It's easy to forget that we are all perfect in our own design. Sometimes we muck it up with habits and choices that do not serve us.
There was a lot to think about this past week. There was a lot to listen to, a lot to process, and a lot to try and understand.
When a lot of noise is swirling around, I’ve learned that it’s often wise to take a beat. It’s good to take the time to reflect, then wait to see what you’re left thinking and feeling at the end of the week. I always have to remind myself that waiting is good.
Like many of you, my week started with watching the Oscars on Sunday. I had been excited to root for “CODA,” as it was one of those films that touched me deep in my heart. It moved me to tears and made me think in a new way about the challenges of those who are deaf and who strive to be accepted as actors. The film took me inside a world I didn’t know I needed to go inside, but I did. So I was cheering on Sunday for the film and its actors to get their due.
As we all know, everyone was not talking about “CODA” winning best film by the night’s end. Nor were they talking about the actor Troy Kotsur, who became the first deaf man to win an Oscar for acting. We also weren’t talking about a woman winning the best director award at age 67, or about Questlove winning best documentary. We weren’t talking about Kevin Costner’s eloquent and inspiring speech about the power of film to move a mind and a life. We weren’t talking about Lady Gaga’s beautiful, sensitive, and moving accompaniment of Liza Minnelli on stage. The moment when Lady Gaga assured Minnelli “I've got you” when she lost her place with the words was one of the quietest, loveliest gestures I’ve ever seen on live TV.
But no one was talking about any of those historic moments. No, we all know what everyone was talking about instead. Then the talking gave way to arguing and taking sides. It gave way to comments like, “stand down, don’t get into this,” or “you don’t understand, back off.” It went from “He was wrong” to “he was right” to “he’s a wounded child” to “she should have stopped him” to “I’d want my man to do that” to “what is going to happen now?” It was a lot.
By the end of the week, what I know for sure is that there was enough pain and trauma to go around. This was all up against the backdrop of the ongoing pain and trauma playing out in Ukraine. I mean, my God, I can’t even find the words to describe what I feel each day as I watch the ongoing war. I don’t want to feel what I feel, but I also don’t want to not feel it either, if that makes sense. Then there’s the ongoing trauma from January 6. The pain and trauma from post-COVID life. The pain and trauma from life in general.
I found myself craving quiet this week, and not just because I was home with COVID. (Yes, I’m vaxxed and boosted, thank God). I craved it much like the quiet in the film “CODA,” when the young daughter sings her heart out to her deaf parents, but there is no sound. I love that part of the film. It transports the viewer into another person’s world. Into a world of silence. It was everything.
It’s hard to be transported into another person’s world, yet it is truly the only way to understand another person’s joy, pain, trauma, and journey from here to there. We all have winding, beautiful, difficult life journeys. All of us. I don’t care who you are or where you came from. I’ve learned that everyone has their stuff. Everyone has their masks and their armor, and not everyone gets a look within.
Our journeys start when we are young. Things happen in our lives that impact how we love and who we love. Our life experiences impact how we handle our triggers, how we handle eruptions, and how we deal with our anger, sadness, grief, and power.
I have no idea what made Will Smith snap last Sunday night, but that’s what he did. He snapped. He has written about watching his father abuse his mother, about watching her get knocked down and doing nothing. Witnessing that, he has said, made him feel like a coward his whole life.
Chris Rock, who by week’s end said he was “still processing what happened on that stage,” has also spoken about his own disability and his own anger. He has spoken about how it erupted when he was young, how that scared him, and how he has worked since then to find a new way to express himself without losing control.
These two men are hardly the first to look within to try and make sense of their early childhood experiences and how those experiences impact the person they are today. I wholeheartedly believe each of us owes it to ourselves and those we love to do the hard, introspective work of understanding ourselves, our triggers, our pain, joys, and anger. What makes us tick, what brings out the best in us, and what brings the worst in us. Plato wrote that the unexamined life is not worth living, and I’ve found that to be true myself.
A life lived on the public stage is also examined by everyone, and yet I know from firsthand experience that those doing the pontificating and the judging about someone else’s life usually know nothing about what you have been through. And rarely do they take the time to put themselves in your shoes.
As Mark Manson (the author who worked with Will Smith on his memoir) pointed out this week, idealizing another person—assuming they must not have any problems because you love them—almost always leads to disappointment.
"In relationships there's a name for this: codependency," Mark wrote. "Codependency pretty much always leads to dysfunctional relationships and heartbreak. Yet, people do this with the celebrities they love all the time."
When Will Smith finally pulled himself together, he wrote that his behavior was unacceptable, out of line, and inexcusable. He resigned from the Academy and acknowledged that the list of those he's hurt is long. He wrote that violence is never acceptable. Amen to that. Nor is it acceptable to watch it unfold and then stand to applaud the person who did it.
I don’t care if you say you are separating the two. You aren’t. The audience that night conflated violence with love, and that is dangerous territory. Many women have done this many times, and it’s cost them their lives.
What happened on the Oscar stage traumatized many and not just those in the room. Many are doing what Chris Rock is doing: trying to process what happened, what it meant, and what it means to our larger us.
One thing is for sure: Will Smith’s big night will cost him in ways none of us will truly understand. What’s worth trying to understand is our own anger. Our own triggers, our own unresolved pain, and our own personal responsibility to deal with it to the best of our ability.
I must say I found it interesting that Questlove, who won the documentary Oscar that Chris Rock was announcing, says he missed the whole thing because he was meditating. He was in another world—a silent world—the one depicted in “CODA.” It took him away from the chaos.
Having grown up amidst a lot of chaos myself, I’ve found meditation and therapy to be a huge gift in helping me not only make sense of life, but also deal with all that gets thrown at us on a daily basis.
Life is throwing a lot on everyone’s plates these days. There isn’t really a roadmap for how to handle it all because no one has truly been here before. At times like this, I’ve found the mantra from AA to be helpful: “God, give me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”
Remember, sometimes the best way to deal with what everyone is saying, or screaming about, or pontificating about, is to turn off the sound, turn within, and remind oneself that there but for the grace of God go I.
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