Halloween, Permission, and Being Something Else

Me, as a forbidding faerie queen

Me, as a forbidding faerie queen

Halloween was always a thrilling time for me, both as a child and as an adult. It’s not that I was that into being scared; scary things were actually way too intense for me when I was little. And candy was nice, but given the weird scares of the 1980s, I wasn’t allowed to eat most of the candy I collected anyway. No: what really drew me was the opportunity to dress up and be someone different.

Costuming has always been powerful for me, especially as an actor. A different set of clothes, hair, makeup, shoes – it can all serve to change how you stand, walk, move, even think. The interaction between the body and the things we wrap it in is a source of constant fascination, changing our relationship to gender, age, place, season, cultural identity, time, and self.

If you think that’s a bit strong, think of how different you feel when you are sitting on the couch at home in your PJs, versus how you feel when you put on a suit, or dress up for church, or go out dancing on a Saturday night, or go to visit an elderly parent, or prepare to work on your car, or go hiking. If you’ve ever worn period clothing, you know how much a corset, or a loose tunic or robe, or a frock coat, or a flapper dress, can change how you stand, move, bend and carry yourself. Cross-dressing or deliberately queering gender through clothing has an effect on the wearer, as well as an effect on the viewer, depending on the culture in which it is done, the level of tolerance of the people involved, and the context. Today, a guy in my office won the costume contest dressed as Princess Leia – not, I think, because he looked silly, but because he looked so good without hiding any of his masculinity, and pulled it off proudly. Were he to show up dressed similarly on any other day, the context would have shifted, and the office would have a different response.

While it may be true that our “true selves” are inside us, what we express outwardly both reflects that internal state, and can shift it in minor and major ways. Halloween and other events like it – Carnival in various parts of the world, Purim in Judaism, and so on – offer people a chance to be something they are not, without any real consequences. As a result, it can offer a rare opportunity for people to explore something that they would like to be, or would like to play with being.

Even if you don’t go out to parties, or trick or treating, take some time this holiday to mess around with your outward appearance. What happens to your state of mind and the feeling in your body when you wear something you wouldn’t ordinarily wear? What becomes possible that wasn’t before?

What if we could not waste one more moment hating our bodies?

Image by Andrea Perrish-Geyer

Image by Andrea Perrish-Geyer

A moving column in CNN last month revealed the thing that the dying often regret the most: all the time they spent hating their own bodies.

Kerry Egan, a hospice chaplain, shared her experiences of talking with the dying. A 75-year-old woman dying of cancer just wants one more piece of caramel cake. But her diet, even in her last days, is being severely restricted.

‘Everyone told me — my family, my school, my church. When I got older, magazines and salesgirls and boyfriends (told me), even if they didn’t say so out loud. The world’s been telling me for 75 years that my body is bad. First for being female, then for being fat and then for being sick.’

She looked up and this time tears trembled along her bottom eyelids.

‘But the one thing I never did understand is, why does everyone else want me to hate my body? What does it matter to them?’

Even in this very article, the ironic click bait that comes in the midst of this statement is a linked line that says, “The link between fat and cancer.” It seems that nothing, not even an article explicitly about how we should appreciate our bodies more, can escape fat-shaming.

But Egan makes the read worth it.

What does it mean that so many voices out there insist that the body is something to despise because it is too fat, sinful, ugly, sexual, old or brown? That we teach each other, in thousands of blatant and quiet ways, to think we are shameful? That our bodies are something to be overcome, beaten into submission or to be despised?

How do these voices telling us that we are supposed to hate our bodies affect our notions of how we care for the sick, disabled, elderly, children, mothers, soldiers, workers, immigrants, men and women? What we believe about our bodies affects how we treat other bodies, and how we treat each other’s bodies is how we treat each other.

How we treat each other’s bodies is how we treat each other. How we treat our own bodies is how we treat ourselves. How can you treat your own body with more gentleness, more forgiveness, more enjoyment, more dancing?

Seek balance. Find what’s important. Fulfill.

Balanced Rock and Juniper

Photo By Eric Bryan

Think globally, 
but act locally. 

Plan for the future, 
but act in the present. 

Dream of all the masterpieces you’d be thrilled to create, 
but work on just one at a time. 

Lust for every enticing soul you see, 
but only make love to the imperfect beauty you’re actually with. 

Allow yourself to be flooded 
with every last feeling that bubbles up from your subconscious, 
but understand that only a very few of these feelings 
need to be forcefully expressed. 

Be passionately attuned 
to all the injustices and hypocrisies you see around you, 
but be selective when choosing which of those you will actually fight.

 

-from Rob Brezsny’s Televisionary Oracle

Seek balance. Find what's important. Fulfill.

Balanced Rock and Juniper

Photo By Eric Bryan

Think globally, 
but act locally. 

Plan for the future, 
but act in the present. 

Dream of all the masterpieces you’d be thrilled to create, 
but work on just one at a time. 

Lust for every enticing soul you see, 
but only make love to the imperfect beauty you’re actually with. 

Allow yourself to be flooded 
with every last feeling that bubbles up from your subconscious, 
but understand that only a very few of these feelings 
need to be forcefully expressed. 

Be passionately attuned 
to all the injustices and hypocrisies you see around you, 
but be selective when choosing which of those you will actually fight.

 

-from Rob Brezsny’s Televisionary Oracle

Heroic helplessness

Image courtesy of Mme Scherzo

I was taken with David Kanigan’s post the other day, quoting Florida Scott-Maxwell on aging, and including this beautiful photograph of I-know-not-whom, but surely one of the most beautiful women I’ve ever seen of any age.

I include the entirely of the quotation he included here, because it is worthwhile:

Age is truly a time of heroic helplessness. One is confronted by one’s own incorrigibility. I am always saying to myself, “Look at you, and after a lifetime of trying.” I still have the vices that I have known and struggled with— well it seems like since birth. Many of them are modified, but not much. I can neither order nor command the hubbub of my mind. Or is it my nervous sensibility? This is not the effect of age; age only defines one’s boundaries. Life has changed me greatly, it has improved me greatly, but it has also left me practically the same. I cannot spell, I am over critical, egocentric and vulnerable. I cannot be simple. In my effort to be clear I become complicated. I know my faults so well that I pay them small heed. They are stronger than I am. They are me.

~ Florida Scott-Maxwell, Measure of My Days 

As I crest 40, and go through massive changes in my own life and subtler ones in my own body, I consider what it means to age.  I came across another quotation I loved just the other day, from my man Carl Jung: “Life really does begin at forty. Up until then you are just doing research.”  As I see my first wrinkles, my first grey hairs start to set up shop in the streets of my skin, I consider what my research has led me to thus far.  Research slowly becomes knowledge, but it seems to take much of a lifetime.  And as Maxwell says, over time, those things we know – and perhaps dislike – most about ourselves can become what defines us, even as experience leads us to better choices and more settled lives.

I am overly sensitive and at times gullible (one of my loved ones is kind enough to call it “credulous”). I cannot resist a good argument. I love to sleep and enjoy wine. I cannot express things in an uncomplicated way (In my effort to be clear I become complicated).  I would always rather be doing something creative and different, at times to the foolish exclusion of the mundane. I am in love with love.

What are the faults which define you?  How can you grow to love them more?

[Re-run] “Open your eyes, and be surprised that you have eyes to open.”

My mentor Joan shared this video this morning, and I watched it all the way through until the tears flowed. I recommend the same to each of you.  It is a sublime meditation on gratitude, replete with gorgeous time-lapse photography, some of the most interesting and beautiful faces I’ve ever seen, and the gentle, liltingly accented voice of a plainly spectacular gentleman.

Make this day a good day, everyone.  And as always – I welcome your comments.  There was a lot of traffic the other day, but nobody said anything!  Please, engage me!

[Re-run] "Open your eyes, and be surprised that you have eyes to open."

My mentor Joan shared this video this morning, and I watched it all the way through until the tears flowed. I recommend the same to each of you.  It is a sublime meditation on gratitude, replete with gorgeous time-lapse photography, some of the most interesting and beautiful faces I’ve ever seen, and the gentle, liltingly accented voice of a plainly spectacular gentleman.

Make this day a good day, everyone.  And as always – I welcome your comments.  There was a lot of traffic the other day, but nobody said anything!  Please, engage me!

“Open your eyes, and be surprised that you have eyes to open.”

My mentor Joan shared this video this morning, and I watched it all the way through until the tears flowed. I recommend the same to each of you.  It is a sublime meditation on gratitude, replete with gorgeous time-lapse photography, some of the most interesting and beautiful faces I’ve ever seen, and the gentle, liltingly accented voice of a plainly spectacular gentleman.

Make this day a good day, everyone.  And as always – I welcome your comments.  There was a lot of traffic the other day, but nobody said anything!  Please, engage me!

 

"Open your eyes, and be surprised that you have eyes to open."

My mentor Joan shared this video this morning, and I watched it all the way through until the tears flowed. I recommend the same to each of you.  It is a sublime meditation on gratitude, replete with gorgeous time-lapse photography, some of the most interesting and beautiful faces I’ve ever seen, and the gentle, liltingly accented voice of a plainly spectacular gentleman.

Make this day a good day, everyone.  And as always – I welcome your comments.  There was a lot of traffic the other day, but nobody said anything!  Please, engage me!