My Imagined TED Talk

Oscar Wilde

“We are products of our past, but we don’t have to be prisoners of it.” ~ Rick Warren, The Purpose Driven Life: What on Earth Am I Here for?

“Learning is not attained by chance, it must be sought for with ardor and diligence.” Abigail Adams

My husband, Barry, and I are doing the year-long Art & Soul Reloaded course with Pam Grout. We just started the myth busting section. You know all those myths about the creative process. This week is about “Myth #2: To Make Art, You Need the Approval of a Publisher, A recording Company, an Art Gallery, Etc.” Each lesson is accompanied by an assignment. This week we are to come up with a title and subject for our TED Talk.

Sometimes, often, actually, the lessons are things I’ve already done, or am doing. But when I read this one, I knew exactly what I would speak about if I were ever to give a TED Talk. It’s the biggest personal growth question of my life: What am I supposed to be learning from this?

That question did several things for me when it came out my pen onto the page of my journal.

It stopped me in my tracks. Before writing that question I thought that life was happening TO me, that the world was against little old me and there was nothing I could do about that but moan and complain until someone came to save me. The thing was, when I asked that question, I became my own savior. Or rather, God and I became partners. S/he’d show me the way and I’d do the work of untangling the mess.

The question forced me to look at my problems from lots of new angles. It was asking me to look at myself and how I was either making the problem worse, or at the very least, not any better. I had to accept that I had a part to play in what was going on. I wasn’t just an innocent bystander.

Which brings me to taking responsibility for my actions. If you think the world is out to get you as I did, then it’s so easy to place the blame outside yourself. When I understood that I was responsible for my reactions, that gave me a new perspective about why people treated me the way they did. Taking a moment to evaluate a situation before making any kind of response is such a helpful tool. It gives me a chance to choose what kind of interaction I’m going to have with the others in the situation. What I say and do affects others in ways I can’t even comprehend at the moment of making the decision. I’ve often been surprised when people come to me and give me feedback about something I’ve said or done. It’s always much nicer when they thank me, rather than accuse and blame me.

Taking responsibility for my reactions to life events was really scary. Beyond making decisions in the heat of the moment, it meant I had to go to those dark places within and accept that I wasn’t perfect. You probably know what that feels like. For me it’s like something souring in my stomach, or having itching powder under my skin. Before asking what am I supposed to learning from this?, I’d have done anything to get rid of that feeling. But trying to escape dealing with our wounds never works. The problems get bigger and bigger until eventually our lives blow up in our faces and we either deal with them, or our souls die. Living with a dead soul is the most hellish thing I can imagine.

Answering the question, what am I supposed to be learning from this?, is a lifelong quest. I’m still working on the answer everyday. I won’t lie to you, taking a good hard look at myself, was the most scary thing I’d ever done because what I thought I’d find was the most unloveable person on the planet. But that’s not what happened. I began to see that almost everyone feels like I did. We think we’re not worthy of love or all the other good things available for us to experience.

So, I don’t know where that question came from, but I’m so glad I asked it and started on a grand adventure of discovering myself.

I’ll end with a quote from one of my favorite plays, An Ideal Husband by Oscar Wilde. “To love oneself is the beginning of a lifelong romance.” Even though the character saying this means it as a frivolous statement, there is some truth to it, though I’d change “romance” to “love affair”. If we don’t love ourselves who will? And if we don’t love ourselves, how can we love others? Everyone is so busy trying to figure out their own lives. I believe it’s in learning to love ourselves that gives us the courage to be able to build lasting bridges to other people. That’s a worthwhile goal in my book.

Thanks for reading one of my flights of fancy. I appreciate your likes and comments.

Lucinda Sage-Midgorden © 2018

Lucinda is the author of The Space Between Time, an award finalist in the “Fiction: Fantasy” category of the 2017 Best Book Awards. It’s a historical, time-travel, magical realism, women’s novel, and is available in all ebook formats at Smashwords, and print-on-demand at Amazon and other fine book sellers. To join her email list, click here. She will never sell the names on her list.

Stories That Endure

Bette Davis and Paul Henreid in Now Voyager

“After nourishment, shelter and companionship, stories are the thing we need most in the world.” ~ Philip Pullman

“Stories can conquer fear, you know. They can make the heart bigger.” ~ Ben Okri

It’s been a rough week. I’m still not completely recovered from my cold, so I dragged myself into class last night glad that the movie I’d picked was short. This class I teach every spring is titled dramatic structure. In the class we watch plays and movies and deconstruct the way the story is put together so we can discover the main message the writer and director are trying to get across to the audience. I’m always surprised when students like a classic movie, or play we watch. It gives me hope that maybe they will tune into Turner Classic Movies sometime and watch a vintage movie they might never have considered before taking the class.

Last night I was happy that my students loved the 1942 movie Now Voyager. This is the first time I’ve shown this movie, even though it’s one I love. It’s a domestic drama staring Bette Davis, Paul Henreid, and Claude Rains. Davis plays Charlotte Vale who has a nervous breakdown and must learn how to deal with her tyrannical mother played by Gladys Cooper. She is helped by Rains’ character Dr. Jaquith. The thing I love about the movie is that it shows Charlotte not only learning how to build friendships but how to stand up for herself without causing her mother to throw her out. It’s a neat balancing act. She also finds love in an unconventional relationship with a married man played by Henreid. Even though they make a pact never to see each other again, in the end they are brought back together when Charlotte has the opportunity to help Henreid’s daughter with the approval of Dr. Jaquith. I wasn’t surprised that my students could relate to having difficult family relationships and that the film gave them some strategies they could use in their own lives.

There are so many classic plays and movies that are still relevant for us today. And I’m happy to be introducing my students to some of them.

I’ve also been surprised that my students liked Gentleman’s Agreement, staring Gregory Peck and Dorothy McGuire, a story of anti-semitism right after World War II. That ground breaking movie is important because it breaks down the subtle ways people maintain their prejudices while fooling themselves into thinking they have none at all. That’s the movie for next week. I’ll be interested to hear what the students have to say about it.

An Ideal Husband, is another favorite of my students. It’s a play by Oscar Wilde in which he uses witty lines to make the audience laugh, but which has a serious message underneath. Lord Goring, the most frivolous of heroes, helps his friends navigate a serious problem in their relationship. He tells his best friend, “Gertrude, it is not the perfect, but rather the imperfect who have need of love.” We all hope for love and forgiveness from the ones we love. Oscar Wilde delivers that for his characters while at the same time making us laugh at their foibles. It’s a masterpiece as far as I’m concerned.

Sometimes I am pleasantly surprised when a student says something profound about one of the movies or plays we’ve just watched. One year, after a viewing of a filmed stage production of The Taming of the Shrew, we were discussing Kate’s final speech. This is one of Shakespeare’s speeches that is discussed adnausium because it seems that Kate gives up her will to her husband. One student surprised me by saying, “I think that speech and Petrucio’s reaction to it show that they tamed each other.” I had never thought of it like that before. I have always fantasied that after the play was over Kate and Petrucio were going to have a vibrant, sometimes contentious, but deeply loving relationship. But to think that the tamer also gets tamed was a wonderful new way to look at that play.

Now I know that some people watch movies for pure entertainment and don’t want to discuss all the nuances of the story. But social media is full of movie fan discussions dissecting every aspect of the latest movie in their favorite franchise and if that’s not evidence that stories have a kind of power to touch us deeply, I don’t know what is.

Thanks for reading. I appreciate all your comments and likes.

Lucinda Sage-Midgorden © 2018

Lucinda is the author of The Space Between Time, an award finalist in the “Fiction: Fantasy” category of the 2017 Best Book Awards. It’s a historical, time-travel, magical realism, women’s novel, and is available in all ebook formats at Smashwords, and print-on-demand at Amazon and other fine book sellers. To join her email list, click here. She will never sell the names on her list.