Archives for Shannon Cutts

Emotions

When is it Okay to Celebrate Yourself?

A couple of months ago, I wrote a post about a movie I personally didn't much care for....along with my reasons why.

I felt my points were valid - although I certainly didn't expect them to speak for everyone. After all, there are plenty of people who like things I don't like - movies included.

In this, I also expected to hear from folks in defense of the film (which I did).

What I didn't expect was to hear from folks who perceived my positive identification with the perseverance and eventual triumph of the film's main character to be narcissistic.

One reader in particular commented:

I found this [post] highly narcissistic to be honest. I ‘made it out alive’ so why can’t (oh I mean won’t) you mentality. I hope you didn’t hurt yourself patting yourself on the back.

I didn't mind her honesty one bit, and I commented back to that effect.

But I did mind being told that congratulating myself publicly for a hard-won personal victory was narcissistic. That stung.

So first I looked at whether it stung because some part of me thought she might be right. Am I narcissistic? 
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Inspirational

I’ll See You in My Dreams

I'll just say this up front - it is awfully hard for me to admit I liked any movie that made me cry this much.

And while sometimes I need "a good cry" as much as the next person, I didn't on this particular day.

Yet even with all this stacked against it, "I'll See You in My Dreams" turned out to possess that rarest and most ephemeral of all cinematic qualities - total authenticity at the heart of a tale of fiction.

As I grow older (45 this year - wow!) I find I have less of a craving for that famous quality provided by so many films - total escapism.

I think this is because, these days, I have lots of ways to escape if I want to....and a correspondingly reduced desire to escape in general as I realize more than half my time here has likely already flown by!

So the outcome is that sometimes what I crave most in a film experience is something much less easy to come by - the affirmation of what is real.

And by this I don't mean knowing answers to common trivia questions or being able to recollect my multiplication tables (I had a hard enough time remembering those on the first go-round!)

What I mean is the affirmation of a realness of life that is both totally messy and totally worth it.

What I mean is a map pointing towards the intersection of grief and gratitude, tears and smiles, complete with instructions for how to find it again from, well, anywhere.

What I mean is a dip into the depth of a totally worth-it life being fully and well lived...that also just happens to be BYOB and ends in approximately 120 minutes. 
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Animal Mentors

A Choice Between Safety and Survival


Last night I started watching a new BBC series called "Hidden Kingdoms."

In this series, little wild beings like mice and beetles get their 15 minutes of fame as the camera takes a look at what it is like to be tiny and totally on your own in the wild world.

For instance, if you are a sengi, or elephant shrew, and you are not even as big as one toenail on the giant creature you are named after, how do you cope when that same giant creature lumbers by and obliterates the trail-based safety system you worked on all morning (and your whole life, really)?

If you are a sengi, you rebuild the trails, of course.

But then what if lightening strikes in the African desert right near your trail system and you have to run for your life?

What then?

The answer is surprisingly unpleasant...for both the sengi and BBC's viewers. 
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Animal Mentors

The Sheep, the Wolf, and the Sheepdog

For some reason, ever since I heard the movie was coming out, I have had a real eagerness to watch "American Sniper."

If I'm being honest, this reason probably had a lot to do with Bradley Cooper (who is - in my opinion - both uncommonly talented and uncommonly good-looking).

But as I started watching the film, I was captivated by much more than just its star.

In fact, the moment I knew I was hooked was a scene early on, when Chris (Bradley Cooper), his younger brother Jeff, and his folks were all sitting at the table eating. Jeff was getting picked on at school, and Chris had intervened.

At first, the boys' father misunderstood. He thought they were just beating up on others because they could. So he took off his belt, and told them a story.

There are three types of people in this world: sheep, wolves, and sheepdogs. Some people prefer to believe that evil doesn’t exist in the world, and if it ever darkened their doorstep, they wouldn’t know how to protect themselves. Those are the sheep. Then you’ve got predators, who use violence to prey on the weak. They’re the wolves. And then there are those blessed with the gift of aggression, an overpowering need to protect the flock. These men are the rare breed who live to confront the wolf. They are the sheepdog.

Their dad went on to explain that he wouldn't tolerate any sheep or wolves in his household. When the boys explained what had occurred - that Jeff was being beaten up by bullies and Chris intervened - their dad asked Chris, "Well, did you finish it?" Chris nodded.

That was the end of that.

As I was popping around here and there online while writing this post, I realized this story resonated with lots of viewers. I am glad.

I too want to be a sheepdog....even on the days when I feel like a sheep, and even on the days I desperately wish I was a wolf instead.
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Animal Mentors

How to Know You Really Love Animals

It says "To Shannon, love Jack Hanna." :-)

Back in May, I got to meet legendary zoo director and animal activist Jack Hanna.

He even signed a cool postcard to me - addressing me by name.

At the time, I was pretty confident we were meeting as equals - two fellow animal lovers who simply choose to cohabitate with different numbers of non-human companions (me, 2; Jack, 200? 350?).

Then...
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Mentoring

How to Join the Peace AND Prosperity Club

When you read today's post title, you probably thought to yourself, "That sounds great - sign me up for that club!"

And I agree - I'd like to join too!

But here's the thing - at least in my own journey to date.

I can remember back to when I had plenty of prosperity (like in my first white collar job).

But at that time, I had no peace.

So I couldn't join the club.

Now, I can say I have more peace than I ever expected to have - in fact, I have so much peace now that even on true anxiety-producing days, I can usually find my way through it and back to the peace.

But the prosperity....where is it?

So I still can't join the club.

So now my new goal is to acquire plenty of both so they will finally let me in.
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Emotions

Cutie and the Boxer Teach Me About Love


So I finally got to watch "Cutie and the Boxer."

At first, I was hesitant.

The title sounded....ominous (just substitute "Big Bad Wolf" for "Boxer" and you'll see what I mean).

Then I found out one of the lead characters paints with boxing gloves.

"This I've gotta see," I thought to myself.

Very quickly, I realized the boxing, like most everything else in the film, is like a Buddhist koan, or paradoxical statement, that so intrigues and distracts the mind the heart can finally pop through to nab its own five minutes of fame.

Sort of like what happens when you realize that the film about art you are watching is really a film about love....and the most challenging sort of love at that.

I LOVED this film! I mean - loved it.

What is not to love about a love story that feels so real it could be your own? 
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Good News

The Secret to Sustaining Happiness


Many years ago, I was sitting on the floor of an ashram, wearing what looked (to the westernized me at least) a lot like pajamas.

Our lesson that day was about happiness - how to find it, how to hold onto it.

Our teacher explained, "People will fight so hard to get rid of pain, suffering. But when it comes to joy, they think it should just come to them and stay all by itself."

Since that day, I have never taken my own happiness for granted. 
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Animal Mentors

The Birds of Pandemonium


Granted, now that Pandemonium Aviaries is a 501(c)3 nonprofit, Michele has lots of volunteer help. But no one knows better than a fellow nonprofit founder (aka moie) that the pressure to do more, and do better, never ever stops.

Not to mention that - especially in the early years - she faced a rather staunch brotherhood of exotic bird breeders who overall hadn't much use for a gal with a soft heart for the injured, abandoned, neglected, misunderstood, and otherwise traumatized cast-aways in the exotic bird world.

But none of that stopped her. 
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Celebrity Mentors

What Would Judy Say?

My mom sometimes likes to check out library books for me to read.

Recently she presented me with a particularly unexpected selection: "What Would Judy Say? A Grown-Up Guide to Living Together with Benefits."

I have watched Judge Judy on TV for years, but I'd never really taken the time to get to know the woman behind the show.

Well, my loss! Judge Judy is UH-mazing!!

She has the coolest website called "What Would Judy Say?" where she tackles issues as diverse as cancer and divorce, child custody and roommates, finding your passion and (obviously) living together outside of wedlock.

Now, to clarify, I am not currently living with anyone outside of wedlock or otherwise - except for, of course, my 14-year old parrot, Pearl, and my 13-month old tortoise, Malti.

But I have in the past, and if I did so again, I would follow Judge Judy's advice to the letter - especially the parts about taking care of what my mentor calls "my own side of the street."

Judy would call this "no joint anything."

I call it planning for my own future....whether or not my significant other will or won't plan for his.

The thing I like the most about Judge Judy is how very, well, grownup, she is about it all.

On the reverse side of her book, she shares an African proverb:

Only a fool tests the depth of the water by jumping in with both feet.

Maybe you are nodding your head right now (I was when I first read it!) But I have done this....I have jumped in with both feet, sometimes even thinking myself brave as I did!

Later I found out testing the water with one foot would have been both wiser and braver....and would have likely required far fewer band-aids.

The truth is, while there is plenty of drama in Judge Judy's television courtroom, little if any of it is coming from her.

And while she can appear brusque or sharp at times, I have always sensed a deep underlying compassion - a kind of "get over it already life is short and if you don't get unstuck now you'll just have to get unstuck later!"

There is something else I didn't know until I read "Living Together with Benefits."

Judge Judy has been divorced twice - and one of those times was to the man she has since remarried (and is still married to), Judge Jerry.

She has definitely had her share of heart aches and heart breaks.

She has five children and 13 grandchildren.

She is not someone who sits on the sidelines, watching and listening to - and often, um, judging - others' choices, and then writing about them.

She has lived what she writes about - which is to say, she is a mentor I can much more readily trust. 
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