I Love Mamma Mia!

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Wow, 31st day!  I guess I really love this writing practice…

My kids introduced me to “Mamma Mia!” the movie a couple months ago.  Oh my gosh SO FUN!  The cast, the scenery, the music!!  ABBA!!!  And the epilogue scene of them all singing “Waterloo” is one of my favorite musical numbers, ever!  I intend to convene a group of friends to reenact the singing/dancing scenes someday, what a great workout that would be, and to such great music!

I just love when the kids and I watch our favorite movies together—Harry Potter, Avengers, and now some musicals.  Driving to Target today, after watching the second “Mamma Mia!” movie, I realized why I like these two films so much.  It wasn’t just watching how much fun the actors obviously had making it, and oh my gosh CHER (I can still picture on the cover of my dad’s Half Breed album), and the cute story.  It was the emotions.  In both of these movies, the characters all feel their emotions freely.  There is no repressing, numbing (well, maybe some–cake, anyone?), offloading, or prolonged rationalization.  The sadness, loneliness, regret, anger, and longing, the fear and the lust, as well as the love, loyalty, devotion, grief, forgiveness, and hope—the characters display them all without shame or self-judgment.  And even better, they reach out to each other for support and show up for one another in compassion and solidarity.

We also watched “While You Were Sleeping” today (it’s rainy outside and we are movie people), also a perennial favorite for me.  My daughter says she doesn’t like it because of the lying.  It’s stressful to keep secrets and maintain false appearances.  Even watching it makes some of us uncomfortable—and now that I think about it some more, I recognize the visceral anxiety of seeing it on screen.  There are many ways to create tension and conflict in a story.  The “Mamma Mia!” movies do it in a lighthearted way that feels more fun than most.

In these days of widespread deception, false pretense, mistrust, evasiveness, and broken relationships, musicals like this uplift my family and me.  What a cheer for all that is good about humanity, what a vote of confidence for our silly species!  So grateful.  We will continue to watch repeatedly, I guarantee it.

Kevin Kline, POTUS, and Death

NaBloPoMo 2018:  What I’m Learning

***NO, I do not wish death on the president.***

Have you seen Dave, the movie about the temp agency owner kidnapped by the Secret Service to impersonate the president, and then forced to prolong the charade after the president dies unexpectedly?  It’s one of my favorite movies, and I love Kevin Kline, who plays Dave/POTUS.  There is just something so genuine and relatable about him and his character in this film.

I just finished listening to “Have a Nice Day,” an Audible* Original, written by Billy Crystal and Quinton Peoples.  It was recorded in front of a live audience, and once again Kevin Kline plays POTUS.  He brings the same lovable qualities to this role as he did to “Dave.”  Annette Benning plays FLOTUS, and Billy Crystal plays the angel of death with an anxiety disorder.  With more than a couple fun plot twists and the familiar voices of performers we know and love, I give it an enthusiastic thumbs up!

I appreciate humor more and more.  No other genre can tackle the hardest things about life and help us laugh about them, hold them a little more lightly, and continue with a slightly lighter heart.  Thinking about the immediacy and permanence of death can be frightening and acutely uncomfortable.  But it also often puts things in clear perspective, and it liberates.

It’s been both a dense and unproductive holiday weekend, relative to my lofty expectations.  Inspiration both overflows and stalls, thus no post last night.  Consider this to be the make-up assignment.  I have learned that true to my #1 trait as defined by the Gallup Strengths Finder 2.0 nine years ago, I have been inputting disproportionately and not leaving enough time to process, integrate, and synthesize.  But that’s okay, because little plays like “Have a Nice Day” help me reset.  I can forgive myself for falling off the NaBloPoMo wagon for a day.  Now I can regroup and catch up.  I’m so excited to share my learnings here!

My goal was to sit down, write, and publish this post before I started feeling cold from sitting in sweaty, post workout clothes.  Almost there!  If you have about 75 minutes, I highly recommend listening to this short, endearing little play.  Let me know what you think!

 

*I have no financial interests in any people, companies, or products mentioned here.

 

The Movies That Move Us

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NaBloPoMo 2017: Field Notes from a Life in Medicine

The weekend has gone by too fast, and I have done none of the tasks on The List.  Oh well, it’s all good.  I got up this morning and made the green onion pancakes that my daughter loves so much.  We had a very successful shopping binge at Trader Joe’s and Target, woo hooooo!  And in between, we had something of a Christmas movie marathon:

“Love, Actually” (2003)

“The Holiday” (2006)

“While You Were Sleeping” (1995)

I’ve seen each of these movies so many times that I anticipate my favorite lines with giddiness and delight.  But they often end up serving as background on theTV as I accomplish other things.  Today, though, I was able to relax, sit, and watch.  It was touching and emotional, something of a re-centering.

What I love about each movie is how human all the characters are—there is something to relate to for every aspect of humanity in these films.  No one is perfect but all are lovable, all are flawed.  The relationships between characters—siblings, spouses, neighbors, friends, coworkers, parents, children, boy/girlfriends, and ex-es—are all interconnected, interdependent.  Somehow, watching these three movies in a row today, I’m struck by the portrayals of vulnerability, honesty, humility, judgment, love, and commitment, as well as lapses thereof.  It’s all so real, so human.

The hero’s journey is real.  We are all called to our own adventure, inevitably facing challenges and conflicts against our will.  We search for the easy ways out, alternative paths around our problems.  We avoid the hard feelings, the discomfort, the morass.  And then, somehow, we find a way—we meet someone who can help, we marshal our resources, we find the inner strength to do what’s needed, to carry on.  It’s messy and awkward, meandering and stumbling, often also hilarious and worthy of eye rolls and head shakes.  Looking back we find ourselves thinking, “Well why didn’t I just do that in the first place?”  And we can also appreciate the inevitable, valuable learning from the missteps and wrong turns.

Movies are movies, of course, not real life.  They are an escape.  They are also a mirror, as most art is.  They tell our shared stories, remind us of our relationships and connections through time, across nations, between genders and generations.  They’re called “movies” because they are still pictures shown in series to give the illusion of movement.  But perhaps we can think of them as moving us at our core, drawing us nearer to one another through shared experience and imagination.  The best movie experiences leave us a little cracked, a little exposed, a little sensitive—or a lot.  They remind us of our core humanity, inviting us to bring it forth and live it in authenticity.

Many thanks to all those who create and contribute to this art form.  You make us better.

Innocence, Indignation, and Idealism:  An Optimist’s Reconciliation

I took my daughter to see “Wonder Woman” last weekend.  I highly recommend it—such a strong, complex, and inspiring portrayal of humanity at its best and worst, with a hopeful ending.

Today I’m (somewhat) inspired in parallel by (some) politicians, three Republican senators in particular, calling for transparency in drafting healthcare reform.  I hereby present my attempt to integrate that exquisite Wonder Woman Experience with my current political outlook.

***WARNING*** THIS POST MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS FOR THOSE WHO HAVE NOT SEEN THE MOVIE.

Innocence

Diana of Themyscira grows up believing in the innate goodness of humans.  The Amazons are educated, independent, strong, and proud, and also collaborative, compassionate, kind, and sensitive.  When Diana learns of the horrific war waged by mankind outside of her paradise home, she relates it to the story of Ares, the God of War, who corrupts the hearts of men to commit acts of hatred upon one another.  So, naturally, she sets out to kill Ares and fix it.

We journey with Diana through challenge and triumph, as she learns that, of course, it’s not that simple.  She kills the man she thought was Ares, and nothing changes, the war rages on.  She must reconcile the possibility that the heart of mankind is not actually pure goodness.  Even without an insidiously corrupting God of War, humans are prone to their own malignant beliefs and actions.  Her innocence is pierced.

In the summer of 2009 or 2010, my best friend from college and his wife came to visit.  He, a molecular biology and political science double major and emergency medicine physician, and she, a worldly intellectual and future legal counsel for a major media outlet, were the first to burst my innocent political bubble.  For some reason, likely due to the tremendous inspiration of Barack Obama, I had gone from thinking all politicians were liars and performance artists, to seeing them as genuine public servants, working to advance their authentic ideas of how society functions better for all citizens.  I know, La-La Land!  My friends described an alternative, more realistic path to politics: Person succeeds at business, rubs elbows with regulators and influences them (with money or otherwise) to facilitate his/her business success.  Said person then realizes s/he could actually become one of those regulators and make a more permanent positive impact on these business interests, and so runs for office.  I still remember how deflated I felt, shoulders slumped, spine rounded, at this sudden and stark realization.

Indignation

As with everything, I’m sure political reality lies somewhere in the messy middle between pure altruism and blatant, self-serving avarice.  But these days, for someone who loved Obama and almost everything he stood for, it’s hard not to see the whole of our current political landscape as the latter.  I think, Really, WTF?  Can those in power really see nothing valid whatsoever in anything accomplished the past 8 years?  Do they really think that see-saw policy-making, each administration reversing everything from the previous one, replacing wise, experienced public servants with ignorant neophytes (my opinion), is the best way to govern?  OMFG, you have got to be kidding me.  I seethe.  But what can I do?

Ares reveals himself, and taunts Diana in her most vulnerable moment with his arrogant disdain for man’s weakness and corruptibility.  He also reveals that she is, in fact, the only one who can vanquish him—only a god can kill another god.  Diana, daughter of Zeus himself, possesses the power to Kick. His. Ass.  Yet he dismisses her out of hand, oblivious to her inner strength of conviction and compassion (I know, so much to expound on here, maybe in another post!).  Nope.  Righteous indignation rises.  She digs deep, finds that core courage, and obliterates him.  Fist pump.  He never saw it coming.

Idealism

In the end, Diana realizes that humans are a paradox: a big jumble of contradictions, perpetrators of horrific rage and destruction, and also fully worthy of love, forgiveness, and compassion.  She somehow finds peace in this enigma, loving the best of humanity and vowing to protect us against our worst selves, helping us to become better.

This resonates with the idealist in me.  This is how she helps us, and how we can help ourselves.

How Can We Help?

We can choose to fight against one another, and thereby focus on what we hate (about ourselves).

Or, we can choose to seek the good in one another, and focus on what we love— even better, focus on love itself.  We all want access to healthcare, and to be free from bankrupting medical expenses.  Everybody wants to be safe from gun violence.  We all want an efficient government that sets reasonable regulations, protects citizens’ constitutional rights, and spends money wisely and with accountability.  We all want to feel protected and free, loved and free to love.

The messy middle is the how.  That is where we negotiate.  That is also where the magic happens, as Brené Brown says, and that is where we must go, where we must persist.  We can bring our best selves to meet others’ best, in mutual respect.  It can be high risk, so we can enter slowly, strategically, with realistic expectations and a few trusted friends.

To this end, I will continue to seek out and hold up elected officials who call for more thoughtful political processes.  My friend Triffany and I have made a habit of writing thank you notes to Members of Congress to validate their cooperative acts.  We harbor no illusions about purity of intent, but we also know that positive reinforcement works.  We can be Diana to anybody’s Ares.

Focus on and fight for what we love: common goals and interests, shared humanity, connection, and one another.  It’s a lifetime’s worth of work, and well worth the fruits, if we can stick with it.

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On Happy Movies

 

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NaBloPoMo 2016, Letters to Patients, Day 26

To Patients Getting Into the Spirit:

What movies do you recommend?

26 days and… writer’s block.  So duh, the obvious solution was to take a shower!  According to Shelley Carson, PhD, the defocused mindstate of showering allows for creativity and innovation.  I noticed the sullenness that envelopes me so often lately.  I wished for a mental uplift, and the gods obliged—they reminded me of “The Internship.”  Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson play a couple of recently unemployed Gen-X salesmen who land coveted internships at Google.  They lead a dejected team of Millennial misfits who, of course, overcome all odds to win in the end.  It’s admittedly full of cheese.  But the endearing characters and uber-nerdiness get me every time.

Post-shower, I came down to movie night in progress:  “Music and Lyrics,” starring Hugh Grant and Drew Barrymore.  Grant, an 80s pop ‘has-been,’ falls in love with his substitute plant waterer and incidental lyrcist, played by Barrymore.  Once again, current-event melancholy yielded to drippy-sweet romantic comedy.  You just can’t sustain a sour mood in the face of all that adorableness.

Other movies that come to mind, and that I plan to watch in the coming days:

Love, Actually

The Holiday

White Christmas

You’ve Got Mail

While You Were Sleeping

It would really be nice to get fully into the spirit again this year.  Why not aim for joy, after all?  Vacation days, family gatherings, gift exchanges and excuses to shop with abandon…  It could all be good, and I can exercise more control over my mood than I have until now.

So, the feel-good, holiday-mood-elevation movie marathon begins tomorrow, yay!  Please feel free to make your suggestions!