23 June 2012

"I'm off at 4:00"

During the scary parts of a movie, I hide my eyes.

Sometimes from behind my hands, I strategically peek through my fingers.

Or I’ll pull a blanket up to my face and peer over the edge.

If it’s really scary, I squint through the weave of the blanket.

Other times I’ll bring the collar of my jams up over my nose, just beneath my eyes. Because the monster or dragon can’t get me if I’m just barely watching.

Like my grandson who thinks if he hides his eyes from you, that you can’t see him.

Everyone I’ve talked to about the movie ‘We Bought a Zoo’ really likes it. Most love it. Me, too. I imagine if I took a formal or informal survey, that no one would say there are any scary parts to this movie.

Okay, maybe it is a bit frightening that the care and feeding of the cherished child cherub, Rosie, is left to the two struggling male family members. But clearly, she is magic and their tendencies will not have the power to drag her down. She will instead continue to shine light where ever she smiles. So that’s not the scary part for me.

There is a lot I could write about this movie:
Profound points to discuss, important but uncommonly known life lessons, an abundance of dazzling quotes to scoop up.

I can see five or six different ‘Zoo’ blog posts, in my future.
Perhaps on topics such as:
  • Recognizing the posture of a “quittin’ man”
  • MacCready’s speech about ‘thieves of the spirit’
  • Weathering the trials in order to enjoy the triumphs
  • The laziest word in this century
  • Twenty Seconds of insane courage
  • Attempting to bottle the infectious energy of the real estate agent
  • A completely innocent fascination with MacCready’s kilt. (The same fascination I had for it in Braveheart.)
Today, however, I’m writing on just one point. The one that made me hide my face the first time I watched this movie.

I’ve started a whole new collection of favorite movies. And movie quotes. New-to-me movies and their associated quotes.

This one for starters: "It's a new day for you, Mr. Mee….’New’ is the new ‘Old.’”

We Bought a Zoo was the first flick to make the new collection and so holds a special spot for me. The timing was serendipitous.

So, what could have possibly been the scary part for me? Watching thirteen year old, Lily. The blonde, courageous and crazy-bold young girl who helps with the animals and works at the zoo restaurant.

I can’t do it. I can't watch this sweet, pure child, head-on. This magical and special creature. She's too familiar. Biting the edge of my blanket. The bell rings in my head and I can't hear anything except alarms going off. All I can see is the pain, dead ahead. I see myself in this child. Standing right out there with her heart in her hand, offering it up freely. For everyone to see. It's painful to watch her risk so bravely.

I want to jump in front of her, block the inevitable betrayals and obliteration ahead.

"Don't do it, Lily!"

"Stop, do not show your spirit so openly. This honest, hopeful, faith will not be honored, Lily. Don't do it."

"Protect yourself. Hide your heart away, Sweetie."

"This is not a good idea, magic child. There is no one worthy."

Lily is not the first. I’ve run across ‘this girl’ before but didn’t recognize the uncomfortable feeling in my chest until I saw We Bought a Zoo. There’s Julie and Kaylee, just two recent examples.
Julianna Baker, in the book Flipped by Wendelin Van Draanen. (And movie too.)
Kaylee, the mechanic aboard Serenity in the series Firefly.

Each of these girls put themselves right out there. Causing me to wince when I see them so vulnerable. So trusting.

The story line of a girl who is drawn to a boy, for reasons she may not understand, and tells him so, in one way or another. Watching these sweet, believing spirits expose themselves so freely, each to individuals completely unworthy of the offering. Offering her heart, her laughter, her undeserved devotion. She presents herself, wholly open and holding nothing back.

She can be found in movie/book portrayals pretty often, but she’s rarely the heroine. She’s usually the goofy best friend. The typical lead female character is tough and ‘strong’ and she plays aloof, indifferent, ‘hard to get.’

In another movie recommended to me recently, I heard this quote: “You are not supposed to show him your regular self until you’ve been married five years." This is what our culture tells us is smart. We are socially trained to hide our hearts away.

For the most part, the ‘Lily’ character in any story is seen as weak or stupid because she puts herself out there. We feel sorry for her. Poor thing. Because we know what’s coming.

Julianna in Flipped, takes a long time to learn the lesson but eventually pulls back because the price of pain is just more than she can bear.

Kaylee in Firefly, so blatantly crazy about the so blatantly oblivious and unworthy doctor aboard her cherished ship, portrays it dead on.

Kathleen Kelly (the exception to the observation above about leading ladies) in You've Got Mail
lives with her heart right out loud.

But I didn’t realize the mirror I was looking into with these women, until I watched We Bought a Zoo. An eye-witness to how Lily holds her heart out to the brooding, dark, too-cool Dylan and realizing why I literally hurt inside when I watch or read these women. She's just too close to home.

Watch the scenes with Dylan and Lily. See how he gives her nothing. NOTHING. For all her shine and light, he gives her nothing in return. He just absorbs the offering, with an edgy smirk on his face. Yet she believes so completely, that she's still remains all in.
Is she embarrassingly brave? Or insanely foolish?

I've always done this. Walk right up. Show my hand. “Look here. See who I am and how I feel.”

Poker players (and most everyone else) would scoff at such foolishness. I don't know how to keep things close to the vest. I don't even like vests. Except for those reflective crossing guard vests, I really wanted to wear one of those in grade school.

I put myself right out there. Emotionally naked. And vulnerable. The entire time, thinking that it will be rewarded with reciprocal courage. Equal honesty. And that it will be found adorable and unique. But the fear within others keeps them timid and afraid of such forward behavior.

I have given it much thought. Looked at it from every angle. Sitting on my hands. Standing on my head. But I don’t think I could do it any other way. Growing up, I was this girl. If I liked someone, they knew it. There was no question.

I couldn't see the advantage to doing it any other way. And even if I had, I would not have known any other way. Stepping out on that tenuous limb with my heart in my hands. And held out in front of me.

I feel like Merrill in the movie, Signs. Muttering to myself that it "Felt wrong not to swing."

Yet living with the haunting and mocking voice of Lionel Prichard in my head: “He would just swing that bat as hard as he could every time. Didn't matter what the coaches said, didn't matter who was on base. He would just whip that bat through the air as hard as he could. Looked like a lumberjack chopping down a tree. Merrill here has more strikeouts than any two players.”

Which is more painful? Putting your heart out there and having it shattered? Or the regret of clinging the easy way and never really letting yourself hang all the way out there? Letting the pitch fly by with the bat still up on your shoulder. Cashing out, and always wondering.

Are such bold women foolish? Yes. But not for putting their heart on the line as they do. But instead because they put their heart on the line in the direction of such unworthy souls. Souls - oblivious, cowardly, pathetic and ultimately blind to the miracle of enchantment.

It’s unfortunate but we tend to take for granted that which is given to us freely. Including love. The sweet, silly, naive, smitten girl is so incredibly 'all in,' that the person she offers herself to really doesn't have to do anything. He never has to take a step in her direction at all. He could, if he wanted to, but in my experience he will not. Taking it just as long as it's handed over without his having to put forth an ounce of effort. She comes directly to him and he just goes along for the ride. Until anything reciprocal is asked.

Kaylee in Firefly.
Julianna in Flipped.
Lily in We Bought a Zoo.
Lydia in Pride & Prejudice.
Erica Barry in Something’s Gotta Give.

This is the character type that’s most difficult for me to watch. And when she turns up, I’ll be looking from behind my blanket because they are simply too familiar and revealing. Scary.

Maybe there’s a type that especially difficult for you to watch. Too close to your deepest fear about yourself.
  • The person who has completely shut down. All cynicism and defense.
  • The one who can only pretend. Never daring to show anything real. Always covering.
  • The cowardly, timid character.
  • The narcissist. Wholly absorbed in self-assigned grandeur.
  • The chameleon. Completely dependent on those around him.
  • The Tin Man. Born without a heart.
It's hard to look at our true self in the eye. We flinch and turn away. Change the subject. Run.

I can’t be the only one to close one eye, turn my head sideways and in my peripheral vision, still see myself.

On a more fun note, I love a list. And with ‘new-to-me’ movies, come new quotes.
Without cheating on IMDB, do you know to which movies the quotes below belong?
  • “Oh, this Twinkie thing, it ain’t over yet!”
  • “So. There we are. Where are we?”
  • “The one night I dress up!”
  • “A is for AWESOME!”
  • “That’s what they do before you become chips and salsa.”
  • “Nice! Solid joke.”
  • “What are you doing? Two shows a night?”
  • "Circus money, man!"
  • “You Fucking guy!” (Which I formerly associated with Something’s Gotta Give, but turns out Erica Barry was quoting another movie completely. I love when there’s a quote within a quote.)
  • “Lobster Todd.” (For whom, I’m holding out.)
  • “Whatever is wrong with you, is no little thing.”
  • “Oh stop being all….bilingual!”
  • “Aim for the bushes!”
  • “Not as dumb as he looks, folks.”
  • “Greetings, Sled God!”
  • “Do you get hit a lot?”
  • “You gotta throw the small ones back.”
  • "Well, put it in the pile of gifts from my other suitors."
  • “I’m your fan, man. Don’t you know that by now?”
  • “Did that go the way you thought it was gonna go? Nope!”
  • “Travel the stages of grief. Yet stop just before zebras get involved.”
And a quote WAY too long to drop in casual conversation but I'll find a way to work it in one day:
“Whatever happened to chivalry? Does it only exist in 80's movies? I want John Cusack holding a boombox outside my window. I wanna ride off on a lawnmower with Patrick Dempsey. I want Jake from Sixteen Candles waiting outside the church for me. I want Judd Nelson thrusting his fist into the air because he knows he got me. Just once I want my life to be like an 80's movie, preferably one with a really awesome musical number for no apparent reason.”

“That’s the worst goodbye I’ve ever heard, and you stole it from a movie.”

02 June 2012

Tipping the Scale

There is something amazing and magic about taking special and tender care of yourself. We are so hard on our souls.

We wake to a startling alarm, we scramble to work then we scramble back home, we scarf down our dinner and how often does that meal come from a box or from the deli case because we don’t have the energy to make anything ‘real.’

We sit down in front of the TV, telling ourselves that we need to unwind, zoning out to Danger Jim’s Breaking New.’ Or in front of our electronic device of choice, playing some online game, clicking on news and sport snippets to feel current. With an adult beverage in our fist. Red, white or amber. Telling ourselves we deserve it after a long day. Trying to compensate for something that's missing.

We work at a job that does not hold our heart, week after week, month after month and try to make up for all that soul sacrifice by taking a long weekend out of town three or four times a year.

Our culture if filled with popular behavior choices, of which the sole purpose is the numbing of our minds so that we do not have to actually feel the truth of our choices.

What feeds your spirit?
What nourishes your health?
What does being kind to yourself look like for you? (Not a rhetorical question...)

Is it dipping your toes in the surf? Staring at the bright, pearl-white moon from your deck as it rises from behind the purple blue clouds in the evening sky? Is it eating a salad fresh from your own little garden? Is it surrounding yourself with the most amazing sources of support and encouragement? Those who believe in you most?

Or jumping in a puddle with your favorite small child? Crawling into the most comforting, soft sheets, washed in the soothing, calming fragrance of lavender? Is it having someone tell you a bed time story until you drift peacefully off? Is it taking the extra time to fully express your gratitude? Twirling down the sidewalk in your favorite skirt? Or filling your home, your sanctuary, with the colors, the scents, the textures that make you smile and breathe so much easier?

I understand it’s easy to just go through your day, every day. Caught, entrenched in the routine. I’ve been guilty too. But I also have a very sensitive radar for that moment when I’ve done the self-care thing just right. And if I slow down or, even better, come to a complete stop, I can make this magic happen on a regular basis.

I find the proportion with which I fail to do this successfully, is directly connected to my need to fill my life with empty ‘care.’ When I’m taking the best care of me, I am much, much less likely to find myself mindlessly surfing the Internet or some other form of emotional anesthesia because my brain is mush and mud from the inconsequential, superficial immediate gratification that ultimately saps my spirit of its organic spark and magic.