Surviving Intact

In periods of difficulty, when I achieve a little distance from that difficulty, I start thinking in more hopeful terms. I start thinking about joy and humor and hope, and how they are magnificent stars that can keep me oriented towards the things I wish for in life.

So I’ve been thinking about moving towards, as opposed to moving against. And I’ve been thinking about what grounds me, moves me and inspires me. And this is my little blog tribute to some of the forces (or google searches) for beauty and joy in my life. Because keeping your sense of humor is the best revenge. And keeping my hope intact (from time to time) is one of the more challenging aspects of adult life.

As Jodie Foster put it so beautifully: “Often people think of strength as surviving. But I think it’s surviving intact, and there’s a big distinction.”

So here are a few of my sources of joy, humor, beauty (wholeness and strength will have to wait for their own blog post):

Beauty:

NASA’s Astronomy Picture of the Day (APOD)

See Explanation. Clicking on the picture will download the highest resolution version available.

http://apod.nasa.gov/apod/ap161023.html

Music videos with awesome dancing. Here’s Sia’s Chandelier.

In less dazzling news, I’m a sucker for a beautiful gown. Throw in some celebrity gawking and I’m a little obsessed. Google image searches for the Met Gala always pay off. But let’s get you started with some Vogue Magazine coverage of the 2016 gala.

Humor:

Hyperbole and a Half has my favorite comic for bad days: The Sneaky Hate Spiral.

David Thorne is a hilariously cruel and witty person. Missy Missing is my favorite of his blogs. But there’s also the Ten Formal Complaints filed by his coworker in six months, which makes me really glad I never shared an office with this gentleman.

The Oatmeal, for example this post about the mantis shrimp, or ten words you need to stop misspelling. Or this terrifying and informative bit about cats. Here’s a small taste of his coverage of fear of missing out (fomo):

JOMO

Celebrities reading mean tweets, always a good youtube search. Here are movie celebrities reading mean tweets.

Some other fun blogs:

  • http://www.passiveaggressivenotes.com/ (self explanatory)
  • http://thebloggess.com/ (funny lady blog)
  • http://iwilbloom.tumblr.com/ (blog written by an angry and intellectual baby)

(This post is really making me ponder what I find funny after a day of reigning in my sharp wit.)

I’d love to hear what media keeps you going, please share in the comments below.

Resistance

Resistance, according to the Oxford English Dictionary: “The refusal to accept or comply with something; the attempt to prevent something by action or argument.”

(I wrote this draft several weeks ago, but it took until today to feel ready to post.)

I’ve been thinking about injustice a lot. About violence and fear. About grief and pain. How daily life is steeped in horror at times. How I get overwhelmed. How I can take care of myself. How I can take care of others. How change is made. How I can participate in that change: Money, votes, activism, professionalism. In times of trouble, I often reflect on my profession as social worker and psychotherapist. My roles, my skills, my contributions. As a therapist and social worker, I want to work with artists, entrepreneurs, and activists. I want to be an ally in the struggle. I want to work towards a more just world. I want to help sustain world changers.

I also want to engage in direct action, but I am still formulating what that will look like for me. I want to bring multiple pieces of myself to bear. I want art, and activism and community. One of the groups I am thinking of engaging with: The League of Creative Interventionists.

I’ve been thinking about the privilege that my grief and fear embody. How I have been aware of injustice, but more often than not, don’t worry about getting out the door and managing aggressions to my soul, heart and body. I lucked out in my society: a cis white woman married to a cis white man living in the US. I think about how friends and clients of mine are subject to multiple isms and sometimes live in fear and worry moment to moment, day after day.

I have been thinking about how to nourish myself so I can struggle for justice, weep, laugh, find community. How to remain an activist throughout my life. How not to become complacent. How not to be demolished by grief, fear, worry. I want to nourish my hope. The troubles we are going through are not new. The solution will not be tomorrow. Endurance and joy, as well as consciousness and accountability, must be nurtured within me.

One small step forward: Reading quotes about resistance. Here are a few that are resonating with me today.

“Most of us have two lives. The life we live, and the unlived life within us. Between the two stands Resistance.”
― Steven Pressfield

“It is necessary to remember, as we think critically about domination, that we all have the capacity to act in ways that oppress, dominate, wound (whether or not that power is institutionalized). It is necessary to remember that it is first the potential oppressor within that we must resist – the potential victim within that we must rescue – otherwise we cannot hope for an end to domination, for liberation.”
― Bell Hooks, Talking Back: Thinking Feminist, Thinking Black

“We must learn that passively to accept an unjust system is to cooperate with that system, and thereby to become a participant in its evil.”
― Martin Luther King Jr.

“The likelihood that your acts of resistance cannot stop the injustice does not exempt you from acting in what you sincerely and reflectively hold to be the best interests of your community.”
― Susan Sontag, At the Same Time: Essays and Speeches

“The spirit of resistance to government is so valuable on certain occasions that I wish it to be always kept alive.”
―Thomas Jefferson

“When I dare to be powerful, to use my strength in the service of my vision, then it becomes less and less important whether I am afraid.”
―Audre Lorde

“Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced.”
― James Baldwin

New York: Love and a Whiff of Mortality

When I visit Manhattan, I feel seized by that New York excitement, a state of being which resembles my hyper teenage self. (I know there are songs written about this, and the reason there are songs is because it’s real: That NY state of mind.) The great mix of people and the sounds and the smells, and the pace, and the way I feel each street due to the light and the architecture, and how ornate and ever changing the interior design flavor of the moment. Right now, on 9th Ave, there is a return to “rustic authenticity.” I have a choice: upscale, or downscale. I can eat cheap pastries on a stoop, or tapas in a heated indoor winter garden. I make the city mine by engaging it with my personal blend of whimsy and interest, and (unavoidably) spending power.

I first came to live in NYC when I was 21. New York has become a personal measurement tool, like those childhood height marks on doors. I go back and I measure myself to the city: How is my energy? Who is with me and why? What am I attracted to? What do I wish to see again? What do I wish to see anew?

DarthColbertThis last visit, we went to see the Colbert Report on Monday and the Daily Show on Tuesday. The warm-up comedian made a point of reminding the audience that we were splurging with free tickets. Both shows were great, with interesting similarities and style variances in the handling of the audience. My partner and I also walked around, ate good sushi, and caught by chance the loveliness-drenched end of The Marriage of Figaro, simulcast on the Lincoln Center Plaza. My spirit was soaring to the music. It had to be Mozart. Out of all the wonders, that will probably be the moment that sticks with me: The dream of visiting Lincoln Center with my sweetheart, which has preoccupied me since I first saw Cher in Moonstruck. Going to see La Boheme was sweepingly romantic in the movie and stumbling onto Figaro was beautiful in real life, more than 25 years after the movie came out. Funny how movies and New York City can conspire to make life dreamlike. (This dream of life which whose end is unknown, but probably unlike The Marriage of Figaro.)

Figaro

Return to Fallingwater

FWFallsI went back to Fallingwater, as I had promised myself, but this time I took my sweetie. I had the same reaction as the first time, I was moved by all of its beauty–a feeling of profound wellbeing settled in. Fallingwater feels like home. Home. Looking through Merriam Webster’s definitions, the snippets that resonate with me are about being “at home”: “relaxed and comfortable: at ease,” “in harmony with the surroundings,” and “on familiar ground.” This is actually a big deal for me–over the course of my family’s migrations through space and time, all my childhood places, all the spaces where I felt “at home,” have been shed. I cannot go back. I cannot go home. Imagine my surprise, delight and relief, stumbling into Fallingwater and feeling like I have found my place in the world, one more time. Could Frank Lloyd Wright hear my future yearning across the decades? (Yes, this notion is a touch pompous, but emotionally very real.)

FWLivingOr perhaps my yearning is a common one. A yearning for a well-organized, well thought-out space–a space in communion with nature, a space that lets you live among the trees and streams, with seamless movement between the inside and the outside of the home. In some sense, Fallingwater reminds me of my french grandmother Nicole who recently passed. Fallingwater was designed with an appreciation for its setting, with a love of the woods. Fallingwater creates a state of rest. It’s majestic, but it invites relaxation. It would be a great space for a nap. There is both a great amount of light and real privacy. I love the colors, the materials, the shape, the spaces at Fallingwater.

FWHearthI think what continues to surprise me about this house is that it is so special and beautiful both as viewed from the outside, and as viewed from the inside. I knew I loved the exterior long before my first visit, but I did not expect to be so enchanted with its interior. For that, I owe a great debt to the Kauffman family, for having the foresight to gift the home intact to the Conservancy–as a visitor, I can experience the house as a home–with all its art, furnishings and fabrics. All the period books. I can easily imagine spending a whole day in the house. And my honey was there too. What more could I ask for?

FWSweeties

Only Lovers Left Alive: Review

http://onlyloversleftalivefilm.tumblr.com/tagged/gallery

Photo from Movie Website

I saw the languorous, delicious vampire movie, The Only Lovers Left Alive by Jim Jarmusch yesterday. The film is impeccably cast, making the most of Tilda Swinton’s ethereal presence as Eve, and Tom Hiddleston’s overpowering masculine beauty as Adam. Eve and Adam are husband and wife, deeply in love, yet living apart. Following some Anne Rice tropes, Eve (like Rice’s Lestat) enjoys every pleasure afforded by her vampiric powers, whereas Adam (like Rice’s Louis) is besieged by existential angst. These lovers know each other all too well and their exchanges are brief, composed of glances, touch, and a few words. While the expected vampire tropes abound, the movie still feels refreshing with its self-conscious dialogue, dark humor, and gorgeous cinematography, making the most of the intimacy of low lighting. I could contemplate Tom Hiddleson’s alabaster figure for days.

Perfect casting helps. Supporting cast members have small, pivotal roles that add energy to the proceedings: John Hurt as Kit Marlow (Eve’s friend), Mia Wasikowska as Ava (Eve’s sister), Anton Yelchin as Ian (Adam’s mortal assistant), and Jeffrey Wright as Doctor Watson (a procurer of the critical nectar).

The movie is a visual, atmospheric beauty–making the most of Tangier and Detroit’s specific nighttime ambiances. Like other Jarmusch oeuvres, there’s not much plot to speak of–most of the movie’s energy derives from wry, black humor and witty exchanges, and the inner lives of the vampires, as illustrated by their utterly specific home environments. The movie makes the most of the movie-goer’s voyeurism–I particularly enjoyed the piles of books littering the homes, and the multiple literary references sprinkled in the dialogue. These vampires are appropriately erudite, multilingual and conduct themselves with exquisite politeness. They are connoisseurs and collectors.

My favorite recurring joke in the movie is the term that the vampires use to discuss humans. This movie is perfect for those who want to soak in beauty, clutter, and bittersweet melancholy. This is probably my favorite Jarmusch movie of all time.