Saturday, August 27, 2011
This Saturday morning in August, 2011, we in Texas are expecting the highest temperatures of the year, 106 degrees. There’s a heat wave and drought that brings stress to wildlife, as well as anxiety to people about falling water levels in the aquifer and wildfire. Meanwhile, on the East Coast of our country, Mother Nature brings in waves of storms and winds in the form of Hurricane Irene, whose swath threatens the coastline from North Carolina, through New York’s densely populated boroughs, to New England. Those extremes -- drought and deadly storms-- are happening at once on the fearful body of our country.
It’s days like this that make it clear to me just how big the United States really are in scope and scale. Stumbling upon the stunning beauty of historic piazzas in Florence a few years ago, I was astounded by the scope and scale of those beautiful structures, built hundreds of years ago by our human ancestors. I thought of scope and scale again when I recently read about a successful entrepreneur who lost all business fear by hitch-hiking across the country with less than ten dollars in his pocket. His adventures taught him to shift his ideas of what was possible, to live his life with less care about the “what if” fears that keep many of us from being who we would like to be, our real selves.
When I was a girl, TV’s vision of our times was large and supposedly all encompassing -- but my life was missing. Where were the Mexicans who weren’t maids, gardeners or bandidos? Was I invisible to our culture? I held tight to the representations I accepted and adopted about what it meant to be American. My scope and scale was such in those early years that I couldn’t figure out where we borderlanders fit in.
TV seemed like it was telling the truth. I was sure that the people in the 1910‘s and 1920‘s I saw on newsreel footage walked faster and in a quirky odd gait. Why did people walk so differently back then, I wondered, not understanding filming technologies that were in their early stages. When my Arizona cousins would travel to Texas and Mexico to visit our grandmother, I asked my Tio for their stationwagon keys so I could listen to the Arizona radio stations that I was sure they had brought with them in their car radio.
It was with this same scope and scale of truth that I learned that every media depiction of being gay was terribly tragic, especially for lesbians. On the screen at least, I learned it would be deadly to be gay. I remember seeing movies like “Therese and Isabel” or “The Fox” (D.H. Lawrence), “The Killing of Sister George” (adapted from Frank Marcus’ play) or other plays stories like “The Little Foxes” (Lillian Hellman). There were others, I’m sure. In most media depictions for the better part of the last century being gay meant you were a loser: you either committed suicide because you were gay, or someone killed you because you were gay.
For some viewers of media, it is somehow a function of media to set in our mind’s eye the scope and scale of our perception of the world. Then an event like a massive hurricane comes to reset the view. We are still a large country, but we seem smaller in our vulnerabilities to drought and storm, regardless of our scale and scope.
Likewise, my perception of what it means to be gay in the media has been adjusted to a wider, more full screen recently. I saw the television documentaries, “For My Wife” and “Edie and Thea: A Very Long Engagement,” two ground-breaking projects that shifted my focus and view to a new level.
In “For My Wife” a Northwest’s woman’s struggle for equality in the eyes of the law finds support that breaks barriers for all of us, no matter where we live in this big, wide country. “Edie and Thea” tells the story of a couple of ‘classy dames’ who shared their love and lives for 42 years.
My vision was advanced to a new “setting” by these two honest and moving documentaries. I think of the many girls happening upon these Netflix offerings and seeing hope and possibility for themselves or their gay friends instead of the gray and sad films that were made in the last century.
That makes me happy,and relieved: The scope and scale of my perception are flexible and can still be affected by what I encounter on our media. That give me hope for this country and the world. I’m reminded that despite our differences, our American measure in miles doesn’t compare to our measure of creativity and persistence in defining ourselves by the compass of truth, compassion and diversity.
Tuesday, August 9, 2011
Just in Case vs. Just in Time
I hate those TV programs that exploit the mentally ill, like Jerry Springer’s show or more recent examples like “Intervention” and worst of all, “Hoarders.” Poor people working out their family squabbles, addictions and bad habits in front of the camera for the audience’s entertainment.
See, I’m not at ALL like those crazy cheaters, meth addicts and shopaholics who lose sight of their lives and hallways with stuff they do and buy without thinking.
Those shows are tempting to watch, though, because deny as much as I want, some part of me is right in there with the crazy woman who can’t make her way out of her apartment anymore.
I can’t watch for long, though. I get a pain in my gut just from watching. I figure that’s my spiritual payback for watching mind-numbing pop-porn.
So imagine my surprise when I learned yesterday that I could have my own “there’s never enough” TV series right in my own shoulder bag. In fact, I have huge pop-porn potential. I needed a thumb drive from the bottom of my purse. For what? To have an extra copy of a project, of course.
It struck me that I had a severe case of “Just in Case” when I had to plunge elbow deep in my bag to locate the thumb drive. I fished up two wallets, two hair brushes, a cell-phone equipped with a photo and video camera, another photo and video camera, four pencils, five pens and a jumbo-size tube of hand cream.
Two of everything, including data. Does this mean I really am a hoarder?
I was now knee deep in despair. Fortunately, I came across an email from my good friend, Oprah Winfrey. Yes, she sends me e-mails every morning, that busy bee. In this morning’s e-mail she sent a 2007 article by life coach Martha Beck about “Just in Case” thinking that bulges at my purse and body parts closer to my backside. She pointed out in the article (link below) that it's much easier on your life to have “Just in Time” thinking.
“Just in Case” I do well on my own. For an example, check out my two great donuts in the photo I've posted. Or around lunch time it will be "I’ll have this taco now, in case I get hungry later this afternoon." Or, " I’ll buy this outfit that’s on sale now in case I fit into it after my planned summer of Zumba exercise classes." Yup. I do "Just in Case" fine already.
For learning about “Just in Time” thinking, I need Martha Beck to coach me. She writes in her article that hoarders and other pop-porn over-achievers that shop, eat, drink, work, exercise or do just about anything to excess are doing so out of fear and thoughts of scarcity.
Martha, are there really ever enough cameras around when you need them? She thinks one is enough. Silly girl.
OK so I am a bit reluctant to sit down at my intervention. Take a deep breath.
Martha Beck proposes a three step process for moving from “Just in Case” to “Just in Time” thinking:
First, list 10 times that you thought there wouldn’t be enough of something and you survived.
Second, list ten areas where you have too much, not too little.
Third, list 20 or 50 or a 1000 wonderful things that entered your life just at the right time, with no effort on your part. She coaches that it’s OK to start with the little things (oxygen, sunlight, a song on the radio).
Martha Beck says once we start “deliberately focusing on abundance” we will be overwhelmed by all the good things that just show up in our lives without much effort on our part. Really?
I intend to try this and work hard at it, but I’m afraid this is dangerous territory, Martha. After all, I’ve come this far carrying around a heavy purse and no real harm’s come from it.
Besides, what if I need a camera and can’t find one when I need it? What if I’m in the middle of a project of some kind and feel --God forbid --hungry?
Not only that, but have you ever waited for a job to just show up in your life? Or the right pair of sandals? I hate to be a doubting Thomas, but as they say, if the scarcity sandal fits.
I may still be stuck in scarcity, but I don't like it here. I’ll give it my best shot to work on my “Just in Time” thinking and try to toss out my “Just in Case” thinking. If you like, you can read the Martha Beck article at the following link: