If you read my last post, you got a taste of the adventure of seeing Cindy Sherman‘s exhibit on Valentine’s Day with my brother at the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis. In case you didn’t get the general drift of my impression and experience: loved. I’d post photos of her photos but none were allowed and while I did carry my camera, I’ve lost some of my rebellious nature. Growth happens!
Earlier that day, driving on Lake Street, we passed Lake Calhoun, her trees lined in hoar-frost. Mark moaned about not having a camera. Mine was in the back seat, so I gave it to him while I drove. We stopped and of course I couldn’t keep my hands off my equipment, framing a shot that hides the barriers, other vehicles, the haphazardly stacked plastic canoes. But that’s how art does, isn’t it? Shows us what to see, what to pay attention to while we ignore the rest. Limits the vision while inviting it to come alive. Isolates the beautiful, the message, narrows the vision while expanding it. You get all the juxtapositions, the oxymorons, the paradoxical utterances, right? That too is how art does.
After the experience of meeting all the characters Cindy Sherman dresses up as, we ventured into other galleries at the Walker. Modern Art begs staring, inquiries, placards of words to frame up the experience. I don’t think I could do without the words, frankly. Although the art DOES, it IS on its own too. And then language shakes all of it up in a Ziploc bag of reassemblage. ( I think I made that word up.)
Know what amuses me most, though? Watching other people encountering art.
I survived Hurricane Sandy in Manhattan. Wednesday after, MOMA opened and we survivors flocked to the museum in droves. “I wish these people would go away!” my friend said. But they were as much, if not more, a part of the Beauty for me that day.
I watch people taking in art. I listen to them interact with the art and with each other. Eavesdropping like you read about in the last post. Seeing people viewing art begs capture with a 1/80 shutter. Their forms and expression and beauty become bigger than those canvasses on the wall. Perhaps it’s because I’m of the mind a thing doesn’t become art without an audience. Yeah, I’m one of those.
Too many bodies for balance? Perhaps.
And that’s the trick of it, the impulse of photography, the instinct at work, the speed of the eye/hand coordination. It’s the transfer from experiencing something beautiful, seeing it, and being able to capture it. The same is true of other mediums, I think. Not everyone can do it, I’ve discovered after all these years. I certainly don’t always get it, but I keep trying.
Admittedly I grew a little impatient people wouldn’t stand still for my preconceived idea of how this might look.
Then I turned the focus to a side viewing room where in a stunning moment of perfect timing, textures, and lighting I found this little gem, the flat eggshell walls framing a separate adventure. I caught my breath at the discovery, clicking instinctively.
Now that I like. It says Art-Viewing in Minnesota on a windy Valentine’s Evening. Pensive. Thoughtful. Tired but not Beaten. I imagine no mate warming the heart; the contemplation of plenty of fish. (Or might that be mere projection? Who knows?)
The addition of my words scrambled what started taking shape for you, didn’t it?
And that’s how art does too.
Recently I’ve attended two sporting events without my camera. For the first time in five years. One of those games was the Timberwolves match against the Utah Jazz. We had second row seats just off center court and I had no camera. Try to imagine my agony. Just try. I came unprepared!
After the first quarter, I settled my unease and experienced the game without the impetus of seeing and making art. I just enjoyed the what is. It’s a strange and palpable change, believe me. Painful at first, then worth every impermanent breath. And a change worth experiencing from time to time, just to see things in a new light.
Remember what a hellish Valentine’s I had last year? (Shhhh, I’ve almost forgotten!) I’ll admit, the pain was a whisp as I made plans this year. A work conference fell right before, so I was happy to continue in Minneapolis with my dear and eldest brother, Mark.
Beautifully, THE Day fell on the Walker Art Center‘s $0.00 Thursday. We had free run of it, Mark and I. But it was the Cindy Sherman exhibit, sent from New York City’s Museum of Modern Art I did not want to miss. (I’m posting old news, I guess, since the exhibit closed day before yesterday.) More proof I naturally wait for the last minute on lots of things and viewing art is no exception.
Apparently one of the Sunday papers had a write-up before the final week, but I couldn’t tell what kind of amusement danced across the face of a new acquaintance as I told him during the work conference I intended to see it. Who can tell what people are thinking when they don’t say?!
Amusement ended up being my primary response to the exhibit, a series almost entirely of self-portraits, the artist masquerading as characters in her own photography from the 1970s to 2010. Such a commentary on feminine existence! Incredible. Lush. Detailed. Stylized. Unnervingly inspiring. Strange. Laughable. Entirely delightful. Thoroughly amusing.
I stood gazing at one wall sprinkled with iconic, costumed women, each photo a stereotypical, yet very real representation of commonly put-on identity. I eavesdropped on a conversation between a student and her professor, who himself had no steamy date for the Celebration of Love and Fertility and hence, scheduled his Art Appreciation Class to take a required turn through the museum with directed objectives. Apparently. I saw several students taking copious notes. Two young men, adorned in drag, wandered, gazed, chatted, and I wondered if they were there from the class or an added bonus for their benefit. I was fittingly amused. Again.
The student, a girl at least six inches taller than I am even in my boots, her dark, cropped hair Brillo-coarse, sighed through her nose ring and moaned “I just feel so claustrophobic. I have this response: I just want to get out of here! It’s all so overwhelming.”
Her professor, a medium-handsome man I’d love to chat with on eHarmony given the chance (though he’s likely gay or unavailable, come to think of it) rambled on about the Deconstruction of Identity, on Sherman’s Intent, on her Commentary on the Ordinary, her Response to Culture.
I’d date him. As long as he doesn’t prattle on like that ALL the time. There was some melody in his voice. He was well-made. He was talking about Art, for heaven’s sake.
I so easily digress.
What struck me most about the wall was this: We all masquerade. Every single day. Detail from hair to toe. Here was proof, right before us. The same woman altered and yet human, common, known. And all of it within our power to change. And choose. That struck me most of all. The course of our deliberate choosing.
And I like that.
It’s true and beautiful. And excellent.
Weighty with responsibility.
I read in a review the general difference between women and men as they interpret the portraits, particularly those most recent gargantuan wall portraits of aging wealthy socialites is this: women understand the lengths each character has trod to achieve some semblance of beauty and a preservation of youth. The tell-tale traces Sherman deliberately leaves resonate, are not lost on, fully inform the female experience of those aging, aristocratic women. Men, the reviewer observed, are more interested in the character than what is real or put-on about her.
Even that amuses me. And it doesn’t really surprise me a bit.
Here’s the only problem I have with those wonderful peanut butter cereal bars with chocolate frosting: no matter the pan size, I can eat them until they’re gone. A 9×13 pan is sheer dietary murder. Even the 9×9: flat-belly-suicide. Not that I’ve ever HAD a flat belly! But still.
To solve this, I’ve devised a two point strategy. 1. reduce the recipe so I can eat the whole batch without getting sick or fat, and 2. make the recipe healthy!
Okay. It’s not entirely healthy. Corn syrup and sugar to start. No substitute for the butterscotch and semi-sweet chips for the frosting. But you do get to use all-natural organic peanut butter and muesli for the cereal, complete with dates, raisins, and almonds! Substitute some honey for the corn syrup if it makes you feel better.
Prepare yourself; these are yummy. Here’s the recipe:
1/4 cup corn syrup
1 T granulated sugar
1/4 cup all-natural organic peanut butter
1 cup muesli cereal
a handful of semi-sweet chocolate chips
half a handful of butterscotch chips
Put the syrup (or honey if you sub it) into a microwave safe bowl and add the sugar. Stir. Microwave on high for 20-30 seconds. (Do not over-cook or you might end up with hard-crack syrup.) Stir in the peanut butter until smooth. Add the cereal (and be sure you get some of those lush dates, nuts, and raisins.) Press aluminum into the bottom of a cereal bowl and coat with non-stick cooking spray. Press the cereal mixture into the prepared bowl.
In a separate bowl, melt the chips together until smooth and creamy, stopping to stir if necessary. Frost the cereal bars with the melted chips and refrigerate for a half hour until set before cutting the bars. This is if you can stand it. You may not be able to stand it. In that case the bars will look like this: I don’t mind my frosting and bars a little warm and gooey. You likely won’t mind either. But if you prefer them all set up nice, you’ll have to wait. In that case, you’ll be able to peel the aluminum foil away and have them hold the form. Feel free to experiment with the bowl size to manipulate the cereal to chocolate ratio. Notice I also do not mind thin bars and thick chocolate. Cut them up in one inch bars and munch to your heart’s delight. The only challenge will be to resist mixing up an easy batch every day!
P.S. They are perfect with fresh coffee, tea, or a cup of organic milk. And don’t worry; technically, there’s enough here to share with one or two people you reeeeeallllly love. And if you’re better at ration and restraint than I am, by golly, they may last a few days! Good luck.
It’s BoyWonder’s second year at college. He called last week and informed me he won’t be coming home this summer; he’s applying for an internship and staying down there five hours away. Three possibilities. He described them in order of preference and asked me to pray…and check his résumé.
Of course I did. Then I cried. Just a little. When I got off the phone, of course.
So, there you have it. I’d say the nest is officially, officially, officially, empty.
I’m not sure what I ate last year. I pretty much stopped cooking. It sort of depressed me I had no one to FEED!
This year, I’m excited about cooking for myself. That means single servings or easy-keepers for left-overs. I’m in love with organic everything! I’ve been trying recipes from the Power Foods Cookbook, Eating Well, Shape, Women’s Health, and the Internet. Here’s one I threw together without following a recipe:
Single serving Guacamole:
slivers of fresh onion and cilantro up to 2 TB each
diced pepper and/or tomato
salt and minced garlic to taste
8-10 tortilla chips (made from organic white corn!)
salsa if desired
Mash everything together except the chips and salsa. Stuff it back in the avocado skin for a fancy little trick and serve yourself!
Simple. Good. Healthy. Yum!
Next: those dangerous Peanut Butter Cereal Bars with chocolate frosting! I’ll make them just a little healthier and in a portion size that’s not so dangerous.
If you’ve been following, maybe you’ve heard me mention honesty a time or two. Maybe you read in The Secret to my Success this honesty is not just about telling the truth but about being the truth without shame or pretension. It’s what Getting Real really means!
I marvel when I remember this process began in earnest for me three years ago, brought about tremendous (and some momentarily painful) change in my life, continues bearing good fruit and alters the way I do life every single day. The truth does liberate! And when the Son sets you free, believe me, you are free indeed! Truth, baby. Beauty. FREEDOM!
It also upsets other people sometimes. Jack Nicholson’s character was right about some of us. We can’t handle the truth. Or we think we can’t. Some of us want lies, or like Thomas in the movie, Smoke Signals , when asked whether they want the truth or lies, eyes glistening, ready for a good story they’d say: “I want both!”
But “both” can be confusing for me. Tell it like it is. Don’t make me guess or I will never know what’s real.
Nothing disorients like a lie. A known lie erodes trust. A concealed one makes fools of earnest people and the teller. It destroys goodness faster than stage 4 cancer. Nothing clouds the picture like withholding, which in case you don’t know, just means you keep to yourself something you know an intimate or even a business client ought to know in order to have the right impression instead of allowing the wrong one. That’s called deception and it’s a synonym of lying. Half-truths are still lies. Protecting someone’s feelings is bull. You’re really protecting yourself from their reaction. And lies don’t come in black or white, just the color of slimy, slippery, gooey, oozing sludge.
No wonder 12 step programs have as a central tenet the ability to be rigorously honest. Rigorously. Not lightly. Not conveniently honest. Not pick-and-choose honest, but the kind that comes from a searching and fearless moral inventory. Everyone needs the help of a Higher Power in order to do that, including the “good” people of the world and those of us who aren’t addicts.
I had no idea other people have published BOOKS about this. What a joy to find I’m just a ripple in the wave of collective consciousness. Far out, man. Groovy.
He’s pretty crazy, but psychotherapist, Brad Blanton has some good things to say in Radical Honesty. It’s definitely radical. Also a fan of the book, Getting Real by Susan Campbell. Even confession is radical. Jesus himself recommended it. Yet, I wonder how many Catholics lie in the booth, or pretty-up the truth of their transgressions? I sure as heck would (although now I would try not to!)
I understand why confession is good for the soul. When I tell you the truth about myself, I hear myself say it; it becomes real. I can no longer tuck it away in a dark corner and pretend it doesn’t exist. And it makes the most sense to risk telling the person it concerns the most, the one I want most NOT to know this truth. That person is the one I fear and that fear must be faced, for good or bad. When Jesus said confess your sins one to another, he didn’t mean broadcast your misdeeds, he meant go tell the truth to the one you’ve wronged.
Being the Truth is not for the faint of heart, that’s certain. It can turn everything kitty whompus! Did you watch Denzel Washington in Flight? Telling the truth does not free us from its consequences, it merely frees us from its poisonous grasp.
Perhaps the most insidious lie has to do with the ones we believe about ourselves. Those destructive lies lurking in the basement recesses of my psyche have as much power as the lies I bury like a bloody bone. They are the ones I call “Nasty Voice.” She’s a bitch. Straight from hell. She pretends to like me, but she’s really out to destroy me, not protect me. She says things like “God, yer fat! You disgust me. You can’t sing. Shut up. Do you think people like that? You make my ass twitch. That girl is way prettier than you AND she’s skinny. That’s why she has a husband who loves her. Who cares if you’re smart, you’re a nothing. You certainly are stupid about some things! You’re an embarrassment. I’m ashamed of you. You ought to be ashamed of yourself!”
See what I mean? She needs to be strangled! She’s such an absolute wench! (Don’t pretend your Nasty Voice isn’t perfectly crafted to be as specifically mean to you as possible. Tell it to shut-up!)
Fortunately, around here, she hardly ever gets to talk anymore. (I also realized she was sounding a lot like a combination of my mother, my ex-husband, and my deepest fears. Interesting, eh? So they all have to shut up now. I don’t tolerate their comments. I’ve formulated a zero tolerance boundary about talk like that and it applies to my inner voice too.
Now I’ve got a cheerleader in there who’s all like “Mmmm, you go girl! Way to move it, Zumba chica! You are smart, and kind, and wooo wooo wooo!” Okay, sometimes she says things that don’t make sense even to me, but she’s in there NOT talking smack and suggesting, even with her non-language noises, I am A-OK. Sometimes she even tells me I’m pretty, which, in my house growing up…utter conceited sacrilege! And I feel good about her saying that stuff. Because it’s TRUE! And it’s helpful. It’s healthy!
Did you read this on one of my intro pages: “I have what I have, I’ve got what I’ve got. I am what I am, I’m not what I’m not.” It’s my Suessesque motto and I like it. But more than elementary rhythmic rhyming fun, being the truth is in the moment of each day and though it’s simple, it’s not easy. Especially each time you must face yourself in front of the person to whom you’ve been deceptive. A priest and some penance simply won’t do, in that case.
I like to think after a time it becomes habit, but we shall see.
What say you?
From a practical standpoint, (as opposed to just an internal fantastical longing one,) I’d say there are several important things I know relatively little about altogether. This is not an exhaustive list, just an ironic one.
Dog care. I have read books and articles and researched breeds and been a dog-sitter. I have been one to lie down with dogs, and escape without fleas, but I’m not sure exactly how I managed that.
I know how to remove dog crap from the carpet, but not entirely how to prevent its deposit there. I don’t really know what to effectually do when a dog needs to be swiftly disciplined for such an act. I have some idea how to dominate a dog who is exceedingly dominant, (and dominating Beta animals comes fairly inherently) but I’ve yet to tackle, pin, and bite the ear of an Alpha in the way my son describes as most effective for the eternal and permanent proper pack-order establishment. I sometimes doubt my ability to do this, a fact that, alone, might make me incapable of establishing dominance should I need to do so.
Health. Again, I have read the books and magazines. Years spent exhaustingly obsessed with the recurring thought I would never measure up does not count for much in the study of health.
These days, for real inspiration, creative perspective, and menu ideas, I love paging through Shape and Health and Yoga Journal while I’m spinning away on the stationary bike. (It’s the only cardio machine I can read on; I get sick to my stomach if I try that on the elliptical, and the treadmill, well, forget it.) From that list of equipment, you might assume I know something about fitness. It’s obvious perusing the bodies at our local YMCA so many other things go into health than simply “working out.” Like consumption and rest, mental, emotional, and spiritual balance.
So, I’ve begun my practice of yoga. Yeah, baby. I’m about two weeks into it, and completely hooked, overcome as I was with the inherent Love and Goodness during my first session. I cried when our instructor poured essential oil into my palm. It seemed, after the sequence, one of the most generous and lovely things on the planet and I was ripe to receive it.
Since then I’ve studied some poses and sequences. I’m getting steadier. Better. Stronger. But I still know nothing about it. Days like today, when I’m upset going in, it’s harder. I realize it’s not like being upset and sweating out three angry miles then ending exhausted and wrung out.
In Yoga I face my breath and own my feelings and sometimes battle to clear my head and be kind to myself when I can’t yet do a pose or I see that my stomach is paunchy in Warrior II. That’s the beauty of it too, though. I am what I am and there is no escape, no pretending. I’m all there and I can see me without any pretense or shield.
That experience today is really what’s spurring tonight’s writing, in fact.
I know nothing about dating.
There. I’ve said it.
I don’t know what works and what anything really means and how to actually move on from a disappointment. I talk big. But sometimes, like tonight, I think I’m just being pretty silly. I tell myself all sorts of things to help myself feel better when in reality, I want very much to have a healthy relationship and yet, I’m not sure how to get there. There’s no pain like uncertainty.
I’m supposed to know something about this stuff. I mean, I’ve been doing research and taking notes and compiling all sorts of first-hand and reported experiences. I study this crap like crazy. And I AM thoroughly fascinated by it. Hardly anything mesmerizes me more, in fact, than the theories around human dating and mating.
I used to think I couldn’t find a good match. But that’s not true. They exist, those handsome, athletic, very intelligent, creative men. By golly, they are out there.
Which means, (Glory to God!) I can be just as beautiful, sporting, intelligent, and creative as God intended me to be! That in itself is freeing! I can’t tell you how liberating it is to finally feel I can be myself without penalty! But it also holds the responsibility to do it.
After that, I got nothing. Not tonight anyway.
Tomorrow I might be able to talk big about certain guiding principles that prove helpful to healthy relating to the opposite sex. But tonight I can’t draw any distinction between whether it’s right to hold a boundary or if my standards are too high, can’t tell whether I’m being misunderstood, or heard or if I’m being too gentle or too harsh in my assessments of a man’s readiness and actual availability for relationship.
I-yi-yi. When did this get to be a million dollar industry? And what ever happened to just falling in love and mutual respect?
Okay. So the overall irony is that I am heavily engaged in all three activities right now. I’m getting a dog. Ready or not, here she comes and I know I’m going to love her. I doubt I will bite her ear. I have some first-time parent anxiety.
I’m at the end of week two of a fifteen week health training session I designed as behavior-based and not outcome based. I want to live a healthier existence. It’s multi-multi-dimensional, hence the Yoga and Zumba, Belly Dancing, downhill skiing, and my regular cardio workouts. It’s also sleep, sanity, social, and spiritual health, so believe me, it spans the breadth and depth and height.
And I’m dating, although I wouldn’t say very actively. Not actively enough for me. And while for the past two years I’ve felt a certain “devil-may-care” breeziness to my process, tonight it feels much more serious. And has for about the past two months. I want a life-long healthy partnership. But it’s hitting me like a ton of bricks that I have no idea how to get there and it’s apparently not information that comes naturally, like breathing.
Guess what? Turns out, because of all my classical vocal training, I’m pretty good at that. Pretty good at breathing. I don’t know everything there is to know about that, but I’m learning. And that just might be the only thing I do know something about.
My dear, sweet step-daughter-in-law used to punctuate her personal story-telling by explaining “I’m still bitter about that.” I loved her forthright, easy, and honest insertion. In case we had not picked that up from listening, she nicely admitted to the angst. I always admired that.
Recently, I had the opportunity to hear myself as I was getting to know a new friend. You know, hear yourself in the same way you look at your house differently the second you know someone who has never been there before is coming over and you only have a fixed number of hours to decide how much cleaning you need to do in order to make an impression you can live with.
Except that I almost always TALK too much. Imagine that! ( I do not, on the other hand, clean too much.)
When my new friend commented, “oh, do you have a small stubborn thing about that too?” it was just the stab in the ears I needed to wake up and hear myself.
Now, you would think, being as self-aware as I think I am (which I am not, by the way…another revelation for later discussion)I would have recognized all these small self-indulgent little stubborn things as really self-defeating. But I had not. I was not even able to say, as the sweetie I mentioned at the beginning, “I’m still bitter about that” even though, clearly, I have been bitter about a number of inane things.
I’ve also been bitter about a number of justifiable things. Which is to say, more than adopting a silly little stubbornness, I’ve responded to deep wounding by protecting myself from further harm. There’s some good in that…until the protection becomes a harm in itself.
Let me draw a distinction here too between victim mentality and protection. I’m no victim. In a way no self-help book could ever have done, reading Paulo Friere’s Pedagogy of the Oppressed as an undergrad way back when settled for me that question before it even became one. I’m a firm believer we have in our lives exactly what we have attracted into them. We are responsible for how we “end up” or how we are currently. It’s not someone else’s fault. Our lives have been formed around our own choices, not someone else imposing their will upon us. And, as Friere so nicely drove home: Liberation does not and cannot and should not come from the oppressor. Liberation truly must come from the oppressed for the good of oppressed and oppressor. When the student is ready, the teacher arrives.
So it is, apparently, with this new friend connection. Already the interaction has served to illuminate several things, chief among them my great ability to blindly stand in my own way. I’ve known this conceptually of course, readily admitting that I, like everyone else, have blind spots, character defects of which I am unaware. I’ve acknowledged it without examination or interest in discovering what they might be. And there’s good reason for that too. After an extended period of time with someone who calls all the ways you’re made a defect and problem and issue, it’s just self-preservation to willfully STOP the examination and effort to correct one’s shortcomings. Such an energy expenditure is mired in futility for a time, see?
Hence, it brings me unspeakable, inexpressible, unfathomable joy to suddenly find myself ready for the next lesson as I listened to myself sharing about my life with a person apparently perfectly designed to be helpful in just this way. The teacher arrived.
And I’ve had another Epiphany:
I haven’t time or space in my life any longer for small stubborn things, for petty little rebellions, or tiny, crippling grievances.
I’m not boycotting the McDonald’s in Hutch anymore. (I’m not sure I’ll eat there, but I can’t afford the energy spent on being angry with them for a silly incident.)
I’m paying my library fine. (Did you know here in Minnesota you can check out artwork for three months, hang it on your walls, enjoy it, and then rotate something also-wonderful. I used to do that. And now I can again. Not to mention they also allow you to check out DVDs and books!)
I’ve gone back to church. I’ve chosen one seemingly less fervent than the last, but have decided open acceptance and NOT being misogynist were far more important than expression. My heart has expanded to deliberately ignore offenses waged from some of the people closest to me. Love is easy. It is Abundant. My house is once again full of music-both of my own making and of my own choosing.
That really is just the beginning to the sudden and wonderful changes I’ve adopted after hearing myself talk too much. I don’t believe in New Year’s Resolutions. Not one lick. But I do believe in noticing what doesn’t work, then non-judgmentally being fully aware and making a choice based on that. It’s not trying harder, it’s just gently doing better because it makes sense.