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Monthly Archives: June 2012

I absolutely love reading what are essentially ‘shopping lists’ of peoples wisdom, advice and guidance. I turn to them when I need a quick pick me up and to remember that which is vital and that which is irrelevent in the grand scheme of things.

None of the advice I’m going to list below is anything new. It’s all tried and tested, well worn cliche, but the words spoken most often are the ones which carry the most meaning and relevance.

Here is my list for this year so far. I hope it picks someone up the way countless lists have picked me up before!

1. Personality and character are not one and the same.

Some people have truly magnetic, infectitious, amazingly contagious vivacious personalities, but their morals and intentions are questionable at best. It’s easy to be blinded and dazzled by a brilliant personality, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that a person will have a strong character. ‘The bad guy’ can be curiously charming, the school bitch strangely engaging but these are just shallow surface characteristics and not a representation of the real person.

2. Your dreams, wishes and desires are never all that far away.

When you’re sitting still and silent and wishing for something will all your heart, that thing never seems further away but the gap between simply dreaming, wishing or desiring, and achieving and fulfilling that dream, wish or desire is ridiculously narrow, so much so that once you have the thing that you’ve always wanted, you can still look back over the chasm between having and not having and you might still catch sight of your old self dreaming.

3. You are always capable of conquering the things that scare you most.

Sometimes we are left in awe of how brave and courageous other people are. We think that courage is something other people have, not something in ourselves, but truthfully no one is more competent or capable that you are, even if they appear to be. What you want is not simply ‘not for you’. Every person has the potential to achieve their dreams and face up to the things that scare them.

4. Let…it…go

Nothing in life belongs to us. We create meaning through semantics, through symbols, through titles. We create ownership, we create sense, we create logic, but nothing is ours. Not a single person or a single object or a single place ever really belongs to you, and we only realise that once we lose the thing we thought was ours. There is nothing to fear about this because everything is bound together here on earth and everything is connected in some way, but nothing belongs to us and we belong to nothing. There is great freedom in this. Don’t fear it. Clinging and digging in hurts, but letting go eases. We can all let go of any thought or any feeling at any time.

5. Life is not a check list.

Too many of us rush through life as if bound by a stop watch. We think if we can just bundle in x, y and z within a certain amount of time, we will attain contentment, fulfullment and success. We will have found a way to define our lives through a purpose. I can’t count the people I know who follow a preconceived formula of what equates to happiness, and worse, those who rush through that formula without enjoying the moments.

The formula goes something like this: school, uni, partner, marriage, kids.

Now so much of my blog chastises this way of life and I don’t mean to appear out of allignment with traditions and culture, but this simply does not equal happiness for all, and if all follow it, many will be deeply disconcerted and dissillusioned. Similarly, sometimes the steps follow at different times. It’s like jumping on stepping stones; you might have the baby before the wedding, or the marriage before the degree.

Eke out your own path to happiness. Mix up the steps. Don’t rush. Take time. Be still. Enjoy the moments. Think about what makes YOU happy and not what has made other people happy. Ignore the expectations and desires of others for you. Seek out happiness in the ways and places and people that you find it. Everything has a right time and a right place in every life. Don’t force things.

6. Fear is like fog. It dissipates once you enter into it.

Every person is stronger than they could ever imagine. You only realise how strong you truly are once you look back at the things you’ve achieved, the traumas you’ve been through and the situations you’ve survived.

7. You can be proud of the little things

Waking up on time, doing the dishes, smiling at a stranger – the little things are just as important as the larger, grander acts. The bigger picture wouldn’t exist without the smallest gestures.

8. It’s not love that’s scary, but loss

Nobody is afraid of love itself but of the losing of love, but if you can be a source of love despite your fear, you will truly feel alive. No one ever looks back and regrets that they’ve loved, even if they were hurt, wounded or mistreated. The giving of love requires fearlessness and bravery but also freedom from expectations and conditions. Never regret that you’ve loved. It’s rare and precious and most of us don’t experience it enough. Don’t let fear of future loss stop you loving now.

9. Treasure the butterflies that land on you before they fly away

Never regret what you’ve lost or given away. We all lose things; people, things, money. Be happy you had them but don’t regret that you’ve lost them. Never hold on too tight to things that were never truly yours. Titles like boyfriend, girlfriend, husband, wive indicate ownership, but we never own another person. Let go of that which doesn’t belong to you and treasure what is given to you for however long you have it.

10. Don’t let nostalgia forget future

It can be great to reflect on the past and recall fond memories. It is also essential to learn from past experiences, but do not spend so much time in the past that you lose sight of the future. The present moment and what we do with it indicates what becomes of our future. If you let the present moment disapear, you aren’t actively shaping or engaging your future potential and possibilities.

11. Life can be hard, but don’t let it make you hard

Life can be horrifically traumatic at times and in a multitude of ways; poverty, disease and illness, death, abandonment, infidelity, lose of love, boredom, abuse – the list is endless. Many people conquer the most adverse of situations and experiences with a smile on their face and compassion in their hearts. Others weather immense storms simply to become bitter, cold and cruel. None of us can predict or premeditate what hand life will deal with us, but do not let past experiences or the cruelty of people or the misfortunes of your life so far spoil and corrode your future, because there is always the chance and opportunity for peace, calm and healing. Some of the greatest, kindest and strongest healers have overcome the most harrowing and horrible of lifes experiences.

12. Do what you love

If you like drawing, draw. If you like swimming, swim. Even if you can’t make a career out of it, do it. So many people I speak to give up on a passion or interest because it didn’t end up becoming a career. It doesn’t need to make you money. If it makes you happy, make sure you find a place for it.

13. Listen to your inner child

Laugh at silly things, trust people, speak your mind, use your imagination, be creative. Some of our best attributes flourish in childhood and diminish as we grow. When you want to give up, remember you were once a child with dreams. NEVER give up on that child and never let them down.

14. A partner won’t complete you

If you feel like half a person, you’ll always feel like half a person. You’ll be a leech and parasite to any partner because they make you feel secure, wanted and alive, but like an addict you’ll always want more until you leech your source dry completely. It’s a massive cliche, but completeness can only be found inside of yourself, enhancement can be found externally. Your world won’t end if you lose a partner, nor will it magically transform if you find one – not if you can’t be happy with who you are.

15. Nobody really cares…

So what if someone gossips about you for 5 minutes? Truthfully, it amounts to boredom and insecurity. Nobody really cares all that much so don’t make their molehills your mountains.

16. Ignore the clock (when you can)

When you’re a kid an hour is forever, darkness indicates the end of playtime and sunshine indicates a new day. The clock doesn’t need to dictate what you do and when you do it.

17. Be proud of who you are and respect what you are not

Most people are obsessed with categorising; male, female, black, white, Christian, Muslim, etc etc. These categories do exist for a reason, but unfortunately most people tend to resent what they are and long for what they are not. One of the ways this manifests that I witnessed recently on my travels is the tendancy for darker skinned peoples to bleach their skin and lighter skinned folk to tan their skin. Appreciate and feel pride for what and who you are. Do not covet what someone else has or is, because you are beautiful exactly because you are different to them. It is the differences, not the similarities that set you apart and make you unique. If you’re fair skinned, you were made that way for a reason. Ditto to the dark skinned! This is applicable in all areas; women have great strengths and men have great strengths. Do not feel envy for what you aren’t. Feel pride and gratitude for what you are.

18. Find a role model and be a role model

People underestimate how important it is to have someone to look up and something to aspire to. Seek out the right role models, and when you have gained or succeeded in any way, be a role model to anyone lost or confused behind you.

19. See the world

You don’t need to travel for ten years but see places and know people. In this way, you can break lose from the shackles of culture, customs, religion and society and figure out who you are and what you believe in through your own preferences. Learn how others perceive love and dating (the Thai sniff kiss is to die for!), gender roles, perceptions of the world, cuisine and food, the concept of time and entertainment. Allow the world to enhance you.

20. DO IT, DO IT, DO IT

All you have is now. DO IT

21. Treat your body like a temple, not a dust bin

Bad food, bad drink, bad partners, bad habits, we all indulge in a little badness, but treat your body with the utmost respect whenever you can. Eat well, drink well, sleep well and exercise well. You have a lifetime in which to abuse or sustain your body, the only home you’ll ever truly have. Treat it with as much care as you can.

22. Feel pleasure

I don’t know why humanity loves demonizing pleasure. Pleasure energises, relaxes and enlivens. Do not be ashamed to feel pleasure.

April Wheeler: Look at us. We’re just like everyone else. We’ve bought into the same, ridiculous delusion.

I remember first seeing Sam Mendes interpretation of ‘Revolutionary Road’ in the cinema with a friend. My relationship at the time was going through a ‘bleak’ patch and the film really struck a chord with me. What I witnessed was the disintegration of a once passionate and dynamic relationship; one that was transforming from desirous potential and intensity and festering into something hollow, stark and numbing. I have a slight obsession with the psychology of love and relationships, the climactic heady rise of the first few encounters and the steady plateauing that if not maintained leads to speedy disintegration. Because my views of relationships are less ‘Disney Princess rosy’ (I think monogamy and marriage are constructs and we are in fact designed to be with many partners, weathering the starts and ends of each experience), I am really drawn to films like this, which balance the early potential of new relationships, the abundance and fruitfulness of their fulfilment and the steady combustion as the passion wanes.

Frank and April Wheeler were once madly in love. They had expectations, dreams and desires for their future together. April wanted to be an actress, but that aspiration never really materialised in her life. Frank too had his own ambitions, and though he values the stability, consistency and prestige of his work, he despises the commute and tedium of his working life. April slowly becomes obsessed with the idea of relocating to Paris and of injecting into Frank a new dream or purpose. Having never achieved her ambition of being an actress, April seems to think the next best thing is helping Frank locate, define and achieve his own. The drudgery and disappointment of Suburban life only encourages the incorrigible April further. For her, the only solution is to relocate to Paris. In the suburbs, she is suffocating, drowning, flailing miserably in a sea of identical houses and white picket fences. Paris represents freedom, adventure, romance and spontaneity.

Frank coins the phrase ‘hopeless emptiness’ which is really quite a way to sum up the way that millions of people live their lives. The couple fire fight the maddening inertia of these two emotions, but all is not well in paradise. Frank embarks on an affair with a pretty work colleague and April sleeps with Shep, her neighbour’s husband, who has always secretly been in love with her. To complicate their plans, Frank receives a promotion at work which prompts him to rethink their choice to relocate and only intensifies Frank’s deeply engrained roots in the working world. April becomes pregnant and as such is literally shackled once again to the selfless role of motherhood, a role that she can no longer face with her keen awareness of a world beyond that promises freedom and relief from the narrow confines of her existence.

April quickly becomes unstable, disappointed and horrified at Frank’s desire to remain in the Suburbs and at her own bodies betrayal in becoming pregnant. Hysterical, unresponsive and temporarily insane, April sinks beneath the crushing weight of her evaded dream. Eventually, she decides that the only solution to her predicament is to abort her unborn child – the shackle, the weight, the prison that is preventing her from escaping Revolutionary Road, but the consequences of this act will finally shatter Frank and April’s paired unit, as escape she does, but not in the way she intended.

Shep and Milly Campbell, the neighbours, are the foils of Frank and April. They too are a young, idealistic couple, with tensions and half truths simmering beneath the surface. Their true desires, wants and dreams are left repressed and uncommunicated for fear of disrupting their artificially rich life – the veneer of Suburban safety and success – the pinnacle, the summit of 1940’s middle class experience. Who should admit to being unfulfilled, discontent, bored by the cushy lifestyle many aspire to and envy? The house, the husband, the children? The only character to understand April in particular is John, who is perceived by all other characters as deeply insane. Whether he actually is, or whether he was simply labelled as such at the time by society, John understands the hopelessness and emptiness the Wheelers are struggling against. He too is bored silly with life, and is locked away for it. John admires the Wheelers for planning their escape, but when their plans fall through, he becomes filled with venomous hostility and disillusionment, accusing them of cowardice and of facilitating their own downfall through the conceiving of their child.

There are many films made about the crushing discontent to be located in Suburbia (Little Children, American Beauty, Fight Club, The Matrix, We Need to Talk About Kevin, Lolita, The Virgin Suicides). It’s a popular subject. The home, the heart of society, has come under constant attack for not being exciting or spontaneous enough, yet for many, it is still the dream – it is still the place to reach, the cherry on the cake, the sign of making it.

I can’t shake a stick at Suburban life. I was raised alongside my brother by loving parents in a beautiful home. We had regular holidays, went to school, had anything our little hearts desired and were raised well and raised happy. I made it to adulthood with few scrapes, bumps and misdemeanours. I wouldn’t be the person I am today without that safe and secure upbringing that my parents sacrified to provide. For a child, this foundation is bliss.

But looking with adult eyes, and perhaps its youth speaking, I can’t think of anything worse. I want a life of adventure, change, journeys, excitement, an element of unpredictability and danger. As such, watching Revolutionary Road terrified me. What if cohabiting, marriage and family is really like that? Silent, deadly, withheld hatred, resentment and disgust? Having spoken to many married people in my life, naturally the subject comes up and I’m always surprised and a little scared by the wistful longing and niggling regret that permeates a lot of these conversations. Regular warnings heed: “Live your life first”, “don’t settle too young”, “I wish I had done x, y, z first”, “my partner doesn’t want me to be x, y, z”, “I don’t think my partner was the one” and “no one tells you how hard marriage is. That’s one thing most people don’t want to talk about”.

What’s good about films like this as that they help viewers fall into one of two camps; those that will vigorously defend the importance of the family and the home and those that will desperately want to escape it, and that’s one of the interesting cornerstones of experiences that make humans so different and so fascinating.

I’ve never really wanted marriage, nor children, nor really a long lasting and forever relationship in the typical sense, but as I say, I’m young, and I have a lifetime to change my mind. For me, April’s life would be hell, simply because there’s so much I want to do from an independent standpoint and also because the losing of ‘love’ in its early, delightful stages saddens and bothers me. I’m terrified of the settling, of the slow dissipation of the maddening, Romeo and Juliet passion of the early days. Contrasting Frank and April’s early fight for freedom and castles in the sky thinking with their boring, ‘just like everybody else’ marriage made me sad and made me wonder, ‘is any love unusual, special or unique enough to survive this premeditated pattern?’.

This was a film about husbands and wives, two separate entities meshed as one, sacrificing dreams, wishes and expectations for a semblance of togetherness, and hating one another for it. April hated Frank for his cowardice, Frank hated April for her wanderlust and as Howard Givings turns down his hearing aid as he listens to his wife ramble at the end, we are left to bask in boredom, in the falling out of love, to wander in the husks that are left there, because the ruins were once a great civilisation.

Well worth a watch, but maybe not if you are dissatisfied with your lot in life at the moment. Today we have choices and that might be confusing and complicated, but thank god we have them. Today, if you don’t want to be a Frank or April, you don’t have to be.

The film also leaves you thinking that it’s not ‘settling’ that’s the problem. The problem is a culmination of factors ranging from differing expectations, lack of communication, deep rooted discontentment and even potentially mental illness? Is April a free spirit in a neatly stacked world, or is she depressive, anxious, permanently and pathological unhappy, and if so, what is the root of this? Is the issue the fact that new families are locked away in pretty secular isolated houses with no real sense of community or culture on which to depend? Would the Wheelers be any happier in Paris, city of history, love and culture? Or would their problems and maladies follow them? Are all women cut out to be mothers and wives, or are some women’s spirits simply crushed by taking on a role that ‘naturally’ fits them yes, but doesn’t suit them quite so realistically in day to day life? April wants to be special and she believes she is destined for something great. Is this the great, unshakable truth she’s forsakes, or is this the lie? Are any of us really special? Do any of us really deserve anything ‘different?’ April damns and reduces Frank in one quip that really caught my attention: ‘you’re just some boy that made me laugh at a party once’. Is this what we built our lives and futures around? The unreliability and inconsistency of fleeting romantic love?

Some have claimed that this film is what Jack and Rose’s relationship would have been like had they survived the Titanic together, but it is wonderful to see the beautiful Kate Winslet and the striking Leonardo DiCaprio together again.