Scary Monsters

Ellen Ripley

Ellen Ripley (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

What is it about the monster archetype we find so compelling? I recently re-watched a few of the Aliens movies starring Sigourney Weaver. These movies are a fascinating exploration of the concept of monster. There is the actual monster, the alien, but also a variety of people who have monstrous qualities. There are the saboteurs, the profiteers, and the deniers. These are all aspects of the monster. It is hard to piece out what is the most disturbing aspect, the visceral fright of a monster leaping out of nowhere, or the slow erosion of hope when the truth is not believed. These different faces of the monster are also encountered in daily life, which makes a movie about monsters very relatable.

I freely admit to being scared by these movies. Of course it doesn’t take much, I have an active imagination and a heightened sense of empathy. So I wonder why I watch in the first place. Part of it is the sense of relief when the monster is conquered. The huge turmoil that is stirred up by the movie ends when the movie finds it conclusion; the heroine has won. We can all relate to the sense of peace that descends when an obstacle has been overcome.

Scary movies also provide a relatively safe place to explore extremes of emotion, that most people do not normally encounter. There is a thrill involved. I think there is something about the adrenaline rush, no matter what its source, that keeps us coming back for more. This is shown with a quick scan of the top box office hits on IMDB.com. It quickly becomes clear that a big scary monster, or a monstrous situation, captivates audiences. It is also clear that a resolution of the fright is an important element in how popular a movie becomes. I think without the resolution the movie becomes more like watching the news than entertainment.

For me, I know that I carefully select how much adrenalin producing movies I watch. I love film and cinematography. I love a good story. But I also love my peace of mind. Images can stick with me for days afterwards. There are still lines from ‘The Silence of the Lambs’ that I cannot hear, even though I only watched the movie once when it first was in the theatres (gasp, that is 21 years ago). Most of the time, I deliberately choose fluffy movies that are formulaic and hopefully a little funny. Are they great stories? No, and that is just fine by me. I am quite happy sticking to to a romantic comedy. I guess that is the final piece of why I watch these movies, someone else is watching them and I would rather spend time together and be agreeable than to politely bow out and save my sanity. I can say no (I’m good at that now), but I want to be a tough girl and not be scared by the monster. Of course, I almost always am scared.

My reaction to movies probably puts me in the ‘too sensitive’ category in life. I used to spend a lot of time trying to toughen up, trying to become immune to the horrible parts of the earthly experience. Trying to emulate the toughness in characters like Ellen Ripley or Sarah Connor. If I could just get lean muscles like they had, I could maybe defeat the monsters in my life. Of course, most of my monsters were pretty tame in comparison, but no less adrenalin producing. Unlike movies, my challenges could not be defeated by a flame thrower, but by steady, persistent internal work to silence the negative self-talk that hounded my every decision.

When I gave up trying to be tough, I found the great beauty in being soft. The absolute gift of being flexible and sensitive is the basis of my work. I can see and sense things that most people miss. I could not do that if I was too tough. I was fortunate to have stumbled upon some wonderful teachers and authors who revere the benefits of the sensitive type. Cheryl Richardson is one of those teachers and gives a great discussion about sensitivity in this video:

 

So, I will probably continue to watch the occasional scary movie, but I will always embrace the gift of being scared. The sensitivity is worth it.

The Dot and The Outsider

I read two distinctly different books this week that are the opposite ends of one spectrum. “The Outsider” by Albert Camus and “The Dot” by Peter H. Reynolds are, on the surface, completely unconnected, one being a short novel about a condemned man and the other a children’s story about creativity. For me, these two books hold a different gaze on the same subject, being different.

In “The Outsider”, the main character is unapologetically odd, which leads to his fate, being condemned by society. In “The Dot”, the main character is encouraged to create her original art, a dot, by a teacher, which leads to acclaim. On one end, being different is despised, on the other it is praised.

What these two books capture, in altogether contrasting mediums, is the influence of perspective in telling the story of our lives. In “The Dot”, a teacher’s praise of an early art attempt, leads the character to define herself as an artist and continue creating works of art. The teacher could have just as easily said the dot was ‘not art’ and the story would have reached a dismal conclusion. Not a typical move in a children’s book, granted. In “The Outsider”, the character is on trial, two portraits of his personality are presented to the jury. On one hand he could be an amoral, cold-blooded killer, on the other he could be a confused, weird man caught in a bad situation. The story that is believed is the one that seals his fate, but is it true?

A story can uplift, a story can kill. Words are powerful. Words are more than description of a fixed reality. Words and stories sculpt life itself. So, I wonder, what story are you telling about yourself? Is it the one you want to be true? This is the role of affirmations; they are specifically designed to counter unhelpful stories that we may have heard about ourselves. It takes a strong character to withstand a negative culture. Deliberately telling a different story about ourselves, as these two works show, can completely change our lives.

Tell a better story.

Spoken Word Superhero – Sarah Kay

This is a brilliant talk by Sarah Kay where she describes the power and relevance of poetry in today’s world.

She Rocks!

I love her three steps on her journey 1) I can. 2) I will. 3) Infusing the work you are doing with the specific things that make you You.

I think these steps are true of whatever creative calling stirs your soul. Believing in yourself opens the door. Then, a solid dose of commitment keeps you moving. Finally, you learn to stand up and be yourself. Then, you do it all over again.

Writing Group

Diagram showing the course of the arcuate fibers.The corners of my mouth
curl up in a warm spiral
spiraling steam on the tea
echos of familiar voices
I hear from different lips
tell it with your own
thriving style
it curves my brain back into itself
delightful arcuate fasciculus massage
Broca and Wernike link arms
and happily skip down
the street you crafted with your pen

Fantastic Feet

Feet are a truly amazing part of your body. They bend and flex, they compress and spring with each step you take. They are a marvel of arches and bones. Sturdy, yet flexible. They carry us through life. Happy little servants carrying our wonderful body around through our lives.

Our culture has a weird relationship with feet. They are often seen as ugly, dirty and even offensive. But from my perspective they are one of the cleanest parts of your body. After all, you don’t pick your nose with your toes. Not even the limberest yogi wipes their bum with their feet. Hands do not get the same bad rap that feet get, by far.

I see feet very differently. The bottoms of your feet tell me a story. Every lump and bump, callous and freckle, is a wealth of information of where you have been and where you are going. I marvel at how feet are reflections of our lives. I see this in every pair of feet I treat. Issues in the body show up in the feet, like a mole over an area connected to an old health problem, or callouses protecting a sensitive emotional past. It is all there, like a map that shows me your journey so far.

The really cool part of feet is that they are always constantly changing, just like we are. I see this even from the start to end of a session. They are different feet than when I started. They are more flexible, softer, more resilient. When people are ready to change, I see it in their feet first. There is a subtle magic at work and I get to witness it, to facilitate it. I give people the nudge, and they do the rest. It is like helping someone move and all you do is tell them to lift with their legs and hold the door open; they do all the heavy lifting.

And lift they do. I am amazed at the courage people have to change and grow, to become more of themselves. More awesome, less bullshit. More following their own heart, instead of everyone else’s. To sit down at a person’s feet is a huge honour. It is sitting at their soul.

In our society, we spend a lot of time worshipping the feet of great sages and saints, and we spend a lot of time gazing at babies feet. But I think everyone’s feet are worthy of that much love and respect. Everyone is both sage and infant, deserving of our full attention and our loving kindness.

So love your feet, be nice to them, and they will carry you to many grand adventures.

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