Archives for Relationships

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

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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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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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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Emotions

The Introvert’s Temper Tantrum

As a true introvert, to stay as sane as possible after a lot of social time, it is not enough for me to simply keep company with myself (what others might call "alone but not lonely.")

I also need to specifically focus on refilling and refueling my inner self.

There are so many different ways to do this, but my preferred method is through meditation and sleep.

Through meditation, I can really feel my "self" - my individual presence - once again.

With breath, focus, easeful posture, and a deliberate calming of the mind, I can more quickly and easily decompress, process, analyze, conclude, forgive, let go, do whatever I need to do to "come back to center" again.

Through sleep, I retreat into the deepest inner spaces of "me," and while often even I am not sure where those places actually are, I know I have been there when I wake up feeling relieved and refreshed.

In other words, just going home to be alone and watching television or reading won't cut it.

Doing this may delay the inevitable - what I call the "introvert's temper tantrum" - but it won't prevent it.

I can feel the temper tantrum start when I begin losing patience with the smallest, simplest things....often these are incredibly minor events like dropping birdseed on the floor or spilling my coffee.

From there, slowly but surely, the irritation level within me rises, sort of like an emotional flood that has just passed its safety mark.

If I don't stop to tend to myself through meditation or sleep at this time, the flood waters will just continue to rise. 
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Mentoring

What Type of Perfectionist are You?

Just when I thought being (or, rather, trying not to be) a perfectionist was already hard enough.....did you know there are now 3 sub-types of perfectionists?

Oh yes.

A new study published by the Journal of Psychopathology and Behavioral Assessment reports in on the evolution of perfectionism, revealing in greater detail what perfectionism looks like when turned on one's actions, one's self, and others.

3 Sub-Types:

Self-perfectionists. You set high standards for yourself.
Socially oriented perfectionists. You think others set high standards for you
Other-oriented perfectionists. You set high standards for others.

The first type tends to be the healthiest - if you can use the word "healthy" and the word "perfectionist" in the same sentence. These folks are best able to maintain a healthy balance between self-focus on focus on others, and their sense of humor reflects that.

The second type tends towards self-deprecation, anxiety and depression. These folks do struggle to see others as three-dimensional beings in the midst of their concerns about self.

The third type is the one with the dark side, where perfectionistic standards are turned on others, often in ways the researchers term "the Dark Triad" (narcissism, Machiavellian motives, psychosis). Any interest they may display towards others has a purely self-serving focus.

The researchers are careful to point out that "people can be high on all three subtypes or they can be high on two or just one.”

I don't find that statement quite so reassuring as I suspect they think it is.
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Mentoring

The Real Story Behind Whiplash

Yup.

Former career-minded musician that I used to be, I finally watched the movie "Whiplash."

I had been told to watch it because I might be able to relate from my own years of intense musical practice.

In this, my best friend in particular warned it might have a "few scenes" I might find disturbing.

After about five minutes, I assumed she was referring to all the scenes.

I loathed this film from the start.

I hated everything about it - from the inaccurate portrayals of drumming and musicianship, to the seeming decision by screenwriters and producers alike to skip over meaningless steps like fact-checking jazz history, to the gratuitous displays of vile meanness that are already so prevalent in society today. However, in the midst of all this, one important actual fact did stand out.

In the opening scene, we meet the main protagonist, first-year aspiring jazz drummer Andrew Neyman.

Neyman desperately wants to rise above the mediocrity he sees in his family and those around him. To achieve this, he practices until his hands literally bleed.

His drive attracts the attention of the story's main antagonist, Shaffer Music Conservatory conductor and bandleader Terence Fletcher.

As a teacher and mentor, Terence Fletcher is as vicious and abusive as it gets. He quickly singles out Neyman for special attention.

At first, young Andrew seems to fold under the pressure. But then he surprises us (or at least me) by coming back for more....and more....and more.

Somewhat late in the development of Andrew's story, a minor character named "Sean Casey" is introduced.

We don't ever actually meet Casey...this is because he is dead by the time we first hear his name. 
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Mentoring

Seeing the Light in Dark News

A few days ago, I got a pile of news all at once.

Some of the news was awesome.

Some, not so much.

But all jumbled up together, it felt challenging to organize which was which all on my own.

At times like these, I crave conversation with a certain type of person - that rare confidante who can look into the jumble of seemingly conflicting information and reliably pull out the light. What I learned from sharing this last jumble with various confidantes is that this is a rare gift....or perhaps a skill...or both.

In other words, not everyone has it - and those who do have it tend to be rarer than those who don't.

I have also learned that often parents don't have it - at least when it comes to their own spouses, parents, kids, pets, and grandkids.

In other words, just as my worry setting seems permanently stuck on "high" when it comes to Pearl, my parrot, and Malti, my baby tortoise, my own parents exhibit the same for me.

So if I share some good news and some bad news with my folks - for example's sake, let's say it is an unexpected sudden reduction in my freelance income - my mom, as self-appointed SpokesParent for them both, will translate that in her head to mean, "My daughter is going to be a homeless bag lady by tomorrow morning!!"

Then she will begin peppering me with questions and ideas (until, frankly, being homeless and living out of a bag begins sound both peaceful and freeing).

What is particularly ironic is that I DO have this gift for reliably finding the light in the jumble - or, in my case, I have this as a skill which I have consciously and deliberately developed for myself through much prayer, meditation, and daily self-effort.

I have taught myself to take in any news, and then instantly look for the bright spot in that news, no matter how hard it may be to locate.

For instance, let's say I am looking at the aforementioned unexpected reduction in freelance income. Instead of automatically heading towards "OMG - I'm a homeless bag lady!," I will say to myself, "How exciting! I wonder what kind of work I will be doing next! I'll bet it will be something even better than what I was doing until now!"

If - as such news sometimes does - it comes with compliments to myself included - I will read and re-read those compliments and allow them to soak in.

If there are no compliments I will compliment myself (after all, somebody has to do it.) 
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