting. I won't assume to know how you feel or from where you are coming. For all I know, you may find yourself in a similar predicament.

But there are many people out there who do not yet understand. Some do not understand what it is like to feel this way because in their whole lives they have been surrounded by people just like them, both in background and in worldviews. They assume that most people they encounter, especially if they are also a Christian, think and believe EXACTLY as they do. They have lived in a very homogenous world and have not had to be challenged. I'm sure many of these people, if not most, mean no harm and have no intention of placing judgment on those who differ. I don't think they're terrible people. I just think they don't understand, often times because they've never had to. And perhaps a smaller group of them don't understand, and don't even try to.

I have very frequently felt stifled and not free to be myself outside of my immediate family and a handful of friends. I always knew my views were different. Everyone else seemed to feel very free to express their's and I often did not. I felt as though differing views were not welcomed, and were sometimes even demonized. There were a small number of times when I dared to voice my opinions, and luckily some of those people did still accept and love me. But there have also been plenty of times when I have been judged and felt the sting of self-righteousness. There have been times when I have been looked upon as an inferior Christian, an inferior person. Each time this happened I allowed it to stifle me again. And after so many years of feeling stifled you begin to create a volcano-complex, ready to pop at any given moment. You can only stifle your true self for so long before it begins to eat away at the crevices of your soul. It took me many parts of my soul to be chewed off before I had enough. And now, this is where I am at . . . trying to be myself, vulnerable, open, and naked.

I am a fallible being. I know that I fail to be my "best self" many times. I continue to work on that -- to be authentic, gracious, tolerant, and loving, even in the face of intolerance. And I hope that perhaps all of this can help some others to understand those of us who have had a little more trouble in taking that first dangerous step out of our doors.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

The Prodigal Poet

There are days when I love writing so much that I just can't seem to get words out quickly enough to satisfy the inundated crevices of my soul. And there are probably far too many days when I hate it -- I hate the way it feels, sounds, tastes . . . I hate the way it taunts me and chastizes me for not being more clever and witty. Writing is really a love/hate relationship. You don't do it simply because you love it. You do it because you feel you have to -- that you will cease to be
you if you don't.

I've talked plenty about how I discovered that writing was my life-calling when I was 9 years old, writing my first book of poems for the Young Authors Contest. I had never felt such satisfaction before as when I first put pen to paper for that very first poem, titled "Mothers." I will probably never aptly articulate just what that moment meant for me and what it did to me. I was hooked. I was lost and gone forever in a world full of words, symbols, plots, rhymes, and meter.

Writing made me feel alive and more like myself than at any other time. I've shared how my confidence got slaughtered during college with my writing, and how afterward I didn't read or write anything of substance for a few years. Well, now that I've been reunited with both, it feels like my long-lost friend has returned. Or rather, that
I have returned to it -- the Prodigal Poet. A large and prominent part of me is back from a long journey into darkness. And like the Prodigal Son's father, I welcome it with open arms, unconcerned about what took it so long.

Despite the lovely welcome-home party, the frustrations with writing never end. I'm finding my voice again, and hopefully strengthening my craft each day. Now my problem is trying to find an audience that is interested. I'll be honest, I find myself very often frustrated in feeling that no one is terribly interested in what I have to say. And there are other people in the world, that never studied the craft, that maybe don't even love it, that don't have much talent for it, but yet have an endless audience. It's difficult to not feel jealous of that. I know I shouldn't concern myself with what accolades other people are or are not getting. It's not for me to deem their worthiness.

Every writer wonders for whom they are writing . . . themself, others, God, etc. For me, it's a combination of them all. For myself I write to live out my passion as a creative outlet, to vent, to help form my identity, to ponder every question I can think about of the world and spirituality. For others I write to offer something with which to relate, to offer comfort, humor, or insight. And for God I write because I believe he has given me a passion that I should use however I can to make the world a better place.

The motivations for writing are never black and white; they are a complex, ever-swirling pool of questions and doubts, both colorful and dark. I don't think most writers are ever fully satisfied with their work. There always seems to be something that we can do better, something we can change. I sometimes wonder if all writers are masochists . . . at least, I seem to love beating myself up, maybe that's just me. :) But despite any of the criticism or self-doubt, we come back to our first love. It will always draw us back into its arms, cradling us and reminding us of why we fell in love in the first place.

Last week I completed ghost-writing an e-book for a client on her experiences going through cancer and the all-natural path of healing that she chose. This is my very first paid-for writing gig. Finally, my degree in writing is beginning to manifest in a very real way. It may not be a widely published book, but it's something. And something is better than nothing. It's a first step, hopefully, to making my writing dreams a reality. I don't know how long that will take, but I'm ready to begin.

I know that my writing is not going to be everyone's cup of tea. My style and my views are probably not going to be attractive to a lot of the people I know. Unfortunately (and in some ways, perhaps fortunately), I don't fit neatly into any certain category, genre, or audience type. I suppose my writing is more for people that are a little more like me, a paradox. And that's going to be perhaps a more difficult niche to find. I am hoping that someday I can find it, where I can offer something of value. For now, I'll try to remind myself that not everyone has to "get" it or like it in order for it to mean something. I'll try to remind myself that before I ever concerned myself with praise, attention, and acceptance, I fell in love with the words. And no matter how many times I may stray into the darkness again, they will always be at home, waiting with open arms.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

The Oblivious Shopper

CAUTION: The post below is a little bit of ranting, a tad bit of raving, and a tiny bit of hostile aggression. Read at your own risk. (Sarcasm intended).

I don't know about you, but I hate shopping . . . yes, I'm a girl that hates shopping. We do exist! There are many reasons why I don't like this national female high-inducing pasttime. When it comes to clothes, I get depressed because I feel fat in everything, and nothing fits that perfectly because I don't have a perfectly proportioned body. When it comes to household items, I feel hassled. It's really just a chore, not a recreation. And when it comes to gifts, I find myself wandering around for that elusive, outstanding and most glorious present that just never seems to materialize. That's why I do basically all my gift shopping online. Plus, I can find thousands more things online than I ever could in stores, at least without having to hop around to a dozen or more.

The biggest reason that I hate shopping, however, is . . . the PEOPLE. I hate crowds. I hate chaos. Let me put it bluntly: if you laid a hammer in front of me and told me to choose between smashing my own fingers and going for a stroll through the mall with a bunch of teenage girls talking on their cell phones . . . I'm going to have to say goodbye to some digits. My problem is that I have a larger required radius of personal space than apparently does the average person. I find my magic circle of comfort being irreverently invaded every other minute.
Take for instance, the other day when I was in the checkout line at Wal-Mart. I was waiting on a couple people in front of me, and another couple people got in line behind me. No big deal. But then one of them, a teenage girl, crept up behind me, stomping through my personal barricade, nearly able to create breath on the back of my neck. Okay, now big deal. As my husband can tell you, this sets me off. I roll my eyes, somehow hoping that a small lift of the eyebrow will bring me peace and tranquility once again. I usually sigh heavily and mumble to myself, knowing all the while that I'm too chicken to actually say anything to any of them. In my head, I have all of these wonderful obscenities that I dream of using. But, I know I never will.

The other problem that I constantly have is the shopper that's always nonchalantly strolling through the middles of the aisles, stopping in the middles of the aisles, and then not moving when you come along looking to quite obviously attempt to pass. HELLOOOOO!!!! 2 + 2 = MOVE! The other day, during the same shopping trip at Wal-Mart I turned to enter a new aisle and immediately stopped when I saw that on the left side were two women with a cart, stopped, and talking to a man with a cart on the right, also stopped. Unfortunately aisles were not built for the width of three carts, and there were no go-go-Gadget wheels for me to trigger so that I could send my cart off rolling high above their's. I stopped and waited for one of them to move. I was three feet away and right at the end of the aisle. No movement. Okay, I'll give them a few seconds, no need to rush. Chitter, chatter . . . no movement. Uhhh, dude, I'm right in front of you, not moving! Hello?! Seriously, 30 seconds later, the guy on the right finally moved, sort of. Well gee, thanks very much. Hope I didn't put you out!

Oh, and the kicker is that when I passed by them, the younger girl said to the guy, "So, what's your name again? Oh, well call me sometime okay!" I guess the aisle was blocked due to a pick-up in-the-making. Look, I know you're trying to flirt and everything, but that doesn't mean that you get to be oblivious to the rest of the world. Maybe next time I shop I'll try out these tricks and see how they like it.

Oblivious shoppers . . . my biggest pet peeve! I always stress myself out when I shop because I'm going about it as if I'm implementing a football play strategy, always planning out my moves twenty steps ahead. I'm literally trying to strategize my movements to avoid running into people, because they obviously are not paying any attention to whether or not they are going to bump into me. I often still do run into people. I did the other day, and I always smile and say I'm sorry or excuse me. I try to always make eye contact with the person to make sure that they know I mean what I'm saying. The sad thing is, so many of them don't even respond with a look, let along a word or two. The other day several people looked at me as if I had just insulted them. Weeeellll, didn't know I was the only one at fault here! Guess I should have shuffled aside and bowed until they passed to offer my deepest gratitude for gracing me with their presence.

Ughhh, I really need to stop caring about these people. I let myself get too frustrated with them. It's difficult for me because I am overly self-aware, and they are so . . . not. I just don't understand people like that. It's foreign and doesn't compute in my system. It's like trying to translate colors into numbers; it just doesn't work. Hopefully you are not one of those oblivious shoppers. I'm sure most of them are decent people. But if you are, watch out, because I just may . . . scurry out of your way and roll my eyes in your general direction! :)

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Self-Esteem, PCOS, and All That Flab: Part 4

* This is part 4 of a series of posts that explore my struggles with self-esteem, weight, Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome, and the very difficult task of trying to be my fullest self in a world that constantly demands more than what I am. Because this subject is so vast and most of my life has been spent swimming in its waters in some form or another I thought it best to break it up . . . also so as to not bore you to death!

Some of you may not be able to relate, but I hope that you will find it interesting anyway. And perhaps you will be better able to understand someone in your life. Some of you may be able to relate and I hope that you will know that you are not the only one -- that the journey may be long, but progress is progress. Remember that no matter how small it may feel, you still are not the same person that you were yesterday. And that is something to celebrate!

For Parts 1, 2, and 3 please scroll below . . .

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

I hated gym class. It was the bane of my existence in junior high. In elementary it was fun, but after that it just became 50 minutes for me to feel like a fat, pasty freak with purple, blotchy skin under the unforgiving fluorescent lights, hanging a couple stories above me. It was honestly a nightmare, especially when it came time for showers. I couldn't imagine a worse scenario: me forced to expose my inferior body in front of twenty other girls, half of whom were thin, tan, acne-free, and confident. I did everything I could to avoid it. I would use tons of deodorant and perfume, hoping that it would serve as an acceptable substitute, fearing that someone would notice how I never got in the showers and would relentlessly taunt me with disgust. I couldn't win: it was either be made fun of for my body or be ostracized for my hygiene.

I've often wondered how many other girls in my class or in my grade felt the same way I did, or if they even chose also to forego the showers out of shame. If there were some others I couldn't tell. If they existed they were better at concealing it than I was. One of the defining characteristics of bad self-esteem is that you often feel alone, and I was no exception. Even though I knew better, I often felt as if I was the only person who winced at the sight of their own body in the mirror, who wrote poems of self-loathing, or who wondered each night if there would ever be someone that would love me and think that I was beautiful. My head knew better, but my heart was very . . . silly.

One of the most unfortunate side-effects of having a low self-esteem is that you live a very self-absorbed existence. It's not the typical form of egocentrism, but it is egocentric, nonetheless. It is self-absorption in the opposite direction -- in the negative sense. Everything that happens around you is a confirmation that what you do and who you are is not good enough. In reality, probably very little is actually about you, but when you think you are the most pathetic thing on the face of the earth, then suddenly you are able to connect the most unrelated of subjects. Hey, that takes talent! But unfortunately, it does nothing to serve you well.

* * * * * *

Back to the gym . . . in seventh grade I had the blessing of being in a gym class with several of the most popular girls in the grade -- girls that I couldn't stand. One in particular really made me boil, since it appeared that she had it out for me for some reason or another. She would often make pithy comments to me, pointing out one of my deficiencies but masked in a seemingly benign question of curiosity. One of these such questions was during a gym class while we were nonchalantly playing a game of basketball. Remember the afforementioned first boyfriend in fifth grade, from Part 1? Well, he went on to junior high and high school as one of the top dogs in our class. He was very popular and very liked by all the girls.

This girl came up to me casually and said, "So, like, I heard you went out with _______ for like a month. Is that true?" My initial reaction was, "Okay, well, like, um, it was like, um, THREE months!" And then I wondered, why is she asking me this? Why does she care? I quietly just said, "Yeah, in fifth grade." She paused for a split second, raised one eyebrow, and smirked as she trotted off, mumbling, "Mmmm, hmm." Then I realized, she asked me because she couldn't possibly understand how that could have been true . . . how one of the most popular boys had gone out with one of the nerdiest girls. Whether she believed me or not I could not tell. Whether or not she shared that information with the other girls, I don't know. But I'd be pretty naive to think that she didn't. I mean, come on, she was a thirteen year old girl!

I'm sure this girl doesn't even remember this little incident. It was an inconsequential moment that was probably forgotten as quickly as it occurred. But for me, it was stored into my vast vault of confirmation that I was deficient and unworthy. For a long time I harbored resentment toward those girls who I was jealous of and who treated me less than kindly. But I have come to understand that by doing so I give them power over me. I give them control over who I am and how I view myself. I have learned to let go and forgive since those days. And I have even come to believe that they maybe weren't as bad as I thought they were. Maybe they weren't as kind as they should have been at times . . . but they were kids. And most likely, at least many of them, have grown into kind and caring adults. Maybe not . . . but I don't need to worry about that.

* * * * *

Nearly every moment of my life during those years I was worrying about what people thought of me, if I was pretty enough, thin enough, smart enough, talented enough, outgoing enough, interesting enough, liked enough . . . I spent all my time, all my days, worrying about whether or not I WAS ENOUGH. And you know the sad part about it all? My answer was always . . . NO. I often even wondered just how good enough I was in the eyes of God, the one being that was supposed to love me unconditionally. I couldn't even accept that. I couldn't fathom how anyone in their right mind, even God, could love inferior, incapable, inefficient, little me.

People often say that unless you love yourself, no one else can really love you. I don't believe that's true. I hated myself for many many years. And you know what? A lot of people still managed to love me. I'm sure it wasn't always easy for them to love me, but they did. Now perhaps a more accurate theory is that unless you love yourself no one can FULLY love you. Think of it like the blooming of a flower. You can give it lots of water, sunshine, and special fertilizers to help it grow strong and beautiful. And any of these offerings will show signs of its nourishment. But the flower cannot fully bloom unless it has rooted itself deeply within the soil. Until then the flower will always be a lesser version of itself, never completely blossoming into its fullest self.

That is sort of where I am . . . trying to blossom into my fullest self. I am on my journey to self-actualization, as the psychologist Maslow termed it (hey, I gotta use all those years of studying psychology somewhere, right?). It's not an easy road, this pathway of authenticity. In fact, it's sometimes scary, at times depressing, and very often frustrating. Not everyone will like the real me. Not everyone will be happy with the changes. As my dad says, I'm changing the contract. And as much as I hate all of that, I know that I have to do it. I don't care about the color of my petals, the size of my leaves, or even how beautiful of a blossom I will have . . . all I care about, is that I fully bloom.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

More Below the Surface

I've been listening again to the soundtrack to "Lady in the Water," possibly my favorite of all of M. Night Shyamalan's movies. I know, it was pretty universally panned as being terrible. But why should I care? I loved it and that's all that matters. I love it because it's simple. I love it because it's beautiful and tender. I love it because I can see and feel the heart and soul that M. Night put into making it. I love it because it's fanciful and whimsical. I love it because it's a creative way of doing a modern-day, allegorical fairytale. I love it because it's honest.

My working theory is that the people that hated it, do so because they don't know how to enjoy something with childlike love anymore. Or that they are far too "cool" to suspend disbelief for just a moment. And the rest, well, they were just upset that M. Night took out some personal aggression on the in-movie film critic. Yes, I can see that there was definitely some pent up frustration there. But I can understand why. As a writer, albeit an unprofessional one, I can fully understand that feeling of frustration when someone doesn't "get" your work. When they just don't see a point to it and don't really care to try to find one.

I see M. Night's point in "Lady in the Water." I suppose it boils down to purpose -- the purpose that each person has on this earth . . . that they sometimes don't know what it is, how to live it out, or if they even have one to begin with. We all need to feel as though our lives mean something -- that we were put here for a reason, whether it be to do something great, or something quite small, but still just as important. Purpose is what drives us, makes us feel hopeful. And it is what gives us comfort that despite all of the hard-knocks and despite all of our mistakes, that maybe, just maybe, we will somehow create something good out of all the bad.

Each of the characters had a vital role in the story. Some even had titles, such as The Healer of The Protector. But each one, no matter how small a part, was necessary to the events that transpired. I have to admit, Paul Giamatti's character was my favorite. But that's partly because I adore him; he is one of three of my favorite actors, the other two being Johnny Depp and Gary Oldman. One of these days I'm going to have to expand that list to four favorites, and create a nice, comfy spot for Sir Ian McKellan.

Paul Giamtti is wonderful in this movie. He is kind, quiet, lovely, and broken. He is the sort of man who you may not know has seen real tragedy . . . you may think that he is just a loner, someone that has little to say and is mediocre to the core. We've all seen people like that, or that we at least THINK are like that. There is not much memorable about them. Cleveland Heep is like that . . . easily dismissed. It makes me wonder just how many people I have dismissed in my life, or how many people have dismissed me. Probably far too many on both accounts.

Cleveland wasn't always this way. He used to have a family, a job as a doctor, and a regular home, instead of the small grotto-type house sitting next to the aparment complex pool. He used to be engaged in the world and alive. But tragedy has a blunt way of taking away your oxygen -- cocooning you from connections.  Cleveland's family was murdered by someone that broke into their home.  He was a doctor and could not save his own family.  Can you imagine how much guilt you would have for that?  Your profession is saving people's lives, and the only ones you couldn't save were the ones whom you loved the most. 

Cleveland had retreated from the world after that, creating a lonely existence in which no one knew his real story, until Story, the water Narf, from the Blue World, who has been sent to "awaken" someone meant to greatly affect the future of humanity.  Story was the first one who learned of Cleveland's past and true nature, by reading his tucked-away journal that recounted all of his dark and long-held secrets.  When Cleveland finds Story reading his journal he takes it from her and, bent over, cradles the journal against his chest, asking her to please never speak of this again.  

That part gets to me every time.  The way he holds it so tightly to his chest as if by her reading the journal she has somehow cut him open and he is now trying to hold all of his organs inside of him again.  There is almost a fetal-like quality to it -- a certain security from holding the body close to itself.  There have been glimpses before about who Cleveland is, but not until then do we discover what immense pain he has been holding deep inside him.  

That pain comes out beautifully near the end of the movie when Story has been fatally wounded by the Scrunt.  The woman who was believed to be the healer held Story's limp body but failed to reverse the effects of her injury.  Finally it is realized that the true healer all along was Cleveland, whom was originally believed to be the Protector.  Cleveland cradles Story's body in his arms, much like he did with his journal, and begins to talk to her, telling her how much she means to him.  Suddenly, without saying it, he begins talking to his family that he lost, telling them how sorry he is that he couldn't save them.  

He sobs, releasing years of pain.  I absolutely lose it in this part of the movie.  I have never seen a more genuine and beautifully gut-wrenching cry in any other movies or shows.  Paul Giamatti is amazingly honest and vulnerable.  In this movie, he is just about the most endearing character I have ever experienced.  

This is Kevin's favorite M. Night movie as well.  After it was over, I remember we were both emotional, drained, uplifted, and did not say anything for a few solid minutes.  We were so overwhelmed with . . . oh, I don't even know what exactly.  It stirs a lot of different emotions in us.  But the one that I can pinpoint is hope.  And this the music also beautifully exemplifies.  There is something so hopeful about this movie that I can barely describe.  I get swept away in it, wishing that I could live in this world.  There is hope in this world.  Hope that all things can be made right . . . that people can be selfless enough to follow a crazy whim and try to help someone else . . . that there is some kind of magic in the world . . . that even the seemingly most insignificant people can do something great . . . that each person is more than they know.  Afterall, isn't that what all fairytales come down to in the end . . . realizing that you are much more than what you always thought?  Perhaps there is a little of the Blue World in us all . . .

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Spring Musings

It's springtime, and like everyone else, I am glad. Although, the reason that I am glad is not because I hate winter, snow, and cold weather. On the contrary, I adore all of those things. In fact, if I had to pick a favorite season, I would probably pick winter . . . call me weird. I love each season as it comes -- each season in its due time. The reason I am happy to welcome back spring is for three things: the smells, leaves once again on the trees, and THUNDERSTORMS!! Yes, that's right, I love storms. I am pretty much infatuated with all bad weather . . . storms, snow, wind, cloudiness, etc. The only thing I do not enjoy, however, is driving in them.

Springtime really pulls out the Transcendentalist in me. I like to channel my kindred spirits of Emerson and Thoreau. I suppose most people would say that nature is the thing that most inspires and rejuvinates them. So I won't say that (even though it's true), because I hate being just like everyone else. So instead, I'll say, that nature exxagerates my poetic soul, prompting me to want to write more than normal.

I have a lovely memory of my third or fourth year of college, when I was taking my American Poetry course. I went to the park one day, in early spring, and sat on the grass reading my designated assignments. Reading poetry never felt like an "assignment." I read Frost, Dickinson, and Crane . . . rubbing my toes in the soft, smooth hairs of the ground. It was fairly cloudy that day, and I loved it. I remember hoping that a storm was coming soon.

* * * * *

This morning, as I was walking our dog, Desmond, I saw bumblebee hovering over the grass. I internally shook with excitement when I dorkily thought, "It's moving like a Landspeeder!" For those of you that don't know, a Landspeeder is the vehicle Luke uses in Star Wars when he is sent off to find the newly purchased droids, R2-D2 and C3-PO, so that he could get back and run off to the Toshi Station to pick up some power converters! Okay, geek-out is over . . . sorry. All these years of being a Star Wars nerd and having two older brothers tends to take control of my mind-to-mouth or brain-to-fingers dynamic at times.

* * * * *

I think of my mom when I think of spring. It's her favorite time of year, when all things fresh and green come sprouting out of the ground, speckling the landscape with long-forgotten colors and fragrances. It's rejuvenating for her. I think it makes her feel as though new and wonderful things are on the way. It's hard not to when the buds begin popping up on the bare, well-rested branches and the breeze turns warm, brushing past your cheek. It's hard to not be in a good mood with all of that. Spring suits my mom . . . it is cheerful, optimistic (but not in the obnoxious way), and is full of hope. And neither get the full appreciation that they deserve, as spring is all too quickly apprehended by summer heat and humidity.

* * * * *

Spring makes me think of the end of school drawing near, even though I no longer am in school. I still sometimes get that feeling of freedom coming closer, of care-free days and little responsibilities. Ahhh, yes, I do miss that very much. There really is no such thing when you are an adult. There is never such a definitive end to the responsibilities. That is often depressing, if I think about it concretely. Spring doesn't mean quite the same to me as it used to. But that's okay. I've just about come to terms that I can never go back to the way things were as a child. I've just about gotten the Peter Pan complex beaten out of me . . . almost. Although, I fear it will never be totally gone. And I'm not sure that I want it to. As much as it's caused me grief, struggling with accepting this whole "adulthood" thing, feeling like I'm never quite caught up with the rest of the world . . . I have a feeling that if it were gone from me forever, I would feel an incredible sense of emptiness. It is precisely my inner child that keeps me going. Without it I would simply be a muddled mess of issues. My inner child is the thing that gives me joy, of the most true and unadulterated kind. It is my inner child that makes me feel like me.

* * * * *

Spring . . . just one transition, one passage . . . till the next has arrived. And I am glad to experience it. Hopefully I can find much delight in the simple fact that all is well . . . flip-flops are once again appropriate attire. The windows can open. And the strawberries are looking deliciously crimson and plump. Some things should just never be taken for granted!

Monday, April 5, 2010

Today, I Am Not For You

Dust of the day

Light sometimes
Always clingy, magnetic, sure
Campaigning the status quo
Slow to retire, quick to spread
A swipe, a wipe
Smearing fragments till all is speckled
With the mess of the day.