Untamed*

I rise today,

All-powerful One

Mark the date and time

For I am done

I wanted to work

So I appeased

To follow my dreams

I scraped my knees

If you really don’t know

Somewhere deep inside

How wrong it has been

Then why did you hide

But this is not about You

You’re just one of Too Many

Time to change the conversation

To solutions, not controversy

Inspired by The Daily Post Daily Word Prompt: tame

*I am tired of the news stories re: the Harvey Weinstein “revelations” focusing on who knew what. Why no discussion of legal ramifications? It feels so insane that we hear about these people in power abusing their authority to sexually harass women (and men) and all they get is fired? Or it becomes a business story – how will the company go on? To me, the whole point is being lost. The conversation needs to be this: why does this keep happening and how can we, as a society, take responsibility for a culture that still allows for it and is somehow even supporting and creating it? Finger-pointing to individuals misses the bigger picture. I had to say something to find some sanity in this very dismal repeating story that keeps getting lost in the stories around the story.

Shallow Depths

Deep within
There is a certain part of me
Who stills believes
Life would be so much better
If I'd been born beautiful:
A super model, a movie star

Shallow, I know,
But that part of me's convinced
Nothing sways her
She doesn't care that you
Can't cherrypick and you'd get
All their shit too (and that we all have shit)

She is absolutely sure
To be adored for your looks
Would beat the rest
That being loved for a face or body
Is more than enough for her
And she won't hear otherwise

This part of me
Would make a deal with a thousand devils
It would sell my soul
For the chance to find out
If life really is better for the super stars and models

I've given up trying
To win her over to Self-Love Land
She cannot comprehend adult logic
So I hold her hand
And I say "I hear you," then lead her into the deeper waters to play

Inspired by The Daily Post Daily Word Prompt: shallow

Danger Will Robinson!

If you are old enough to get the reference of the title of this blog, you may share my opinion on the word “someday” because you’ve lived enough days to have noticed a few things.

If not, here’s some context. Will Robinson was a character on the series “Lost in Space” that ran in the 1960’s. It was long in reruns by the time I watched it: my high school friends and I would watch it on Saturdays, hungover, laughing at the campy melodrama. It had a robot in it, and in one particular episode, the robot warned Will of impending danger. (I also remember one episode where I think the robot actually said “take a chill pill” too, but we might have been playing a drinking game then so who knows if that really happened.) But I digress.

I believe that there are some words and concepts that are dangerous. “Someday” is one of those words.

An adverb, it is defined as: at some time in the future. As in: I know someday my whole family will be together and happy.

It is a word to hang your hopes on.  Hopes for dreams coming true: “I’ll be a star someday.” Hopes of people’s poor behavior righting itself: “Someday, they will treat me better.” Hopes of exacting revenge: “Someday, they will be sorry.” (These are completely random examples, of course. Totally random samples.)

Seems pretty innocuous, right? What’s wrong with a little hope?

The problem happens when you start living so much for “someday” that you stop living this day.

I know firsthand that it’s possible to live from a deeply buried “someday” mentality and not even realize it. To live floating so much on that hope of the ever-elusive day in the future that life becomes the way you so desperately want it to, that life becomes a stream of yesterdays that weren’t really todays at all because the siren call of “someday” muted the music of the moment. I couldn’t even see what was because I was so fixated on and attached to visions of what I wanted life to be. I landed shipwrecked on the boulders of la-la-land, which before last year used to be a term that described “a fanciful state or dreamworld.” To put it another way, I awakened to the ugly and hard truth that I was way off course.

Once I realized that I was living from this hidden “someday” philosophy, after the shock wore off, and the anger, I had to forgive myself. After all, I was conditioned to live the world of “someday.” I grew up on fairy tales filled with songs like “A Dream is A Wish Your Heart Makes.”

And “Someday my Prince Will Come.”

I literally took these songs to heart, and they shaped my view of the world.

I am not blaming Disney! (But there is something to be said about the powerful affect of replaying songs hundreds of times. Don’t they use that technique to break prisoners? Isn’t that a kind of brainwashing?) I love those songs.

But they promise. And “promise,” like “hope” and “potential, ” are words and concepts that can be used for the better or for the worse. They are potent. They are to be measured for use.

These days, I watch myself. I steer myself away from using words like “someday.” I practice gratitude for today, this present day. For what is, not what I wish will be. Yes, I have wishes and dreams. But I also have goals and action plans. I am not adverse to a little hope in my heart. I love me a Disney movie and sing those songs right along with the best of them.

But I live in today. My yesterdays are well-lived and appreciated. My tomorrows are what my todays become. They are the result of today, not the point of them.

My “someday” is now.

#livefortoday #carpediem

via Daily Prompt: Someday

Roots for a Generation

Inspired by The Daily Prompt: Roots

Growing up in the 60’s and 70’s, television was a profound presence in our home.

My earliest memories are of hearing the word “Watergate” being discussed on nightly news. I don’t recall images or specifics, but I do remember wandering through the room and the adults being very interested in the TV screen.

I remember loving Romper Room with every fiber of my being, awaiting the day when the hostess would say my name as she held her magic TV mirror up in front of her face at the end of the show, calling out to little viewers in their living rooms as if she could rally see us there. (If you are too young to have any idea of what I am referring to, this is what I am talking about.)

But the biggest television event from my youth (pre-MTV that is) was, hands-down, Roots.

Roots was a 1977 miniseries based on a book written by Alex Haley. It was the story of African teen Kunta Kinte, brought to America to be enslaved, and the generations of his family and eventual emancipation.
A remake was made in 2016, and it once again became a television event. But the impact it had in 1977 can never be repeated. It was a different time.
In 1977, it was pretty huge that network TV was devoting so much time to an African American story. And we didn’t have the internet. Our cultural exposure was limited to television, films, art and books. As a young person, television was pretty much all.
And to my middle class, fairly all-white community, Roots brought to full technicolor glory some of the stories that had only been read about (barely and I am sure very biased-ly) in our history books.
I remember clutching pillows and crying, feeling outrage and shock at the outrageousness of the treatment of Kunta Kinte and his family. My friends and I talked about what we saw on-screen at school the day after the episodes. It opened our little minds up to whole other realities of our history.
According to Wikipedia: Roots received 37 Primetime Emmy Award nominations and won nine. It also won a Golden Globe and a Peabody Award. It received unprecedented Nielsen ratings for the finale, which still holds a record as the third highest rated episode for any type of television series, and the second most watched overall series finale in U.S. television history.
Apparently, the making of the miniseries was quite controversial in that the executives are afraid it would bomb. The Museum of Broadcast Communications recounts the apprehensions that Roots would flop, and how this made ABC prepare the format:

Familiar television actors like American [sic] actor Lorne Greene were chosen for the white, secondary roles, to reassure audiences. The white actors were featured disproportionately in network previews. For the first episode, the writers created a conscience-stricken slave captain (Edward Asner), a figure who did not appear in Haley’s novel but was intended to make white audiences feel better about their historical role in the slave trade. Even the show’s consecutive-night format allegedly resulted from network apprehensions. ABC programming chief Fred Silverman hoped that the unusual schedule would cut his network’s imminent losses—and get Roots off the air before sweeps week.

— Encyclopedia of Television, Museum of Broadcast Communications
 All important to examine today, and I am sure there are wonderful articles that analyze and explore such things much better than I can, but I didn’t know any of that then.
Then it was just a really riveting and important piece of television, one that told the stories of people and of a time in American history about whom I knew very little about up until that point.
I am so grateful for that. Historically accurate or not, it brought into our living room and into our classrooms another way of understanding who we were, where we had come from. It was a powerful use of the medium of television, and it opened up more than a few minds, I hope, to considering more than just what we had been told about America up until that point.
May there be many more “Roots”-inspired works to come. Maybe now more than ever we need such powerful television to be created.
#Roots #television #powerfulstories

On Selfies, and Vulnerability

I’ll admit it. I’ve been a secret selfie-judger for some time.

Since “selfie” became an official word by being added to the Oxford Dictionary in 2013, much has been written about the selfie and its effect on culture.  Tina Issa wrote in The Huffington Post that they should be renamed “selfshie.” She writes, “It has created the selfie monster — people who seem to want to scream ‘look at me’ or ‘look at what I have’ every minute of the day.” And while I do see her points, this isn’t about that.

In the New York Times, James Franco defended the selfie, calling it the “Mini-Me’s that we send out to give others a sense of who we are…the new way to look someone right in the eye and say, ‘Hello, this is me.'”

Hmmm, even though I am an actor and understand his points about the ever-growing role that social media has in our industry, I do not agree with that. He says he’s turned off by someone who doesn’t post selfies, because he wants to know who he’s dealing with. That viewpoint both fascinates and alarms me, because it truly reflects how much selfie-taking and posting has begun to shape the way we take in and reflect back the world around us. That’s the thinking of someone so deep into the world of selfies that it has become the norm from which to measure reality. Yikes.

I avoid posting selfies as much as possible. I HAVE done it, guilty as charged. But I can literally count the times I posted them on-line with two hands. Yes, I DO post. I am ok with posting (or having others post) a group picture (or a “groupfie” as my sister-in-law coined them.) I will post new headshots or stills from film sets – those are solo shots of me.

But a selfie? That just feels so gross to me. So self-absorbed. Pathetic. (Yes, that word really crosses my mind.) I tend to post sunsets, landscapes and pictures that avoid looking like selfies, but I am still posting. (Is that even that different, really? I am still participating in the “look at what I’m doing/just did/am doing…” So am I really just a passive-aggressive selfie-ist?)

Do I judge friend’s selfies? Honestly, yes, I do sometimes. Not the cute pics of them with their children or friends or family or partners. I love those. But when they post a picture of just them, I admit it, I DO judge them sometimes.

What is the root of this judgement? Am I afraid of being judged as selfish, of being a narcissist, in the way that Tina Issa judges selfie-ists? Or, following Franco’s logic,  am I afraid of being vulnerable, of being seen as I really am? Am I hiding who I really am because I do not post selfies?! This has been kicking around in my head and causing me to have sleepless nights.

(OK, that is not true. I only recently found Franco’s essay, but it did get me thinking and these are great questions to explore, but that is not exactly what I want to write about…)

What IS true and what I DO want to write about in regards to selfies is that I am concerned about selfie-taking and its effect on our society’s future art. Hell, I am concerned about its effect on our society’s future.

Let me explain.

This summer, I was away traveling and working for three months, July through September. It was glorious for so many reasons. I was out of my routines, comfort zones and the structures of my NYC life. This shook up my internal sense of the world in amazing ways. I gathered information and inspiration and took in so much I felt on sensory overload most of the time, in the best of ways. It was fantastic.

Except. For. The. Selfie-Taking. Going. On. Everywhere.

For two weeks out of the three months, I traveled with my niece and sister-in-law to London and then Paris. We visited all of the usual top tourist attractions, and I can tell you this: for the most part, though everyone still goes to see all of these wonderful places, no one is actually really looking at them anymore. The London Tower, Parliament, the cathedrals, the London Bridge, the British Museum and its artifacts, the Eiffel Tower, the Arc de Triumph, the Louvre and all of its treasures…all now just check-mark locations from which to get a selfie so that you can post and show to the internet world that you were there.

Full disclosure: yes, we took groupfies, many of which I posted. My niece took selfies. Once or twice I tried to take selfies. Not sure why. I think sometimes we just got swept up in the frenzied, competitive selfie-taking vibe and took more than we needed. (There’s a sort of “selfie mob mentality” at these places.) Mostly though, for us, a picture together was a natural extension of the moment.

But there was a moment of experience from which to extend out from, you know? Between us and the place or the piece of art. Most people literally walked up to a place, took selfies, and ran to the next selfie spot.

From a safe distance, I watched. People pushed in a frenzy, fought to get close, but not to actually look at these works of art or places of beauty. They fought to stand their ground and get their selfie with the work of art.

But for the most part, no one was actually experiencing these places anymore. No one was taking them in and allowing themselves to be affected by, informed, inspired, moved by them. If you are a person who still remembers how and is able to let something affect you, you are in trouble, because you are going to be in danger of pissing off the selfie-takers when you try to experience these sights.

While in Paris, we actually witnessed several arguments between people traveling together over the quality of the selfies they were taking. It was the strangest thing. In one case, one person seemed to feel that they had not yet gotten the best shot, while the other wanted to move on. In the other, someone felt that their selfie was better than the other’s. These were not quiet disagreements. These were heated, high stakes, loud, public fights. The psychology behind such an argument is fascinating to postulate. The pressure some people must be feeling to get the perfect shots of themselves to show off to the world must be pretty serious.

We also witnessed two times where within the throngs of people pushing to get their selfies in front of the most popular attractions in the Louvre, people had to be physically restrained by their friends because they were about to get in physical fights with other people over selfie-taking issues…someone’s wife was too tall and staying too long in one place and blocking the view…someone pushed someone else….

I found it all exhausting and depressing. (And slightly scary — that mob mentality is no joke.) People have always taken photos of tourist places, but over the years since the selfie and the selfie stick have become the predominant norm, something has been changing. I was in the Louvre only three ago, and it was not as bad as it was this past summer.

What does this all mean? And why am I so afraid?

I don’t know what it means. But I do know why I am afraid.

I thought the one big point of travel is to leave one’s known environment to be exposed to new and stimulating sights and sounds, tastes and cultures in order to expand one’s self. If you go somewhere exotic and only spend 2 minutes with some amazing piece of art or in front of one of one of the wonders of the world trying to take the ideal selfie so that you can post it on-line and everyone knows that you were someplace fabulous, how does that change you in any way?

Yes, there are still people who are taking in and being affected by these artworks and wonders. But they are few and far between. Often they simply cannot get to some of the places and sights because it is either literally too dangerous to try to stand and look at the something, or because everything is now revolving around the selfie-taking culture and there is simply no way to spend time looking. (Museums and tourist spots structure traffic to support selfie-taking because it is the norm, not the art-gazer who wants to experience the art.)

I know because I was one of those people trying. I was shoved several times when I wanted to stand and take in the treasures of these places. At the Louvre, an older man literally almost knocked me down to get in front of Venus de Milo. I was stunned.

I truly wonder, if picture-taking was banned at such sites,  two things. 1) Would people comply? Or refuse, outraged, claiming their rights were being messed with (the right to bear selfie sticks?) And 2) would people still care to go look if they could not document that they had been there for their friends?

Or would it feel empty and worthless to them without being able to have that connection with the internet and the social media network as they move through the experience at hand. If they are left with just themselves and the piece of art or the building or the historical place, would they be able to tolerate the anxiety of that kind of true intimacy with themselves and their own experience? Or would they be so uncomfortable with this ever-decreasing sensation in today’s world, the sensation of being alone with one’s own experience, that they would just have to shut it down rather than live with it and see what is underneath it, what it sparks, what it creates.

What will our future art look like then? Art is the interpretation of the world. Will art one day all revolve around and reflect selfie-taking? What will that look like then?

It used to be that someone would take in and experience the Mona Lisa and perhaps be inspired to look at their world a bit differently, and then perhaps actually see things in a different way. It might lead them to become artists, or it might lead them to parent differently. Or to daydream, and to end up inventing a machine that manufactures a pollutant-free form of energy.

If no one is really looking at anything except themselves in front of other things, won’t we then only be seeing more of ourselves in relation to everything else in the world, and less and less of the actual everything else in the world? So then how will grow? If we are not putting ourselves in new situations (actually entering into those new experiences, not just taking a picture of ourselves standing in front of them) how can we gain new information? So then how can we become more than we are?

That, my friends, truly terrifies me. I am all for healthy self-involvement, do not get me wrong. I do not believe in selflessness as the ultimate attribute or that self-love or self-attention is selfish. Anyone who knows me well knows that I practice radical self-acceptance and believe that healthy self-awareness and self-love is crucial.

While I do see selfie-taking as narcissistic, I don’t see that as a dirty word as Tina Issa used it in her article. I side with Brené Brown, a research professor at the University of Houston Graduate College of Social Work, who has spent the past thirteen years studying vulnerability, courage, worthiness, and shame. Brown is the author of three #1 New York Times Bestsellers: Rising Strong, Daring Greatly and The Gifts of Imperfection.

Brown suggests we look at narcissism through the lens of vulnerability. Through that lens, she sees in narcissism “the shame-based fear of being ordinary…of never feeling extraordinary enough to be noticed, to be lovable, to belong, or to cultivate a sense of purpose.”

Wow. That resonates so truthfully for me.

I wonder if the urge to take selfies in front of extraordinary places and things and people actually stems from a fear that we are so ordinary and so lacking that we will never really be seen, so we take selfie after selfie, stacking up evidence to ourselves and to the virtual world that we actually exist. Typing that sentence fills me with sadness and knowing. I felt that frenzied, desperate feeling from the people around me in those museums and at those amazing places. These were people trying to fill an empty, angry, sad hole with something that can never fill it. All the selfies in the world will not help a person feel truly “a part of” or connected to others in a meaningful, truly gratifying way. It’s like eating bag after bag of Cheetos to feel full. It may feel good at the time, but you end up feeling hungry anyway.

I think at this point in our evolution we actually need more practice at being self-involved. But in a different way. We need to practice how to become intimate with ourselves again. To tolerate the discomfort of the vulnerability of revealing who we really are even to our own selves. Not the virtual-vulnerability that social media and the internet affords. Exposure does not equal vulnerability. We have truly developed that muscle as a society and now it is in danger of being over-developed, like those guys at the gym who have over-worked their lats or their chest and left their legs out of the picture. A little less selfie-taking and a little more actual living the experiences of our lives is what I prescribe.

I urge you to go to a museum, or a park, or some place beautiful and NOT take a pic of yourself (or anything) to post. Just be there. Really be there. Just live those moments and let that be enough. Tolerate the discomfort of not satisfying that urge to reach out via social media to seek meaning in your experience by seeing it reflected in the number of likes it garners. Dare to walk through that fear of “disappearing” into nothingness. Let yourself feel that “ordinary.” Enter into the ordinary and really live there.

That is where the extraordinary is born.

#lessselfiesmoreliving #brenebrown #vulnerability #jamesfranco

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On Jeans

When I was growing up, entering that oh-so-excruciating time known as adolescence, there were only a few jean brands on the market. It wasn’t like today where designer jeans are so much the norm that they don’t even call them designer jeans anymore. There’s just a huge selection.

Not so in my day. There were just three brands: Levi, Lee and Wrangler. Or maybe those were just what was popular in my junior high school in my home city of Houston, Texas.

Everyone wore Levi jeans. Maybe some of the “Kickers” (the label that identified the farmer and cowboy types) wore Lee’s or Wrangler’s. But all the really cool kids, those known as “Popular,” wore Levi’s. So of course, I wanted to wear Levi’s.

And not just any Levi’s. Red-label Levi’s. For some reason I cannot for the life of me now recall, the red-label ones were somehow thought to be superior to the orange-label Levi’s.

This presented a real problem for me. I did not have a Levi body. While most of the other girls looked fantastic in these jeans that were basically men’s jeans, I looked awful. You see, this was before they started making jeans to actually fit a woman’s body. I mean there were women’s jeans, but they were still very shaped to fit a very narrow or boylike form. Most of the Popular girls were quite “petite” and had “atheletic” shapes, so they wore red-label Levi’s and looked terrific.

Me, not so much. If they fit me in the waist, I couldn’t get them over my upper legs and hips. If they fit my legs and hips, the waist was huge.

This was a source of major ego suffering for me. All I wanted was to fit in and to look as good as I could. I already knew I looked different: I weighed more and was much taller than the other girls. I was also very fair and quite shy.

But despite all these external characteristics that I just KNEW made me a social pariah, I was desperate to be noticed and appreciated anyway. I can still recall going to Sears or Macy’s or Lord and Taylor or wherever, only to try on pair after pair after pair of never-fitting jeans. I would leave feeling like a grotesque and misshapen loser, cursing God and the family gene pool that had created me. I felt that I was such a disgusting specimen of the female species.

I soon equated being able to fit in the Levi red-label jeans with being socially worthy. As I could not fit into these jeans, I decided that I was socially misfit.

I decided that jeans were just not meant for me, and neither was the Popular group. So I found some other social misfits and formed my own group. I don’t know that we ever had a name, but we were known to be “party-ers” and sort of mysterious, and maybe even somewhat wild.

I said, “Screw Levi’s” and started to wear a lot of black clothing and red lipstick and nail polish, which at that time was not in fashion in Houston, Texas. It being the 80’s and all about New Age music and Madonna and punk, I also had big hair and sometimes wore lace gloves with the fingers cut off and other “New Wave” kinds of things. I look back at some of those fashion choices and think, oh my, what were we all thinking…but for the most part, I look back and think I actually had a unique and interesting style that was sort of ahead of its time.

But I never wore jeans, and I never felt worthy.

And then, as if that weren’t enough, came The Time of the Designer Jean.

Now, Designer Jeans actually made their appearance in the 1970’s. But they didn’t trickle into the popular culture of Robert E. Lee High School until the 80’s. Suddenly, there were so many more options: EJ Gitano, Jordache, Guess, Girbaud, Sergio Valente, Chic, Zena, and Sassoon. Gloria Vanderbilt! And of course, Calvin Klein.

Oh, those Calvin Klein ads. They poured more poison into my fragile teenage mind-ego, creating even more pressure and myth around the importance of jeans to my self-worth and social worthiness.

Calvin Klein ad with Brooke Shields

Designer Jeans were expensive. They were also still not really made for the Real Woman body yet. Though they were better than the Levi’s, they still did not really look good on my body with its curves and extra weight; my “big” hips and my slim waist and “thick” thighs just did not work in those skin-tight designer blues. At least not in my eyes.

Needless to say, my self-ban on jeans continued throughout my college years and beyond.

I actually didn’t buy and wear my first pair of jeans until I was around 26 or so. It was a big deal for me. Finally, through extreme diets and over-exercising, I had whittled my body into a shape that I deemed worthy of jeans. I had arrived. I was finally worthy.

Well, of course, that was an extremely short-lived triumph. That pair of jeans didn’t make me feel any differently about my body or my self. I was still that girl who felt unworthy and disgusting, albeit much thinner on the outside.

Years of therapy would be needed to create change around my body image and sense of self-worth. I have had to unravel the popular-culture-and-advertising-influenced logic that shaped my fragile-and-emotionally-immature ego-mind. I have had to wake up to the real world and out of the sleep-spell cast on me in a youth spent immersed in television and magazine ads and movies and such to discover the reality that was alive underneath the layers of fantasy. It has been quite a journey.

Today, I finally enjoy wearing jeans, free of all that media-inspired hysteria. Today, there are many more choices. So many brands that actually are made to fit real women’s bodies. Hallelujah!

Today you can find jeans for just about every shape of body. Today, I don’t put a type on my body nor do I subscribe to words like plus-size or thick-thighed or skinny or big-booty or all the other descriptive words that are used so often in popular culture and advertising when discussing our bodies. They tend to be derogatory, and they always assume an IDEAL from which all else derives.

Sometimes, I catch myself comparing my body to that fictitious ideal of the ad world, but not as often and not for as long. I nip that self-torturous compare and despair in the bud when it comes up. My body and my mind deserve more from life than that.

I don’t buy that crap anymore. I know two things to be real and true. Women have shapes, and women wear clothes. Sure, go ahead and ascribe some sizes to clothes  to make it easy to categorize and buy them. But don’t think I am going to buy into the ascribing of worthiness or some ideal of beauty (or imply the lack thereof) to any of those sizes. Any of them. I am awake today, and I know better.

Today, my thighs are the perfect size for my body. My ass is too. As are my waist and hips. My body is just perfect. Perfect for me.

You want to know what comes between me and my feeling good in jeans today? Nothing.

#realwomensbodiesareperfect