On being seen…

11 08 2018

There’s a lovely foolish Monty Python “military” training film on ‘How Not To Be Seen.’ big_1494432163_image

In the clip, people are hiding, NOT BEING SEEN, and then they are asked to stand up. Once they do so, they are either shot or blown to smithereens.

I feel viewing this in my formative teens MAY have had an effect on my behaviour through life. As a VSP (very short person), I am, in fact, rarely seen unless one is specifically looking for me. I’ve tried to make my personality large enough that people can hear me but I don’t think I’ve gone nearly far enough. And now, if I were to go wild and dye my hair magenta or wear army boots or whatever, people would now gently pat me on the head and arrange for a lengthy stop in a nearby nursing home.

But the fact remains that if I hold myself JUST SO, people don’t seem to see me. It’s been a good thing in terms of not being blown up. But perhaps not so good in other ways.

This occurs to me of late because a few opportunities for being seen have come my way,its-the-most-extraordinary-and-saddest-thing-the-amount-of-talent-out-there-not-being-seen-quote-1 and recently I’ve found myself unwilling to take them. It has to do with being on par with others, being able to be respected, etc, etc. And this hesitation is a terrible burden. It keeps me from sending out my stories for publication, or from finishing projects. “I’m a great initiator!” I cheerfully tell others. “I just hate the fusty end details.”

It’s silly though. All of life is ABOUT the details, about tying things up neatly, about presentation and finishing and just getting the damn things done. But I don’t. And so I reinforce my imposter syndrome and cringe and seethe inwardly when someone actually HAS. And I tell myself things like, “I really don’t care if people like what I’m doing – it’s all for fun anyway.”

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I wasn’t always this way. You don’t have time to dawdle as a nurse. You put your head down and do whatever nasty bit of work has to be done. Mind you, you don’t have a line-up of critical judges’ comments after every task, thank heavens. Especially from the semi-conscious patients…

I recently had a longish chat about art and craft and new experiences and such with two women who know about the importance of getting things right. They both have or had demanding jobs, where precision was fundamental, and both have recently let their artistic spirits loose.

One has returned to school and risks the dreaded being assessed, brave lass.

(PS: I met one of the teachers at her school today and migods she was terrifying. The sort who would draw black lines across what you were doing and smash it through with her fist. I really don’t want to be seen by anyone like that. I feel they may not have my best interests at heart.)

The other has done these sort of academic challenges many times before, as have I. We’re both a little tired of jumping through artificially created hoops and just want to play. But in our heart of hearts, we both also want to be validated as an artist, a creator, a creative mind.

But one can only be validated if one is seen, by people who aren’t your best friends and supporters. The first time I sold something to a complete stranger through an art gallery, I felt it, that little rush of “They really like me!”. (Of course, poor Sally is misquoted, she really said – “You like me, right now, you like me.”)

The same thing happened whenever I felt a skinny envelope holding the cheque for something I’d written and sold. Being valued for something you pulled out of your head is an unbelievable sensation. Being paid for things counts for more than one would think.

But all of that approval is an ephemeral thing – you are only as good as your last success, as it were, and as those slip away into the distance you run the risk of being patronised as a wannabe whatever. I hate that.

But what does one do? Risky risky, no matter where you turn.  And a lot of work, just to set yourself up to fail in front of everyone.

I’m lucky – I have some magnificently supportive friends and family (I have the other kind, too, but I digress). They continue to think of me as a creative force even when I’m not producing things, or getting that project done. I like that.

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And I live for that moment in a creative project where a secret smile starts in the corner of my mouth, when suddenly the task is no longer a hardship, when the joy shines through and I find myself racing to see how it all ends. I’ve been known to laugh out loud when something like that happens. It’s the magic. The twinkly bits.

Those projects I don’t mind showing people. I’ll even force myself to do the little details so I can.

But being seen when you are unsure of your project, when you are just plain putting it out there to be shot at or down or, worse still, patronized… well, that takes great courage. And revealing vulnerabilities you might not have known you had. Scary, that. Bravo to my friends and others who take the risk.

I’m planning to be that sort of gal again, soon.

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Dear mum

25 01 2016
MollyBrownPoster

Well, Margaret Warner, actually. Unsinkable, certainly.

I’m thinking of you today. I’m not sure why this bright winter day brings you to mind, but maybe it’s a confluence of two things I’ve read. The first was “Dear Fatty”, by Dawn French – her memoir, written as a series of letters to people she knows and loves. We never shared Dawn – she came on the scene here a little bit after you left. I know you’d have loved her, her crazy humour – that is, if you could get past her being so round and the occasional shocking bit.  I can hear your voice saying something like, “She’d be so pretty if she weren’t so heavy,” much as you said to me on more than one occasion that I needed to lose weight but, I “could still move well.” And I had “such lovely skin.” I think you’d have loved her parish council in The Vicar of Dibley, given your work with the church and probably a very similar council.

I don’t think you’d have liked French and Saunders – I think something about their drinking and fooling around would have left you profoundly uncomfortable, as you seemed to be with Monty Python. Do you remember when Life of Brian came out and there was all this fuss about the sacrilege? You came down on the “not to be seen” side, as I recall, but I saw it anyways and it remains one of my favourite movies.

Thank you for being that someone I could test myself against, push my ideas against, form myself against. We didn’t think alike in most ways, and now that I am about your age when you discovered your cancer, I realize that I missed getting to really know you. We spent so much time butting heads, politely, always politely, but I missed getting to know the fun you you shared with my cousins and your friends.

You had mothering goals with me and I suppose I am the same with my kids, trying to be accepting and encouraging and laugh endlessly with them but always having that motherhood light attached, blinking concern at the wrong moment, putting my foot wrong. I used to think I was such a good mom. Funny how that changes as you grow older, how you see the gaps where you could have done better, where you missed that bit, where that little bit of mothering knitting dropped a stitch, purled when it should have knitted. I wonder if you ever felt that.

You always seemed supremely confident. But maybe you, like me, sang “Whistle a Happy Tune” as you stepped into new situations, faking confidence, you with such élan. I wish I knew. Maybe if I thought you’d had doubts I would have felt closer to you, as I fought my way to adulthood. As it is, I felt all weakness was an embarrassment to you. God knows how you would have taken my bouts of depression. Mental illness, to you, was a sign of weakness. And scary as hell. Because of this we barely saw my father’s family with their admitted mental health problems – though to tell the truth I often thought your family could have done with a little counselling now and again.

But maybe, maybe, it was so scary to you because you knew it, fought against it, dreaded the contagion that comes when a depressed person gets pulled into another depressed person’s circle. I know that feeling. I hide, too.

The other thing that brings you to mind is a short story, “The Woman who Sold Communion” by Kate Braverman (McSweeney’s early fall, 2004). In this, a woman is denied tenure and falls apart, heads down to meet up with her mother, a woman she ran away from, a woman who lives like a hippie out in the desert. She goes there because she knows she is safe there, even though she and her mum don’t seem to have much in common.

Once, when my marriage was falling apart, in the early days when I was expecting my youngest, I called you. I had had enough, I said. I couldn’t bear being with such an angry man. Your response was: “Come home.” I was shocked. You were, above all, a staunch Catholic. Leaving a marriage was a big thing.

I sometimes wish I had trusted you and perhaps taken that step. Instead I thought you were looking for company, and resisted. But the fact that you said what you did to me made it safe for me to continue on, to stick it out for another 15 years, some good, some bad. Because you gave me permission not to, and a safe place to go.

Miss you.





Monty Python Live

20 07 2014

I’m liking these new “sent by satellite from Britain” things in the movie theatres. I saw War Horse some months ago and today I got to see Monty Python Live (or mostly).
I’ve loved the Pythons since I was a wee bairn, back when I was shocked and vaguely titillated by their sexy humour (all very naughty schoolboy, nudge, nudge) and didn’t understand a bunch of it, not having had the wide education the Pythons had.
They’re not everyone’s taste, but the theatre full of people of all ages were helplessly laughing along with me as the troupe went through their paces. They’ve brought so much to my own personal culture, I feel awash with gratitude just seeing them, let alone watching them fix up their skits for yet another on-stage show.
I want to hug them all. Crusty as some of them seem with each other at this point, they are part of my family memory – watching with my dad in our upstairs den, laughing and quoting endlessly. I learned the philosopher’s names from them, saw great works of literature mocked (“Salad Days”), heard about the Spanish Inquisition (I didn’t expect that)(but then…no one expects the Spanish Inquisition!)
Terry Gilliam’s animations still make me laugh, the strange juxtapositions, the gleeful old man feet when the baby carriage ate the old ladies…
Eric Idle’s songs have always been a delight, from “isn’t it great to have a penis”, (which was updated for this show to include female parts and the generic ass) to the universe song (which was sung here by Stephen Hawking, no less), to Finland, to Always Look on the bright Side of Life. Eric seemed to be having great fun in this production, along with Terry and Michael – in fact only John looked unhappy about everything and uncomfortable and unwell. I call them by their first names because they are almost friends, so much a part of my being I can (but I won’t) quote most of their skits off by heart.
As with so many things, a lady is someone who CAN do these things, but doesn’t.
I’m beginning to feel old, though. Most people don’t know about the Pythons these days. Hardly anyone remembers how the Catholic Church freaked out over Life of Brian – my mother forbade me to go so of course I went…
The other day I tried to describe a pelvic tilt by saying it was like the pelvic thrust in the Time Warp in Rocky Horror, and everyone under fifty stared at me in utter confusion.
And the death of James Garner today is being mourned on Facebook by people who remember watching it with their mothers (I did, too)…another fixture of my life growing up that my kids have no knowledge of.

Well, at least they know about Monty Python and Rocky Horror, to their everlasting psychic damage. Of that I am proud.

But a little lonely. I went by myself to the theatre today because no one in my current circles is as mad as I am about the Pythons. I’d put the requirement in my next personal ad but am afraid I’d get one of the ungentlemanly types who would do the parrot sketch at inappropriate moments. I need someone who would share my appreciation, maybe sing the songs with me on a uke accompaniment, and then share a laugh at their brilliance. Brilliant they were, brilliant they are. Thank you, you mad set of Brits. And one American….





Ah, the benefits of cuteness…

16 11 2012

A long time in a youth far away, I discovered (boom boom boom boom) – Cutepower! Awesomeness. If I turned my head just so, flashed my eyes like that, smiled, well, my cheekbones would do the rest and I could have my way with pretty well anyone. (My family has good cheekbones. Many people comment on Imageit. Really. They do.)

Then I grew breasts. And I found out that a critical part of that cuteness factor was to add a thrust up set of them. People gave me credit for my ideas, they listened to me speak, they held out chairs for me, with only the addition of a push-up bra and maybe some lipstick to the cheekbone assemblage.

Now of course, I’m older, rounder, greyer. Used to dye my hair, too lazy now. Hate the feeling of lipstick on my lips but apply it every once and awhile, still do the magic lift up bras when needed. Still try the eye/cheekbone thing. I have to.

Because, once your cute is gone, well, it’s all downhill from there.

Look at baby seals. More abundant than the fish they eat, we daren’t pluck them off the ice floes solely because of their big brown watery sad eyes. They are overbreeding. They are starving people and fish and other animals. No matter. They’re CUTE.

ImageI read today in the CH that in Canmore, Alberta, the rabbits have become a pestilence. They have been wildly reproducing since the 1990’s and apparently there’s one for every 6 Canmorians. Kill them? No way. They’re CUTE. So they’ve been taken into animal sanctuaries (where no doubt they’ve been adopted and then escaped to breed again) until there was no more room for them, and now the animal control people are visibly shrinking from euthanizing them.

Meanwhile, arguably less cute rats have taken over the Galapagos. 180 million of them, in fact. Now I like rats, sort of. My daughter had one as a pet and she was sweet. Little Aretha, we called her, black as Aretha Franklin, with white jazz paws. My daughter was big on Aretha Franklin at the time, so it was meant as homage. (Our babysitter Sarah thought it was homage that they named a hamster after her, too, until it turned out the hamster was pregnant and gave birth and then ate her babies) Rats make great, smart, trainable pets and if you’re really good you can do a Willard thing and take over the world.

Which is apparently what happened on the Galapagos. Even I have to admit that 180 million rats dothImage make my skin crawl. So, rather than letting life forces deal with it, did the scientists rehouse the little nippers? Did they take them to a rat sanctuary, run adoption campaigns, set them up for life?

Nope.

They are dive bombing the island with rat poison.

After they clear off the cuter animals, that is. And the iguanas. (Sorry, not cute). Then, presumably, some poor environmental engineering intern is going to have to go there and pick up the tons of rat bodies. I’ll just bet they won’t pick the CUTE intern to do that job. Nah, they’ll pick the intern they don’t like because she has a squinty eye or frizzy hair or he’s heavyset or something.

Dime will get you dollars the intern won’t be blonde. Or have nice cheekbones. But I digress.

But you see the difference? Have a fluffy tail and floppy ears and you get cherished until you eat everyone out of house and home. Have little ears, a hairless tail, and the cleverness of a rat, and they’ll kill you right as rain. But these are both rodents, people. Of the same branch of the biological tree.

They even are on par for disease carrying potential, and a lot of folks are allergic to rabbits. One could argue it’s better to kill the bunnies because they can be made into stews that are acceptable to eat in many countries, unlike rat stew, which only appears on Fear Factor.

Its just plain animal hypocrisy, that’s what it is,

And as someone whose cuteness is waning, it makes me pretty darn nervous.

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