Lessons I Teach Myself
The weight of the world,
It is heavy right now.
and before now,
and later than now.
It is cold,
It is rage,
It is generations of oppression rising up to scream,
It is every person
Who feels powerless.
The weight of the world,
It is heavy right now.
For some of you,
Violence is the language of your pain.
And for some,
All you are asking for, is LOVE.
I hear you.
I hear you.
I hear you.
*Photo By Julio Cortez
"My heart hurts."
"It stings. It's shattered. It's broken."
"I hear you."
My friend whispered with a tender smile.
"Well, I don't like it!"
I frowned like the brat that I am.
She then moved in closer, stared straight into my soul and said:
"But darling, the heart isn't supposed to be whole.
It is made of a million tiny pieces. Like the fabric of your life, sewn together. Or a puzzle made of all your different experiences and memories. When a part is missing, it feels like it is broken, I know. And that it won't ever heal again. But darling, the heart needs to be in pieces - some are open, honest, loving, and some are challenged by the world, or furious at it. Some are playful and curious at what life has to offer, and some want to hide in their shell until the storm passes through.
Let your heart be broken, darling. That is how it will grow stronger. That is how it will heal."
And I curled in her arms for a hug.
And I felt a piece of my heart getting stronger.
And my heart healed.
And it felt whole again.
But only for a little while...Until I turned on the news. Sigh.
"Heads or tails?"
Waving the shiny quarter in front of my face. Like a DARE.
Now, I am not one that makes decisions a whim. I usually ponder and weigh in all the options laid out in front of me. Like the proper Libra that I am - I consider all the scenarios prior to making my choice. I do that when I read the menu in a restaurant, or when I go down the rabbit hole of product reviews on Amazon, or when I contemplate a big life move.
"HEADS or TAILS!?"
"Okay, heads, heads. I'll be heads."
She rolled her eyes, scolding me for taking so long coming up with that unoriginal answer.
The quarter was up in the air, off to its journey.
In the millisecond it took for the quarter to flaunt its flying expertise like the most arrogant Bowie 747 would - a thought creeped up. I thought to myself: what if it's tail?
And then it hit me.
I am experiencing fomo* (*Fear Of Missing Out) even while calibrating over who will go first at a game of Hide & Seek with a six year old child.
Fomo got me. It got me again. Just like the neighbor's grass is always greener, so is the other side of the coin more shiny, more attractive, more desired.
When we are always looking at the other side of the coin....be it when comparing our lives to other people's glamorous lives on instagram (newsflash - glamour is overrated and fades so quickly it's as if it never existed at all), or when we feel regret over the job that slipped away, or the one that got away, or when we stay home following a Stay At Home order but in some other parts of the world our friends and family are having the time of their lives, hugging, mingling, partying. No masks. No virus. No worries in the world. (serious fomo there!)
Fomo is always there waiting for an opportunity to show up in our lives, to remind us that we could be doing something else, something better. Fomo is the little devil on your shoulder that is teasing you (in an annoyingly menacing voice, of course) about what you haven't achieved yet in your life.
Fomo is a friend to depression, a gateway to it actually. After all - it is a FEAR.
And what are we missing out on anyways!? Do we really know how the course of our life would have run if we DID get that job, or that relationship, or went to that glamorous event that could have changed our lives?
We've all grown up believing the story of Cinderella a tad too much.
What would her story be if she DIDN'T go the ball? We were brought up to believe that she would continue living a horrible life and wishing she had met a fairy god mother or marry a prince.
But what would we find if we flip the story of Cinderella on its head?
Would she have eventually overcome the abuse she was facing by her step-mother and step-sisters? Would she have become a self-made entrepreneur, starting an empire of cleaning supplies and expertise thanks to the skills she learned while facing adversity? Would she have learned to love herself, and maybe even welcome a romantic partner to her life? Maybe one that would love her for who she is rather than the beautiful dress and shoes she was wearing? Just a thought.
What do we find if we face the fear, the fomo, and actually, purposefully, miss out.
We may find that we are not missing out on anything at all.
And just like that - the thought passed, and the coin dropped to the ground.
It was HEADS.
But seeing the disappointed face of the little girl in front of me - recognizing the look of fomo in her eyes - I let her go hide first, and our game of hide & seek began.
Me - 1 Fomo - 0
Of all the inspirational quotes by buddhist monks,
and old Hollywood icons,
and pulitzer prize winners,
and the Oprahs,
and the Liz Gilberts,
And the modern day social-media gods we spend our days paying attention to,
My absolute favorite words of wisdom of all time are...
BART SIMPSON'S "Nobody Ever Suspects The Butterfly."
Yeah. For real.
Well, aside from the brilliant delivery of that line by Nancy Cartwright, (Seriously, just google this scene, it's hilarious as all Simpsons episodes are and this little gem is incredibly random), this silly little trickster-truth has more depth in it for me than most philosophical deep poetic lingo... because it reminds me to:
*NOT TAKE EVERYTHING SO SERIOUSLY.
*It's All Invented.
*If it's all invented....then PLAY and ENJOY YOURSELF while you're at it!
*We can all be butterflies if we leave our cocoon, and no harm will be done so let's all get on with it!
Um, I mean this theoretically, not literally...we are still following Stay At Home orders here in most places in the U.S...but there are other ways to let our guards down, and play, and spread our wings and go hang out smelling flowers or whatever it is that butterflies do!
*Oh, yeah, and my inner child loooooooves her some mischief, as long as nobody is hurt in the process, of course :)
So thank you Bart Simpson for that little snippet of wisdom. You are wise beyond your years.
We rarely meet, you and I.
Usually darling lil' FEAR comes along and pulls me away from you.
And you turn in defiance and walk away. When that happens, I can tell you are a bit...ENRAGED, and want to be in my company more often. But for some reason fear beats you down, almost every time.
Today you and I met and it was glorious.
It was the kind of encounter that involves screaming into a pillow so no one will hear us in our element.
It was the kind of encounter that left a frown on my forehead - a wrinkle that may last for years to come.
It was the kind of encounter that tensed my body up so much, that even an hour of cardio workout didn't seem to do a thing to relax my nerves.
I was in you today. I was in RAGE. And you, Rage, were in me.
I am STILL feeling you tickling my insides, shaking me to my core, rattling my heart.
It may take more than a day for you to walk away this time. Injustice does this to us, Rage.
It makes you speed up to devour me, and then together we gush in agony that it's NOT FUCKING FAIR, and that it's WRONG, And someone IS TO BLAME.
Later, Rage, when you will walk away, Sadness will come and greet me.
She will help me recover from our intense encounter. I will calm down, and maybe shed a tear or two. My lava red complexion will brighten up a bit and return to its usual paleness.
I don't wish to hurt your feelings, dear Rage, but I will be relieved when you are gone.
You see, I am not so comfortable being in you, yet. It hurts to be ENRAGED. It hurts.
But at times, I know, it's necessary. YOU are necessary Rage, and I appreciate you.
And sure, I will sleep peacefully again. And I will feel some joy again, and play, and wonder and be marry.... But thanks to you, I was made aware today of an injustice that got my blood boiling so much so, that it has driven me into action. Sure, injustices happen every day, I know, but not every day you and I march in protest of its existence.
So thank you, Rage, for shedding a light on things that matter.
For making me understand that I can do something, that I oughta do something.
For allowing me to see that the opposite of injustice isn't justice - it's LOVE.
*Today, my Rage showed for George Floyd.
A man who DIED in the hands of racism, of hate, of ignorance, of abuse of power, of murder.
Remember his name. Say his name. SCREAM his name. And not into a pillow, but rather to all those who are for some reason NOT outraged over his tragic death.
You are in a tropical jungle.
There are monkeys hoo-hoo-hoo-ha-ha-ha all around you.
You are sipping fresh coconut water from coconut shells that literally fell down by your feet.
Sweat is dripping down your neck and in your striped bikini and you are cursing at the tropical humidity that for some reason your body hasn't gotten used to yet.
And then you notice something sort of miraculous...:
Time is standing still. You have no clue what time it is, what day it is, how long you've been standing at that particular spot, and you don't really care.
Congratulations! You've entered JUNGLE TIME.
Or you are in an island, watching the waves come up on the shore, making their unapologetic splashes.
You dig your feet in the sand, feel its glassy textures. It tickles you a bit but your like that sensation. You always have. The sun is bright and smiling above you, as you listen to your favorite song on your ipod, or you read a book about travel you only read when you travel, and you look aside to your sweetheart and sport a smile her way.
Then you notice you forgot if it is morning or afternoon, and you have lived in cities way too long to tell what time it is by looking at the location of the sun.
You realize: You've entered ISLAND TIME.
Or say, you are in a desert, far from your home.
You've been here for a while, and the dust of the scenery around you shows in the complexion of your skin. You are listening in to the sounds around you, you think to yourself 'There sure is life in the desert'.
That elbow of yours got caught in that prickly cactus by your airbnb, so you rub some aloe-vera gel, fresh, of course, right on the wound, and rub some on your burned complexion while you are at it.
You are sitting by a campfire, and the smell of smoke is moody, peaceful, oddly comforting...you tell yourself you should come out here more often.
You look up above you and notice the stars glistening down. You realize it is night time because how else would they appear like that?
But you have no clue what time it is: You've entered DESERT TIME.
Or how about... you are sitting at your home.
You are staring outside the window, a child and his mom, with masks on, ride by on their bikes. You are tempted to wave but you know they won't see you from a distance. And then you read your book, the one you finally got to read after so many years of wanting to but never finding the time. And then you watch some news and tear up a bit. And you take that webinar you've been excited to take for a while. And then you scroll down Netflix and go down that rabbit hole, or the one of youtube, or instagram, or facebook, or tick tock. Or maybe even you make an appearance to you old beloved Pinterest page. Then, you open a puzzle that was finally delivered to you. And you play some music. And you dance to yourself. And you cook a lavish meal for yourself, in your solitude, and in your sweat pants. Or you order in and stuff yourself with chips, and more chips, and popcorn, and chocolate. The pricey dark chocolate you got at Whole Foods. And you talk to a friend, or two, maybe even three that day. And family checks in on you, and you are happy for a moment. And then at night you are sad, and feeling so unbelievably alone. So you pick up a pen and paper, and begin writing to yourself. You read somewhere that 'journaling at this time is a good idea'. So you begin. But then you realize: you don't know what day it is. You don't even know what month it is. And you have no idea what time it is.
Congratulations! You've entered QUARANTINE TIME.
Be it jungle time, or island time, or desert time or our newfound quarantine time... the time warp is that feeling when time stand still, but also feels expansive.
It's usually tied in to having to just be present, in the moment.
The time warp can be disorienting, especially when it is at home, where we are used to being always busy, with a tight schedule, and loads of plans and not enough time to do the simple act of just BEING.
Today I've entered a TIME WARP.
I may fall out of it tomorrow, but for now, I intend to enjoy it.
She waited for me in a convertible mini cooper that had the colors of the UK flag plastered all over it.
It was unexpected. Unexpected because when we talked over the phone I didn't remember her to have an English accent. As soon as I opened the door to my building and noticed that car, twenty thousand thoughts attacked my brain: Is she English? Oh, cool, convertible! But it's a hideous car. HIDEOUS! Ugh I need to get a license already, been living in Los Angeles for a few months already, I need to learn how to drive. This one must be expensive, no? Okay she must be a pretentious LA type if she is driving THIS car. But Adolfo introduced us...there is no way he would have anyone short of amazing in his life....' So many thoughts were running through my head that first time I met Sofia. But when she turned her face towards me, and her shiny bright smile came along - my thoughts stopped altogether.
Sofia distracted me with her effortless calm essence. It shined far more than the car that came along with her. It shined far more than my monkey brain. Her essence was like meditation in a human form.
Later in our conversation she randomly mentioned how she was 'subleting' her friend's car. It felt like she had read my mind and made sure to soothe it with that answer. I was at ease around her from then on. We became instant friends. And I don't say that lightly... it isn't easy for me to be an instant friend. I often bring along some trust issues or cold distance when meeting new people. Out of insecurity most likely. But Sofia had the kind of peacefulness that would probably make anyone an instant friend to her.
A month or so later, after a hike in Griffith Park, I got a taste of understanding to why she was so... what's the word....divine: She used to be a business finance person, a wall street type, a money mover and shaker in New York City. Then, she had nearly died of a peanut allergy, and had decided to alter her entire life. From then on she did only what she wanted to do. For her, it was being an actress, a writer, a producer, a storyteller. Living a creative life was what her heart always wanted her to live, and when she had the unexpected gift of a near death experience - she received the message loud and clear.
I remember sitting on the roof of my Los Feliz apartment, in a hot afternoon, listening in to her inspiring tale that brought her to Los Angeles, that connected her to Adolfo - another creative spirit that later, and luckily for me, connected her to me. I was in awe of that story and her openness to share it. It was easy for her, she was simply telling her truth.
Sofia and I started talking art, and drama, and storytelling, and all things acting and writing related. Once Sofia shared with me a link to the commencement speech Brit Marling gave in Northwestern, where Brit ends her beautiful speech with the words 'Hold on to your tribe.'
We both loved that speech.
I had a creative kindred spirit in Sofia. She was a member of my creative tribe. I knew it and wanted to follow Brit's advice and hold on to my tribe. Sofia and I quickly shifted from newfound friends, to writing accountability partners. We would meet at our favorite neighborhood coffee shop, and set up a timer to begin our work. And then share the work with each other. We brainstormed a few ideas and even set up plans for a short film we were going to do. It was a spoof about the 'Amazing Race'. We were going to shoot in Griffith Park, a sort of mockumentary about making an Amazing Race audition tape. We had so much fun planning this little silly spoof, but before coming into fruition, the wind of opportunities took Sofia back to New York City. Though I was sad she was leaving the city of angels, I was understanding and supportive, and went on to other creative ideas and collaborators.
Sofia and I continued chatting from afar in all the different medias of email, of social media and so on. And we would hang out every time I flew to NYC. Once we even met with Adolfo at an Italian restaurant in Cobble Hill. (What was that restaurant? I want to go back there. I NEED to go back there. I hope it lasts Post-Covid.)
As unexpected as it was to see Sofia in that mini cooper, it was unexpected when she died.
She was in Mexico filming, and once again the deadly allergy got to her, but this time for good.
She was 28. Or maybe 32. Who knows? Her wisdom and essence knew no limit of age so it doesn't matter.
But it was too soon. Of course.
Divine creatures like her? Even at the age of 90 would have been taken too soon.
Along with loss and grief that takes one on an emotional ride, I remember how overwhelmed I was with the guilty feeling of 'Did she know how much I admired her?' 'Did I share with her the impact she made on me?' Sometimes I still wonder those thoughts as I go along with my day, four years later. I occasionally find myself scrolling down her instagram page. A page that lives on infinitely even four years after she had passed. Her post before the last one is a brief video of hers, running on a beach, disappearing off the frame, sporting that bright calm smile of hers. A smile that made people fall in love with her. She wrote a hashtag below that post. It said #leapyear.
And it was her leap year.
Somewhere inside, did she know it?
Years before, she knew that her time was limited, so she was going to do only what she wanted with it.
I am so beyond grateful that I got to be on her path. That I had some precious moments with this divine creature that fell into my life unexpectedly.
Thank you Sofia, a guiding light up above and in the ground.
If you are listening, please know how much I loved you. How much I admired you. And what impact you left on me.
I hope you and Adolfo are having delicious Italian meals in the other side, discussing all things art and creativity, and shining your twinkles on us all from above.
Tracy Chapman sang that a revolution "sounds like a whisper."
It is soft, gentle, creeps in on you with subtle urgency.
She sang 'bout people rising up, and that the tables are finally starting to turn, and that you better run run run run run run run....
She sang 'bout welfare and unemployment line and armies of salvation.
She sang 'bout wasting time, and crying, and 'Don't you know?'
She sang about you. She sang about me. She sang about us.
Her words stick with me today, as I feel the society around me- the western society that is, the one that puts individualism and capitalism in the forefront, that raises children to work, to accomplish, to succeed, to be first - I feel the society around me in shambles, trying to hold on to its illusion but its fatigue is too strong. It's tired. And it says, in a faint exhausted voice: 'Turn the table on me. Go ahead.'
And maybe we will.
Maybe we'll examine our flaws as a society, and rise up united and more caring than before. Maybe we'll move away from big cities, or start communities that would care for one another, maybe we'll vote differently so we wouldn't find ourselves handling a disaster in a disastrous way.
And maybe we will come out even more damaged, more polarized. More in the trenches of suffering, of chasing. More into being FIRST, even when that means letting people in our communities live on the streets, or die alone in hospitals, or choose not to go to the hospital when sick because the hospital bill will be too high.
Time will tell how our next revolution would be.
But in the meantime, there is another revolution I'd like to talk 'bout:
The revolution of the mind, of the spirit. The revolution of the heart.
What does THAT revolution look like? What does it sound like? What does it feel like?
THAT is one revolution I wanna run run run run run run run to... the revolution of my HEART.
In mid March, somewhere in my social media world, (was it Facebook? Instagram? Youtube?), an ad popped up for The Great Courses Plus.
I have never been to college, and went to a prestigious Performing Arts High School and then theatre studies in a Conservatory, so my general knowledge of say, SCIENCE, has always been pretty lacking.
So when this ad appeared in my world, and with it the possibility of learning new things that I probably should have learned years ago, it was highlighted to me like a shiny diamond in a stack of dirt.
The advertisement mentioned FREE MONTH, which made the diamond even more desirable.
So on a random sunny afternoon, I signed up.
Immediately browsing through the site, I felt like I was scrolling through the 'Netflix of Courses'.
I started a queue, in it 79 courses I had interest in - from mindfulness courses, to courses in philosophy, wide spectrum of writing, the art of gardening, neuroscience, cognitive behavioral therapy, even some tai chi and many many more. (79 is no joke. I am an ambitious learner!)
When this 'Stay At Home' order began, in my city of Los Angeles, I knew this was not going to be just a two week thing. I was following news from my family overseas and could see the spread of this virus was only going to get worse for us in the United States. So I decided to take my first course - put my time into learning and try to avoid stressing as much as humanly possible. I had my ups and downs with it, as we all have, but the possibility of taking a course has always been there, waiting patiently in my first tab on the chrome browser on my laptop, asking me 'Are you ready to take me on?'
And so, one day I did. I looked through my watchlist, and chose my first course: CRITICAL THINKING.
I don't know what instinct pulled me in that direction, or why THAT ONE, of all the courses that I could take...was it intuition? Divine intervention? 'Little man in the machine' stirring me in this direction?
Who knows. If I use what I have learned from this course, then the probability was that my personal history has showed me how easily news and information can be spread easily and recklessly in high stake situations, and maybe I should keep my mind as capable to handle all that as I can. Shortly after I started this course, I started noticing the outpouring of conspiracy theories, fear mongering, and misinformation in the wild wild web. Friends have sent me 'bombshells' after bombshells urging me to wake up and join their 'team' of disbelief in the cruelty of the government, or Bill Gates, or 5G or WHATEVER.
But alas, what they didn't know, is that I HAD TOOLS.
Tools of critical thinking.
I am still learning how to utilize these tools - and what better way than in a global tragedy that is inviting all kinds of bogus theories and some that may not be bogus at all - but unproved nonetheless?
So yeah, I've had to practice what I've been learning daily, and my critical thinking muscles? They are getting stronger and stronger every day. And through this 'adventure of critical thinking' (yes, kids. Learning can be an adventure!) , my appreciation to the scientific process has grown immensely.
I used to think science was the enemy of the artistic mindset - the one I have been primed to adhere to since birth. Now I see, the two are of the same. They are both rooted in the action of QUESTIONING.
In the scientific process - we don't have the answers, and we seek them, so we start experimenting.
Then, after many experimentations, we conclude a possibility to unleash to other scientists who will begin their own experimentations to see if the possibility we came up with is a reliable one, and therefore it could be peer reviewed, agreed upon and as reliable as it can be with the data we have.
In the artistic process - we begin with the beginner's mind, the 'I don't know' creative spirit, and then experiment through the process of creativity, to then find a gem we may decide to share with the world - for the world to have their experience of our gem. Be it a painting, a film, a melody.
The audience, or receiver of the art, is entitled to have their experience, and in this way, art takes on a collaborative form even when the artist is long gone to create her next masterpiece.
Perhaps it is my brain connecting the dots between these two giants: ART & SCIENCE.
Actually, it is very likely that it is only my brain.
But I choose to follow this belief, which hopefully will lead me to be at ease with BOTH mindsets and not have the need to choose one over the other.
'Are you right brained?' 'Are you left brained?' 'Are you more of an artsy person?' 'Are you a science type?'
I choose to be BOTH.
After all, they both begin by saying openly, unafraid and with inspiring courage: I. DON'T. KNOW.
And then we grunt. Or we sigh. Or we beat ourselves up a bit.
Or we yell at our spouse because it must be his or her fault that the granola box was slightly open or right on the edge of the kitchen counter!? Or we blame it on the dog or we laugh a little because we all heard the little saying 'Don't cry over spilled milk'... And then we PICK OURSELVES UP, and kneel down to the floor, humbled by our mistake and start PICKING UP THE PIECES. Little by Little. Granola chunk by another.
We then throw it in the trash (or back in the box if we are really savage that day) and go on with our day. Five minutes later, it's like it never even happened.
It's like an epic breakup - from the one you thought was The One, or mister or mrs. Right, or the Right Now if you are the type that is afraid of foreverness like I am; We first have to seep in the misery of the loss; listen to songs that remind us of our loved one; cry ourselves to sleep at night; go over all our photos and text messages to remind us who we were with that person. Then, we think to ourselves 'Will I ever love again?' 'Will anyone love me again?' 'Was it a mistake to break-up?' 'Was it a mistake to be together to begin with?' We ponder over this for a while. Maybe a day. or a month. A year, possibly. A FEW years for some. Or a lifetime for the unlucky few of us.
But there is a day when we begin to PICK OURSELVES BACK UP AGAIN.
Maybe we go on a date, or fall in love, or sign up to a dating site.
And suddenly our heart is mended again. Scarred, sure, but mended, and together, and maybe even bigger than before. So big we could nearly forget how broken it was before.
Or it's also like a pandemic that put us all in collective panic, where we all went to the grocery shops clinging to our purses or holding on to our bodies, for protection. Wearing masks and washing our hands obsessively. Only our eyes would reveal to each other how afraid we were.
And suddenly, time passes.
The reality sets in and it becomes easier to wear the mask - heck, we even have a whole collection of them in our closet. And washing our hands is completely on auto-pilot now, and actually is a pretty good habit we wished we had years before, and the outside world is not so scary anymore.
So we show up, in the streets, at the grocery stores, at the beach or the parks, this time with a little more twinkle in our eyes. A twinkle that sends the message 'we'll get through this' to one another.
We are picking up the pieces of our collective trauma, and we'll rise again and forget it was ever scary at all.
We begin, little by little, day by day, human by human.
Tamar Pelzig pledged to write something every day, even if it's only a word, so she welcomed to the world a daily blog that may, or may not be, of any significance to anyone other than herself. If you found her lil' life lessons, stories, poems and blurbs meaningful to you, well that's f**ing amazing! Comment and share so she can pat herself in the back - she doesn't do that nearly enough. Cheers.