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Archive for December, 2010

Happy New Year!

New Year met me somewhat sad
Old Year leaves me tired
Stripped of favorite things I had
Baulked of much desired
Yet farther on my road today
God willing, farther on my way

~ Christina Rossetti (1862)

 

Hope your Christmas was fab and your 2011 even…fabber!

 

See you next Monday…

 

 

 

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On a frigid winter morning last week, I saw a most heinous offense.  A Latina woman pushing a baby in a stroller ran toward a city bus as it was closing its doors and preparing to leave the stop.  The young mother waved her arms, as if begging the driver to let her and her child onto the bus.

The female driver obviously saw the woman – she looked directly at her – but pulled away anyway, leaving the woman and her baby in the street.

I understand these buses are on tight schedules.  I also understand the MBTA, Boston’s public transportation system, has had money problems which have made already bad service dismal.  Perhaps the driver was behind schedule and afraid to get into trouble with her superiors.  Maybe she was disgruntled and simply having a bad day.

Regardless, is there any reason for a woman and her baby to be ignored and left out in the cold?  Especially by a publicly funded institution designed to serve the community.

All this a mere week before Christmas, the season when we’re supposed to forget the crud in our lives and be jolly.  Instead, I feel like we’re getting meaner with each passing year.  Everyone seems so angry, so “look-out-for-number-one.”  What would Santa say?

I followed after the bus to get the number so I could register a complaint.  Unfortunately, I didn’t catch the bus or find the woman and her baby, who I probably would have offered a ride.  So, I did what any concerned citizen would do after witnessing such an event: I raised a stink.  I wrote a letter to the MBTA and the local papers letting them know what I’d seen.

My friends think I’m crazy.  ‘What a waste of time,’ they say.  ‘No one cares.  Sometimes, people are just jerks and life is unfair.’  My pals are right.  There has been no response to my letter and probably never will be.

But see, I have a clear vision of how the world should be.  In my world, people are considerate of each other.  Kindness creates an environment where everyone feels safe and included.  No one shoves their elbow in someone else’s ribs to get ahead, and they do good things for each other because it’s decent.

Besides, I’m a bleeding heart who needs to speak up for those who can’t speak for themselves.  While I’m certainly no member of the ruling class, I do have a few privileges.  I’m American, fairly well-educated and middle class.  If a hard-working immigrant or less privileged individual is being mistreated by one of my neighbors, I’ll say something.  And if I’m in a warm car, I should speak up for those forced to take the bus.

I’m no dumbie.  I realize my lollipop fantasies of a compassionate Earth will never come to fruition.  But I’m not going to stop being a nice person.  I’m not going to allow assholes to get away with their assholery.  It’s about fighting for the kind of world I want to live in.  Maybe I won’t win the match, but I won’t stop swinging.  Especially during Christmas.

Happy holidays!

 

[*Photo from easleycostumes.com.]

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In last week’s Metro, a free paper offered on the subway, readers were asked to vote for 2010’s Person of the Year and provided a list of choices: Barack Obama, Julian Assange, the Chilean miners, Michelle Obama, Sarah Palin and, God help us, Kim Kardashian. 

What a challenge to determine who, of all the human beings on the planet, defined 2010.  I dig Michelle Obama and found the Chilean miners inspiring, but how much did they really change my world?  Sure, Michelle regularly emails me via the White House communications office, but those messages always seem self-serving.  “The President is trying to do this,” she’ll write, “the President succeeded at that.”  C’mon, Michelle, would it kill you to ask how I’ve been doing?

I find myself torn between Barack Obama and Kim Kardashian.  One made history as the nation’s first black president, following the most politically brutal eight years in American government.  The other has a nice ass.

Actually, I’m more interested in nominating an individual from my life to be the Person of My Year.  See, 2010 hasn’t been a cake walk.  I lost a job, a romance, and depending on whether my book sells in 2011, the opportunity to get published.  The losses were somewhat liberating as I’ve been forced to examine what I really want.  But there have also been itty bitty crises about what happens next.

So, for me, 2010 has been defined by three people.

The Professor

Ever have those moments in life when you’re questioning the universe and wishing some sage person would come by to drop pearls of wisdom?  Basically, that happens whenever I meet the Professor for tea.

In 2008, I discovered a book called The Six Archetypes of Love and asked the English professor who wrote it to take part in a panel discussion I hosted for women.  Part Deepak Chopra, part Oxford-educated Lit expert, the Professor always uses gorgeous images from literary works to illustrate the truths of existence; for instance, making comparisons to Grimm’s Fairy Tales when I’m feeling overwhelmed by the trials of living.  Most importantly, he reminds me life is one giant lesson on how to be real.  Speak your truth, have faith you’re getting what you need and your purpose finds you.

I can’t imagine Sarah Palin’s advice over tea – perhaps, “drill, baby, drill” – would quite compare.

The Grandma 

Used to be when folks told me they could feel the presence of deceased relatives, I’d smile courteously as the Twilight Zone theme sounded in my head.  Now, I totally get it.  Though my grandmother passed away five years ago, she’s been in my dreams constantly this year.

A few weeks ago, I finally asked her in a dream, “Grandma, are you really with me or am I just going bonkers?”  She said nothing and only held me.  By gum, if I didn’t feel her presence like crazy.  As I now had access to the great beyond, I begged her to share what she knew about life having reached the hereafter.  All she said was something indistinguishable about Ronald Reagan.

I assume our metaphysical wires got crossed as I find it hard to believe the meaning of life has anything to do with the Big Gipper.  Still, it’s swell to know one of the people who loved you most has your back on the other side.

The Guy

When you’re a kind person attracted to self-absorbed buttheads who’d rather wrestle a rabid coyote than commit, it’s easy to lose faith in love.  For the past couple years, my relationships have consisted mostly of losers, putzes and all around jerks.  I’ve tolerated their failure to make consistent plans, their feigned interest in my goals and overall elusiveness because I was so eager to have their attention.

Then along came a guy whose actions and allegiance demonstrated one magnificent truth – you, my dear, deserve to be treated well.  My entire world changed.  A ridiculous romantic past was swallowed up and a more satisfying future unfurled like a red carpet before me.  Goodbye, losers and jerks.  Hello, relating to an adult.

So, who should be my Person of the Year?  Who’s yours?

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Black Swan, starring Natalie Portman, will undoubtedly get reviewers and cinephiles musing about the dual nature of man, about the deliciously creepy place within all of us where kink and madness reside.

As a repressed ballerina desperate to win the lead role in Swan Lake, Ms. Portman’s virginal Nina must abandon her innate wholesomeness to discover the sexy beast within.  Indeed, Nina’s journey, spurred by her libertine director’s challenge to “let go,” leads to dangerous pill popping, rebellion against an overbearing parent, taboo sex and more than a hint of lunacy.

As always, director Darren Aronofsky brings the antsy and torturous experience of psychological obsession so superbly to life, you might leave the theater feeling an overwhelming need to call your shrink.  Still, I found myself thinking less about the forces of good and evil, and more about Nina’s endless quest for perfection.

To be average in our culture is, in many ways, to fail.  Success no longer depends on focus and a healthy competitive streak; it more often depends on ruthlessness, relentless drive and the resolve to be number one.  Wealth is no longer about financial comfort, but taking up as much space as is possible with humongous cars and TV screens.  Beauty is no longer a lucky accident of nature; it’s achieved through plucking, Botoxing, waxing and working out until you fall into an exhausted heap of rock-hard muscles and six-pack abs.  To the detriment of our relationships and our physical and mental health, we strive, strive, strive and work our poor asses to the bone.

Our pop culture occasionally tries to warn us how this unappeasable lust for success kills everything human within us, like when There Will Be Blood’s greedy oil baron ended up crazy and alone.  What’s interesting is how these stories of self-destruction change when the central character is female.  Seems overly ambitious men destroy everything around them.  Overly ambitious women destroy themselves.

Ballet attempts to achieve the most extreme forms of beauty, precision and a grace that is as breathtaking as it is completely superhuman.  A person is just not supposed to be weightless and able to contort the way ballerinas contort.  A beautiful ballet body is often starved, worked to exhaustion, gnarled with blistered flesh and bloody toes.  Mastery in ballet requires complete devotion.  Practice is endless, competition is fierce and success rare.

And so ballet is the perfect allegory for a deliriously driven culture.  After watching Black Swan, I found myself wondering why we push ourselves so hard, especially considering the potentially disastrous consequences of doing so.  Nina’s greatest triumph – dancing Swan Lake – also leads to her annihilation.

Maybe I’m just getting all thinky because I’ve hit that moment in life when you start wondering if “it” was all worth it; “it” being all the sacrifices made and risks taken in the pursuit of greatness.  I’m thinking about what you lose operating with such singular focus, how much of yourself gets damaged during the quest.  Reach the dream and you may regret the people and experiences you gave up on your journey.  Fail to reach the dream and you may regret the people and experiences that won’t be around to soften the blow.

I don’t want to keep bloodying my toes and certainly don’t want to destroy myself.  So I won’t stop following my chosen path but I will slow my pace from a manic run to a leisurely walk.  The work’s more fun, the view’s better.  And I think I’ll have the energy to enjoy it more once I get there.

 

[Photo from the film Black Swan, Fox Searchlight Pictures]

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