Tag Archives: Ego

Sometimes We Need a Little Groot & Soulshine

Recommended Reading Soundtrack: Soulshine by Warren Haynes (Acoustic)

I wish I could start every blog post I write with the tag phrase from the movie trailer guy, “In a world…” with the same deliberate curiosity and poignancy. I’d call it the “In a World Series” and end the sentence with the post’s topic. If I were going to do that today, I’d say, “IN A WORLD where Jessica feels overwhelmed by her own mind that just won’t shut up, there came a time where nothing would do- except- finding a way to tell her inner voice’s rants to SHUT UP!”

great comic from happyguide.co
great comic from happyguide.co

But, no matter how much I wish I could shut off that mental valve, it would be impossible. So I shall just have to co-exist for this moment, and accept my teenager inner voice that feels the perceived “injustice” of everything happening around me. And, “In a PERFECT World” ending, my acceptance would span beyond my annoying inner voice into my grievances with myself. Because really, that’s where all my grievances with my world’s injustices come from. Yes, really. Right back to my own achy breaky heart.

“The wretch, concentered all in self,” Sir Walter Scott

But, the nice thing about all of this is one special word, accountability. When I own my grievances and link them with my choices that brought me face to face with each and every situation I encounter, I feel a sense of empowerment and freedom. Yes, sometimes I feel like Bill Murray in Groundhog Day when he’s giving up on trying to understand why he continues to wake up to the same thing every day, and as he sits in that animated small town diner with the same people for the millionth time (I am full of hyperbole today) he just starts eating complete crap and talks the way he really wants to talk to “Rita” about life with exuding pessimism and sarcasm. And, Bill Murray sarcasm is hard to beat, especially when he is simultaneously shoving an entire piece of angel food cake into his mouth, smoking a cigarette and pouring coffee into his mouth directly from the pitcher in the early morning hours!

gold-fireflies-2[2]

And let’s face it- much like Groundhog Day, we all wake up to the same thing regularly. A rerun of so many conversations, arguments, thoughts- just in differently appearing contexts. Sometimes, when you find yourself dragging like that you just need to turn on a little soulshine. Warren Haynes has taught me a little something with his special song this week, along with one of the coolest Guardians of the Galaxy, Groot. Just saying his name makes me laugh inside, laugh outside, and want to groove to O-o-h Child by The Five Stairsteps. And on a side confession-  I never knew who actually sang that song until this blog post- but I’ve probably heard that song a million times. Probably (envision Johnny Dangerously here with “Once”).

You are a beautiful firefly

Those that haven’t seen Guardians of the Galaxy yet, spoiler alert. When Groot, the tree-like being from Planet X, surrounds his friends with his entire body to protect them from a crashing death and fills their bubble with beautiful fire-fly-like lights glowing around their hopeless faces, saying for the first time “We are Groot” instead of “I am Groot,” I found myself in joyful tears.

I was sad. But I also felt so much joy because I was witnessing such a beautifully written seen about complete oneness in a funny, misunderstood tree creature. Yes, it is just a movie about superheroes and villains in a galaxy far, far away- but those superheroes and villains were created by people that believe in our heart’s ability to love and witness one another with the greatest of empathy.   So while we may feel uncool in our funky minds at times, remember that this vulnerability creates a little place holding a reminder of how cool life truly is…..and when you see someone’s soul shining, you can remember to own and love your own shining soul.

Just remember the words that Warren Hayes has given us in his delightful, rock’n song-

When you can’t find the light
That got you through the cloudy days
When the stars ain’t shinin’ bright
It feels like you’ve lost your way
When the candle lights of home
Burn so very far away
Oh, you got to let your soul shine
Just like my daddy used to say

Let’s Rock Big Love! (that’s me, I’m not as “cool” as Mr. Hayes!)

In Hope Let Freedom Be in All of This

Recommended Listening Soundtrack: All of This by The Naked and Famous

As I walked out the door to the gate that would lead to my freedom, I knew if I didn’t leave my bitterness and hatred behind, I’d still be in prison. Nelson Mandela

Julian Assange. Chelsea Manning. Edward Snowden. Palestinians. Israelis. You. Me. Everyone. What do we all have in common? This question vexes me, and is one I have been unable to ignore since a run-in with one of my favorite songs, an interview on Democracy Now and the US’s most recent national holiday on the 4th of July.

When the song by The Soup Dragons titled I’m Free came out, me and 2 of my best friends with a new license to drive would whirl around town blaring that song over and over again (when I say over and over again, I really mean OVER AND OVER again). It was perfect teen Saturday night fodder that fed our perception of delusional freedom- or was it delusional? We bonded through that song, and I still love to pretend in my own delusional reality that this white girl can hang during the Reggae outburst toward the song’s end.

Waynes-WorldBest singing in car scene ever, courtesy of Wayne’s World!

As I was singing along to it again recently, it coincidentally fell upon my ears following the US’s national 4th of July holiday. A holiday that is supposed to be about celebrating “freedom.” And, as I later was listening to an interview with WikiLeaks co-founder Julian Assange the same day, I found myself confused at a clogged up intersection of questions and fate in my heart regarding this mythological word we use quite frequently, freedom. Personal freedom. Freedom of choice. Freedom of speech. Freedom of press. Freedom of expression. Our freedom. Their freedom. It all started a big racket in my head, with ideas and images honking at other ideas and images to just get out of the way!

photo from NPR story July 2nd 2013, Louise Gubb/CorbisNelson Mandela imprisoned, photo from NPR story July 2nd 2013, Louise Gubb/Corbis

After being imprisoned for 27 years, Nelson Mandela was quoted as saying, “As I walked out the door to the gate that would lead to my freedom, I knew if I didn’t leave my bitterness and hatred behind, I’d still be in prison.”  This statement is so profound, as it points out that imprisonment is beyond our physical world, it starts in our mind, and ripples outward like a broken dam. Yet as I write this, I can hear in the back of my head a distinct argumentative voice blabbering on, “Blah. Blah. Blah. Blah. We’ve all heard that before.” All of us are engaged in the same challenge of deciphering between the imprisonment of the mind’s demons, our past and what it means to not be a slave to our thoughts.

What a challenge. To coexist in a world of hatred and a need for love and human contact.   My younger self asks questions that really can’t be answered like, “Why does everything have to become so complicated?” As a teen, I was given the simple luxury of being able to drive around with my friends when I was in high school and sing along to a song like “I’m Free” by a group that actually, really called itself The Soup Dragons. And that memory will always make me laugh, and feel sad at the same time.

I had the option to question freedom and not worry that something could happen to me for speaking my mind or that someone would be listening to my telephone conversation and peg me as a troublemaker just because I questioned my government. But so many others don’t have the freedom to live in the naivety of the “teenage dream.” Many children and adults are still faced with painful challenges like, will their house still be standing by the end of the day or will they be kidnapped and even killed today because of a thousand year old belief system?

smileConclusion?  Our commonality outweighs the perception of “different.”  Toward the end of the Amy Goodman interview she asked Julian Assange, whose been living a life of his own imprisonment in the London Ecuadorian embassy, “What gives you hope?” He answered, “Well, hopefully the greatest legacy is still to come.” No matter what we believe, we can all choose to meet in that place of hope and be a part of that legacy. It’s making that choice instead of empowering the ego driven “need to be right” that holds the key to finding that freedom together.

But for now, I’ll just rock away to the Soup Dragons and envision what it will feel like when we can collectively cross our self-imprisonment border of bitterness and hatred, see ourselves in one another, and smile without hesitation that anything is possible.  “All of This” does not have to tear us apart.

 

Owning My Uncool Is Not a Bad Thing

Recommended Listening Soundtrack: Cool Rock Boy by Juliana Hatfield

Who has found themselves laughing while watching the opening scene of one of the greatest satirical films ever made- (at least if you live in the US and have my mind) Office Space, while the dreaded commute to work is taking place and the ever so high-strung and very white character named “Michael Bolton” is ironically rapping away in his sedan? And then, as he sees a black man selling flowers on the street he actually shrinks into his seat, locks his car door, and turns down the music; only to turn it up again once he gains distance from the flower peddler. All you can do is LAUGH out loud at his absurdity. This is what I call a low point- a moment of strangely misplaced fear yielding the ultimate “uncool” goo, yet ever so funny for the audience.

officespace_motivation

Why is it so funny? Good question. I recently had my own experience of oozing “uncool” goo that might shed some light on the subject. As you might have noticed, it is summer in the Northern Hemisphere. Yes, sticky sweet summer is here, and with it comes sticky sweet pop songs made to lure us in with their simple jangles about new love and ultimate love disasters.

And then, there was me. Driving home myself one early evening doing my typical dance with the radio. Changing the stations over and over again with high hopes that maybe it would deliver something cool. Suddenly I found myself drawn into one of this summer’s truly sticky sweet pop songs by Justin Timberlake titled “Not a Bad Thing.” I actually had it turned up (and it was not freedom rock), singing along in a trance induced by subtle brainwashing when I realized I had to stop at a light. Of course, there were 2 younger people on the corner. I found myself turning the music down to a nice quiet mute.

Yes, I found myself too ashamed to allow these unsuspecting “youths” know my dirty little secret. That I sometimes like cheesy pop music and even listen to it at elevated volume levels as I drive. Now, I am going to own my uncool and face my shame with you! I can’t help but laugh out loud at my own antics with drive-by music that is ironically titled “Not a Bad Thing.” But really, this whole musical shame episode is not really about music- it is about my own judgments and insecurities, and how I project them onto others.

Time to own my uncool.

Now, let’s face the music. As I have been laughing at myself for what I did, I have been thinking about why I can’t just enjoy music of any kind and not feel embarrassed for enjoying a certain pop song. I have to admit, there is a part of me that does not respect a lot of what the pop industry generates, but yet there is an internal battle I have difficulty ignoring. So how can I turn this perception about the pop industry into something with meaningful purpose, empty of my attachment to judgments?

We can relate this pop song dilemma to all aspects of our life. That is the magic of a perception conundrum. Without the attachment of our emotional drama, a perception is just a perception- and it can be rooted in negativity or positivity. But either way, they exist because we are humans having an ego experience. By focusing on our intention behind a perception we can see if it is limiting or not so limiting. My perceptions around the pop music industry are limiting because I limit my joy in life by judging myself for simply having fun with a song, even if it is sticky sweet.

How can I challenge myself to confront my judgment? The next time that Justin Timberlake song is playing on the airwaves, I’m going to turn it up, with my windows down and be that singing-out-loud person without a care for judgments, including my own! Maybe it really is “not a bad thing” to just let it go and have a little fun every once in a while!

Flaming June by Frederic Leighton

Sweeping the Nation with Sentimental Hogwash

Recommended Reading Soundtrack:  Keep Breathing by Ingrid Michaelson

The past week. I have felt unsure of what to say. Between the UC Santa Barbara shootings, to the death of Maya Angelou and the release of an American POW after 5 years of imprisonment- it seems that the world seemingly continues its typical journey of inhaling and exhaling. A journey of ups and downs, where we are all collectively growing and contemplating big questions. In today’s world we are more connected through technology than ever before. We are vastly aware of our global challenges and their many potentials. Ironically it is prompting a contemplation about the nature of human love and the connection that exists outside of technology. The connection that comes from some place impossible to label, yet we feel compelled to search for it and understand it as it is felt on a grander scale due to the oxymoron that is technology.

williamshakespeare164317

As I was tidying up some dishes the other morning in contemplation, I picked up a coffee cup that was given to me 16 years ago as a gift during more transitions. The gift displayed one of my favorite paintings by Frederic Leighton, titled “Flaming June.” I received the gift after I had just witnessed the painting’s phenomenal power with my own eyes and heart in an exhibit at the National Gallery of Art.

I had just moved out of my parents’ home and into a group house in Northern Virginia. My best friend’s sister, Jane, gave me this mug for Christmas- and on it was a quote by William Shakespeare from Hamlet, “We know what we are, but know not what we may be.”

I love gifts like this. Some may label them as “sentimental hogwash” like the greedy Mr. Potter in the film “It’s a Wonderful Life,” but they tell a story whenever I look at them. Hundreds of moments flow through my mind, and I’m suddenly carried down a river through time and whisked into old places that seem new again because I am viewing them from the fresh (you could insert cynical in here, but let’s not go there today!) perspective of my older self.

Look at Maya Angelou. What a life! I mean, her voice was a shining example of how one can harness their power through choice and thrust it forward only to create joy like she probably couldn’t have imagined when she was young, sexually abused and mute for 5 years. Our life’s story is a part of us, but it doesn’t have to solely exist as “what we may be.” Our past and our potential exist in tandem, dancing with nothing but a fine line between them.

Our life story is the driver for choosing something that goes beyond what we think we are, it is the backup plan- the place we can revert to if we feel like we don’t know who we are anymore. There is a great Sex in the City episode where the main character Carrie loses years of work on her laptop when her hard drive crashes and burns, leaving her angry and speechless. Then she is asked the ultimate crap question, “When was the last time you backed up?” The problem? She had never backed up, and that was the end of that story- but not the end of what she “may be.”

“But ‘baby fish mouth’ is sweeping the nation?

babyfishmouth

Sometimes I feel like Harry and Jess in “When Harry Met Sally” during their Pictionary game. I’m struggling to understand what is being communicated, from “Mick Jagger is a baby?” to “baby fish mouth,” when all Sally is trying to say is “Baby Talk.” Maybe “baby fish mouth” really is sweeping the nation. But then, clarity arrives. While I was driving on the evening of Maya Angelou’s death, NPR played her recitation of her poem, “Still I Rise.” I cried as I listened to her striking words. They struck my heart like a masterful musician commanding their audience. She commanded me to remember, that amidst all the chaos that appears in the world around us, hope really does win every time, no matter how much my ego wants to shout “sentimental hogwash!” There are always going to be Potters in this world, but the most powerful ones exist in our own demons.

As Ms. Angelou spoke, so did my heart-

“Just like moons and like suns,
With the certainty of tides,
Just like hopes springing high,
Still I’ll rise.”

Loneliness Kicked My Achy Breaky Heart

Recommended Reading Soundtrack:  Transcendental Blues by Steve Earl

When I was young, I remember being in the car with my Mom when the Hall and Oates song “Maneater” was playing on the radio. I was singing along, “Whoa, here she comes. Watch out boy, she’ll ‘chew your BUTT.” Laughter ensued by my mom, of course. If you don’t know that song (and I definitely wouldn’t hold it against you if you haven’t!), there is a reason as to why that was so funny.

Yes, my ears and brain had a few wires crossed and I actually confused the word “butt” with “up.” Oh, the sound of melancholy 80s pop love songs- the turmoil of Madonna in her song “Crazy for You.” Picture me in the back seat of our white Dodge Minivan, afraid at the humble age of 12 of the prospect of being alone for the rest of my life. Alone, alone, ALONE. Really!?

When I started thinking about what my greatest teacher in life has been, my heart met my mind in front of the great Scarecrow in the Wizard of Oz. All kind of directions were popping up, but I was led to an unexpected place within myself. The thoughts opened the door to the root of my life’s greatest fear, and greatest teacher- the fear of being alone, abandoned, all by my lonesome with my own “Achy Breaky Heart.” The fact that I can’t stand country music makes the fear that much more substantiated.

ive-finally-stopped-running-away-from-golden-hawn

Loneliness, once my mind’s arch enemy, has become my best friend. Without it I could never have seen the truth of who I am- like a mirror on display simultaneously within me and outside of me. It has taught me time and again the opposite- that I am never alone as I exist in everything I feel, perceive around me.

Once, when I was confronting all the reasons I believed no one would want me and I would die as Bridget Jones’ version of a lonely old “spinster,” and eventually be eaten by wild dogs, I was bluntly asked, “Are you crazy?” He continued, this stranger that was deeply involved in one of the most difficult confession sessions I had ever completed, “Why would you ever believe those things about yourself?”

That question turned out to be one that I am grateful for every day. This fear of being alone has led me on a journey of inner knowing, a “wild goose chase” if you will, that I never thought was possible. Through all the “crazy,” the tears, the crippling mental self flagellation, I have come out to the world with the understanding that it was only me, myself and I that could attempt to isolate myself from my truth and the people that operate within it.

reflectionoflightWhat is my truth? That in every laugh, impulsive reaction of every person I find annoying, adore, or look up to- there I am. No, I don’t have multiple personality disorder, but what I do have is a case of being human. The most difficult and awesome part of the experience is that all I see in others is a simple reflection of me.

In the end of the film, While You Were Sleeping, when Bullock’s character Lucy confesses she really is not the fiancé of the man she is about to marry, she explains to mother, father, grandmother, godfather, and sister, that she simply fell in love with not just her fiancé, but ALL of them. And just like that, she was never alone again. Through the fear of my greatest teacher (and many Cure songs of course) I have found a path to loving and appreciating all parts of myself within everyone I encounter. And I am ever abundantly more in love with all aspects of being human, every day.

I AM Napoleon Dynamite

Okay, maybe I am really not Napoleon Dynamite in form- but in a lot of ways inside, I am.  Time and again, I am humbled through the recognition that I AM everything I see in others…even an odd dude who draws magical animals like “ligers” and some how musters the courage to do an awesome dance to “Canned Heat” by Jamiroquai on stage in front of a crowd of some of the most potentially judgmental people around, high school students!    Like Will states to Marcus in the film About a Boy before he steps on stage with a tambourine and sings “Killing Me Softly” by Roberta Flack, “It’s social suicide!”

Mis-perception Blues

This past week, I’ve had a case of the “mis-perception blues,” so to speak.  So I’ve been looking outside myself for some inspiration to reflect back to my skewed inner world.  As I was running I just thought about the legendary Napoleon Dynamite who embraced nerdiness and the desire to help a friend win the school election no matter the potential consequences.  And so, this is my monthly outing of myself as a total nerd that sometimes rocks out to Billy Idol’s “Dancing with Myself” in my bedroom- alone.

Every once in awhile we are pushed to do some soul searching on our own negative qualities as we feel overwhelmed by others that assert themselves into our lives.  The ego part of me wanted to just bow out, curl up in my pajamas and eat cheese puffs while talking to the psychic network.  Fortunately, I chose to confront the inner demon head on and readjust my camera lens in an effort to make some changes in my life.

Winona Ryder's character in film Reality Bites, couching it.
Winona Ryder’s character in film Reality Bites, couching it.

Instead of hiding, I’m recognizing that I’ve had a problem with thinking that what I am able to give to others will determine how they will perceive me and give me approval.  For me moving forward, relationships, whether they are friendships, business partners, or family,  are based on good boundaries and simply liking and respecting one another.  And like Napoleon Dynamite, I can get up on that stage with my puffy black high tops (well, more like platform sandals) and my “Vote for Pedro” t-shirt and ROCK OUT!  Thank you audience in advance for applauding and not throwing bottles at my head.