The other day I was teasing Jordy that he was silly. The very first response out of his mouth, through the laughter, was “I’m not silly, I’m awesome.”
I just laughed it off. After all, Jordy does not have a problem with his self-esteem. He is a star and he’ll tell you so. But later I was telling Mike, my brother/Jordy’s dad, about it and he said something that has stuck with me. He said, “Don’t you wish we had the sense to do that in our lives, to refuse to accept what other people say about us that isn’t what we know to be true.”
She was a princess and duchess. She lived in the palace with the Queen of England. She had her prince. She had a fairytale life.
Sarah Margaret Ferguson seemed to have it all. But she lost it and for the past 15 years she’s known more for scandal than being royal – topless photos, a divorce from her prince, ballooning and shrinking weight, amassing large amounts of debt, and trying to sell access to her former husband, Prince Andrew.
How could that happen? How could someone squander away their royalty, be so gullible, lost and seemingly crazy? It doesn’t make sense.
My 10-year old nephew, Jordy, is simply one of the best people I know. Aside from the fact that he’s my nephew and I’d love him if he were a lump, he is curious, insightful, optimistic, and hilarious. He loves to play card games, soccer and make up songs. He is quick to laugh, eager to participate and never says no to sweets. To quote him directly, “I am here to bring joy.” That he does
One of my favorite reality tv shows is “Gene Simmons Family Jewels.”
I didn’t watch the first few seasons because I thought Gene Simmons was an affront to all women and humanity in general. A notorious womanizer who boasts about 4,000 faceless women he’s slept with. He is obsessed with the acquisition of money and will generally prostitute himself to get more. Everything has a price and he’ll sell it to make more. He has declared emphatically that he is a self-made man that needs no one, wants to be accountable to no one and won’t be told what to do.
I was shocked at how human this series made him. He has been with Shannon (though unfaithfully) for 27 years. He has two children he adores, Nick and Sophie. When he chooses to be available, he is an amazing father. He loves them so much but he holds back. He sees being a provider as all he needs to do, that replaces the emotional needs he is unable to meet. He shows love through his money. He doesn’t have more to give them. He can’t give them what they want, more of himself. He routinely misses key events in their lives like graduations.
I enjoy watching their lives and getting a different perspective on “the Demon.” Everyone has at least two faces, who you are at work isn’t always who you are at home, with friends vs family, etc. Can never judge someone based on one side of their personality.
This season Gene and Shannon’s relationship is showing its age and flaws. The kids are off at college. Shannon gets fed up with all of the girls, his general absense in their lives and realizes she has to make some hard choices. At one point she moves out (and back in) but has to ask if Gene will ever be able to be what she needs. Can he overcome himself and his past enough to be truly available?
In the middle of all this Gene is selected by his hometown of Haifa, Israel to receive an award and he travels back for the first time in 53 years. While he’s there Shannon arranges for him to visit his old neighborhood, home and interact with his half brothers and sisters whom he has never met. While he’s there Gene is forced to confront the reality of his past.
Gene hated his father, in his mind he abandoned him and his mother. The history he knew was that because of his father’s absense his mother was forced to work and he was left alone. The rift between them is deepend when his mother moves them to America at 8, he never saw his father again. He knew where he was and provided for him financially there was little communication and no relationship. In this trip, through the eyes of his siblings Gene learns that he had the wrong picture of his father. He was viewing him as a child. He has harbored the emotions and thoughts of a child throughout adulthood for the whole situation. He remained stubborn in these feelings and refused to meet his family and heal. During this visit he got a letter his father wrote to him long ago that he never sent.
As he reconnects with his family you can see the face of a little boy who was so lonely and is now finding home. As he embraces them he is able to move beyond himself to a bigger picture of who he is. Perhaps as he explores these relationships maybe he will be able to let go of the rigidity that prevents him from connecting fully to Shannon, Nick and Sophie. It now really makes sense about why he couldn’t committ to Shannon in marriage. The void, abandonment and loneliness of a little boy was holding him hostage. I can’t wait to see what happens!
This reminds me that wherever we refuse to forgive we are imprisoned and our maturity is stunted. How many situations are we viewing with childish eyes? Is this limited understanding born out of anger, fear, loss of control, loneliness, etc? I think the keys to identifying these places are to look at where we are legalistic. Am I irrationally holding onto a set of rules that don’t really serve a purpose? Are there powerful emotions attached to the rules that reveal a deeper wound? There is a huge difference between boundaries and unnecessary emotional rigidity. One is healthy emotional protection and the other makes us more isolated and lonely even when those who love us most want to connect.
My cousin Lacey suggested a show for me on Hulu called Being Erica. The story is about Erica Strange, a 30-something highly-educated, underemployed, single, frustrated woman who doesn’t know what to do with her life. Sound familiar. Yea, I thought so. No wonder why she thought I’d like it.
Erika is stuck in one dead-end job after another. After getting fired, again, her family subjects her to yet another “pep-talk” that goes no where. It just makes her more frustrated, she knows she’s in a rut. She knows she should be more. She knows her life isn’t working. She even goes as far as jumping out of her bedroom window to get away from their “encouragement.”
However upon her escape she meets a therapist who says he can help her find herself and fix her regrets, “results guaranteed.” Since she has nothing left to try she gives in. But she has no idea what she’s gotten herself into. This isn’t ordinary talk therapy. This “therapist” has the ability to send her back in time. She gets to and has to relive pivitol moments of her life that got her where she is today. Yikes, can you imagine. There are part of my life I do not need to see in 3-D again.
I do love stories about time travel. There is something romantic about it. It also gives a sense of redemption. When you can go back to right what went wrong, gain understanding and clarity, you can recover what you lost and find a new perspective on yourself. For Erica, going back as an adult helps her see what was going on that she couldn’t see with her childish eyes and heart. Sometimes the choices she made the first time around are validated and it gives her more confidence.
I think that was the first thing I learned from her. One of her big regrets in college was whimping out of the intiation to join Literati, a secret society on campus. She was one of the few asked to pledge that year and after a brutal first assignment, requiring her to trash the competition in a verbal assault, she felt uncomfortable and left. She saw it as a failure that prevented her from getting ahead in her life. Erica thought if she could go back and go through with it she’d have more options.
So Erica went back to the day of her invitation to join and got to re-write her history. She was ready to kill in the first and all other rounds of initiation and she did. She made it. She was in. Then she learned that Literati published an unofficial slam paper everyweek and to stay in the group she had to dig up dirt they could publish.
Fixated on future goals she did, on her best friend’s girlfriend, knowing it could destroy her relationships. She became the worst version of herself to fit in with them. So for the second time she decided to quit Literati. Her instincts were right. She wasn’t meant to be a part of that group. It wasn’t going to help her become who she wanted to be.
Quitting twice didn’t radically change her life. She was still stuck but more sure of herself. It gave her confidence that she was true to her values and her beliefs. This also ties into the notion that there is a story God is weaving through our lives. The choices we make contribute to or distract from that story. How in touch with are with this narrative really depends on how in touch we are with God and ourselves.
That seems very philsophical but it really helped me take stock in my life in a different way. I have lots of regrets and wonder what I missed out on because of choices made. But if I could go back and re-do it would I end up making the same decision again? Maybe, maybe not.
But if I look at a string of decisions I’ve made. a picture does emerge about who I am and what I want. Sometimes the picture isn’t pretty, in my 20s it drove me to therapy. In my 30s what emerged was more of my true self, I was becoming more of who I wanted to be. Now the hard part is to stay true to my convictions and to have the courage to take necessary risks out of the new found sense of security.
I’m watching all three seasons of Being Erica, so I see more lessons forthcoming.