A lot of people function like the Target Vuitton Dance Mom. So much so that I have developed a sort of protective armor when it comes to strangers. I have been around refined, affluent people for a good part of my life, and have also been graced with knowing many people from humble beginnings. You know what they all have in common? The nice ones LOOK AT YOU in the eyes. Yes! This phenomenon has nothing to do with the status of material accumulation. From extreme highs and lows - they see you, and they offer themselves to you in return. They have the power to look you in the eye, even if they take the liberty to roll their eyes soon thereafter.
Jokes aside, I am not the sort of person to condemn another for their clothing, but then again, with respect to fashion as a means of communication, I learn a lot about people and what they value by how they look. I have met people who have covered themselves in fashion to hide their hollow shell of a personality, and people who have changed the world in flip flops.
So where are we in the process of creating a happy place for ourselves? Where are we in sifting through the mess and finding our diamonds of inner truth? In other words, where are we in relation to what is most important to us?
When we reach the state of connectivity by releasing our unnecessary desires, our productivity flourishes. I'm learning ways to get there and stay there more easily.
Here are some of my favorite exercises:
1. Listen to fiction.
This sounds sort of funny, but I have been weaning myself off of an addiction to non-fiction. Instead, I have immersed myself in the imaginations of others. I'm not talking about the alternative facts on the "news". ;) I'm talking about novels, movies, or poetry. One of my recent favorites, and an easy one to read, is J.K. Rowling's "The Casual Vacancy". This novel is not for children, but is definitely a magical tale of small town politics and the human condition. Brilliant in its own right.
Next time you are feeling in the throes of hell, try writing down how you're feeling. Once you've gotten it all out, then take a moment to distance yourself. Take a walk, fix a cup of tea or coffee, or if you like you can actually put the letter in the mail at the post office (addressed to yourself). After some time, or when the letter arrives, pretend that you are reading a note written by your best friend. On a new sheet of paper, write them back and be as supportive as you can be. Send the letter back in the mail or go take a walk again. This is the art of self-compassion in the form of written communication. How much easier our personal burdens would be to handle if we could share them and get advice from someone who not only knows us better than anyone, but who we fully trust to act with the intention of loving and helping us along the way.
3. Forget about it.
My mom and grandmother came over the other day, and I was having a rough time with deadlines, clogged pipes, breaking cars, amongst other worldly things. It wasn't the best time for company, but I wanted them to come anyway to see the girls. She asked me how I was doing, and I told her the truth, since she hardly remembers short-term things since developing dementia. But without hesitation, she responded "Mia, why don't you just go lay down and watch some tv and forget about it. Don't let anything bother you. Go relax". It caught me off-guard. I was expecting an "oh, it'll be ok" but she told me to go watch tv. I looked at her silently for a moment, kind of wanting to laugh because I wasn't sure if she heard me. I gave her a hug and returned to my studio, and thought about what she said. Here's a person who has survived for 92 years....she must know what she is talking about. So I returned to the house and fixed us some fresh coffee, and sat down on the couch with her and my mom, completely letting go of what had been stressing me out all morning. You'll never guess what happened - when I returned back to work, the issues had worked themselves out, the car started, and the pipes cleared.
My own definition of the "American Dream" is very much like what I already have. I am surrounded by people who love me (even if they don't understand where I'm coming from or think I'm a little cray), I get to wake up each day and work on my life's work, which provides me with challenges to keep me busy, and the relationships I hold onto and the ones I maintain are the ones that love me back the way I want to be loved.
I remember seeing this interview with Michael Jackson when it first was released, and thinking 'how could such a beautiful person could be so widely misunderstood'. Maybe the public bought and consumed their own fears. Maybe no one wanted to believe that someone could be so powerful and so kind. Maybe Michael knew what was really important to him, and so nothing else mattered.