Truth versus Judgment

Oprah Winfrey at the White House for the 2010 ...

Oprah Winfrey at the White House for the 2010 Kennedy Center Honors (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Oprah Winfrey once spoke about how much she had been harshly and unfairly judged at different times.  She had often been taken to court and had always put a lot of energy into defending herself.

But one day, in court, she made a decision.  I’m not doing this anymore.  She said she knew she wasn’t guilty of what she was being accused of, and she chose to let that be enough.  She said no matter what anybody thinks, or how many people damned her, she knew what the truth was.

I remember that moment of watching her as she was talking about it, and how at peace she was with herself.  At peace with herself and in a way

unassailable.  It takes a lot of nerve and courage not to defend yourself when you’re being judged for something that you know you’re not guilty of.

I think it can be important to state the truth and stand up for yourself, but sometimes it’s a waste of time.  Somebody who is judging you has already shown you that they don’t have any interest in knowing the truth about you.  They don’t care enough about you to want to be fair.

It’s tough and it hurts like hell.  But it is what it is.  You can’t let somebody else’s judgment of you be your death sentence.  A friend of mine, writer Ella Camp, said “The past can cast a long shadow over our present- therefore we must at times, actively seek the sun.”

Judgment can be that dark shadow.  It’s driven by stuff in the past – unresolved anger, fear, hurt.   But here’s the thing: nobody’s judgment can actually alter the truth about you.  I reckon to know that is to step away from the shadow and stand in the sun.

I heard the most beautiful thing in the movie The Interpreter the other night.  One of the characters said “a single whisper can be heard above an army when it is telling the truth.”


My Geeky Love Affair with Bill Gates and a New Laptop

Image representing Bill Gates as depicted in C...

Image via CrunchBase

Well, the Bill Gates bit is pushing it, I’ll admit, no offense Bill, you just don’t look like my kind of guy.  But I love my laptop and I’ve finally given in to the seduction of Windows.  It’s just so clever.  I’ll never be able to get my head around how it works, but that’s the beauty of it all, I don’t have to, any more than I have to understand how a tiny seed turns into a huge tree, or cow eats grass which becomes more cow.

Life is full of these miracles and the wonderful thing about being human is that a) we’re always falling in love with somebody or something and b) we’re always making mistakes but it doesn’t matter because either we learn something brilliant from them or somebody has created a safety net and our mistakes don’t matter at all.

Enter Bill Gates again.  Here’s the thing about my laptop.  The transition from my old desktop with its nice big keyboard to my new toy with its miniscule and ridiculously sensitive keyboard  would have been fraught with the trauma of lost files, inadvertently transposed words and sentences, things sent to outer space to get totally lost and just general misadventure.

Such is the drawback of sensitivity.  Bad enough having it in my personality, now I have to deal with it in a laptop.  But wonder of wonders, every time I do something I shouldn’t have or didn’t  mean to, Windows happily has already saved for me before my digital faux pas – as in faux pas of the digits.  And then of course there’s that lovely “undo” capacity.  You made a mistake?  Just take it back.

Ha.  Life without consequences.  I could get addicted to it.  So this transition to something new and exciting has been – well, new and exciting.  I get the greatest kick out of working on my bed, just like in the movies, or just anywhere else I feel like.  There’s something about not being confined that utterly thrills me.  When I was a small child apparently I refused to sleep in the same place during the day.  I had a pillow and blanky and I chose my spot every time.

My mother told me about that often, but I could never remember it.  Now I can at least identify the feeling, that of a triumphant kid free to make a choice from moment to moment where I’ll sit or lie down and work.   I went to a bookstore café the other day with my laptop, just in case I wanted to write.  As it turns out I didn’t, because Vogue and Vanity Fair vied for my attention.  But I felt like a big shot just carrying my darling around.

Who says love has to hurt?  This geeky love affair is bringing me nothing but pleasure, pleasure, pleasure.

Love of Coffee and Chocolate – and Intelligent Presidents

“Love doesn’t make the world go round. Love is what makes the ride worthwhile.” [Franklin P. Jones]

 “I have a holistic need to work and to have huge ties of love in my life. I can’t imagine eschewing one for the other.”  [Meryl Streep]

“I’d like to be a queen in people’s hearts but I don’t see myself being queen of this country.”  [Princess Diana]

Everybody’s got something to say about love, haven’t they?  Well, not everybody.  I watched again some of the BAFTA pre-awards the other night, and everybody went love-gaga for this decade’s British film icon-babe Colin Firth.  I wonder what he thinks about love?  I don’t know, I couldn’t find anything he’s said about it, so I chose this one instead “My singing voice is somewhere between a drunken apology and a plumbing problem.”

Is there any love in there?  Love of humor of course.

Michelle Obama said “Cute’s good. But cute only lasts for so long, and then it’s, ‘Who are you as a person?’  Don’t look at the bankbook or the title. Look at the heart. Look at the soul. When you’re dating a man, you should always feel good… You shouldn’t be in a relationship with somebody who doesn’t make you completely happy and make you feel whole.”  [ Michael Y. Park. “Michelle Obama’s Secrets to Finding a Great Guy” 10/28/2009.]

Obviously she’s got something right.  Andrew Romano said of the Presidential couple “… I think it’s the Obamas’ willingness to act in public much how they act in private – open, informal, flirtatious – that has incited most of the swooning.  At the Youth Ball, I noticed the president do something that’s impossible to imagine any of his predecessors doing: resting his head, eyes closed, on Michelle’s shoulder.” [“Our Model Marriage” Newsweek 2/23/2009.]

Love – isn’t it a great thing when it’s the real thing?  Love of truth, love of freedom, love of chocolate and coffee.  Love of intelligent Presidents married to extraordinary women.

Even Einstein had something to say about love: “you cannot love a car the way you love a horse”.  Nicely put.  Not sure what he thought about men and women, though…  Or chocolate, for that matter.  Or American presidents.  But I bet if he was alive today he’d vote for Barack Obama come the elections.

Rules for Successful Blogging; Chocolate; and My Trip to Paris, Milan and New York

Here are some rules for personal bloggers.  They’re bound to be useful, sure to be the formula for instant success.

Rule number one: be interesting.  If your life is boring, stop blogging.  Oh, that doesn’t work.  Well let’s try rule number two: if you have to drop names, then do it casually, as in “took the car in for a service, treated myself to yummy dark chocolate with orange in it, had drink with George Clooney to discuss the problems in his latest script, bought the groceries, made supper blah blah blah.  Boring day.

Rule number three: only tell the truth and don’t exaggerate.  If your day goes something like this, it’s fine:

6.30     Alarm went off.

6.31     Pressed snooze button.

10.30   Hammering on door by boss.  Woke up, had forgotten snooze button kills the clock.  Answered said door, groggy, unapologetic, and dressed in – well, never mind that.  Boss said “I came to fire you but by God you look sexy”.

10.33   Went back to bed.  With boss.  Had a fine time.

12.40   Boss got dressed, kissed me on the cheek – and fired me.

3.00     Had interview with tabloid journalist.  Bought a box of dark chocolates and celebrated my capacity for revenge ha ha.  Didn’t like the job anyway.  Quite liked boss, though.  Bastard.

5.00     Huge  bunch of roses arrived with note from boss “can’t get you out of my mind”.  Ideas of revenge melted, to be replaced with horrified regret.  Called tabloid journalist who said “you must be kidding this is my first byline.”  Finished the chocolates.  Might as well get fat since I’ve lost both job and best love opportunity I’ll ever have in my life.

But if all you did was get up, go to work, come back home, switch on kettle, watch TV, dream about Paris, New York and Milan and wonder what boss would be like in bed – well, I say forget the rule about exaggeration, just make something up.

Since I don’t have a job or a boss and I just didn’t have time to fit George Clooney in today, I took a trip to Paris, New York and Milan.  Actually I went to a bookstore with a chic café where you can read all the magazines, and treated myself to a yummy café Americano and dark chocolate muffin sort of cake thing that sent me to heaven.  And I read all the new Vogues for this month, and Officiel haute couture, that kept me in heaven.

Flying high there for a while.  Thank god for an imagination.  And chocolate, of course.  And George Clooney.

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World Peace and Love versus War, Guns and Killing Fields

I saw part of the most heartbreaking movie the other night, called Brothers.  I only started watching halfway through, but it was about 2 brothers.  One was a pacifist and the other went to war in Afghanistan, I think.  When he was there he was captured and forced to beat his friend to death or watch him be tortured and decapitated, and then be killed himself.  It was a gruesome scene, I couldn’t watch it.

Of course he killed his friend and it destroyed him.  He came home to his wife and two children.  But he was full of rage and terror, his mind warped beyond redemption.  It was so well acted, it tore me apart, because I know it was realistic.  Of course it was biased in that those American films rarely show what some American soldiers do to Afghanistan people.

All I could think was “why does anybody let their husbands, their brothers, their sons, their friends join a damn army, let alone go to Afghanistan where they know they’re going see and possibly even commit atrocities”.   What am I saying?  It’s not just even men any more, women are joining up.

War and guns, killing and torture have all become such normal things.  Who thinks twice when they see pictures of people with guns?   Whoever stops and thinks any more what a gun actually does?  Killing fields are a matter of everyday life now.  People killed are just a statistic.  But in reality, every death, every wound, is a dark and momentous tragedy.

Virginia Woolf wrote an interesting book ages ago called Three Guineas.  Basically she asked the question why do women want to empower themselves along the same lines as men.  She said is they life they have really all that great?  She also pointed out  the role women played in actively fomenting war by supporting their men who went out to fight.  She said why don’t we just do it differently as women, why don’t we stop supporting the men who want to fight.  I thought she had a good point.

If I knew somebody who wanted to join up I’d do everything in my power to disabuse them of their noble aspirations and help them wake up to the reality of what it’s really about.  I’d find graphic pictures, I’d get them to talk to people whose lives and innocence had been destroyed.  I wouldn’t give them rest until they realized what they were doing.  I wouldn’t let them go.

Imagine if all the men and women in the world who wanted peace entitled themselves to say “no more war, we won’t pay taxes until our governments pull out of all wars, we won’t support our men going out to fight, we don’t accept that there is any nobility to war.  War is not about protection, it’s about killing and atrocities.  Stop it now.”

If the world couldn’t fight, it would find another way to solve its problems.  Governments would have more money to spend, and they wouldn’t be able to overpower their neighbors, so they’d spend the money at home.  No more superpowers – now there’s a happy concept.

All countries would have to take their noses out of everybody else’s business.    What on earth would all the bullies do?  Go to therapy, learn to play chess, learn how to debate.   Now there’s a very happy concept.  That would really be stepping out of history.

Listening to Your Heart – Father and Daughter

Following on yesterday’s blog, life just isn’t simple.  What if you’re a parent, or the only breadwinner, and your heart yells at you to do something that’s more fulfilling, but you’ve got to put food on the table today and tomorrow.  And what if you’re the honorable sort and you really want to do that?

I think about my father.  He studied accountancy at his father’s suggestion and because he was good at maths, probably.  But he never wanted actively to be an accountant.  He wanted to design and build bridges.  I guess he thought he would get to it one day and he was heavily influenced by his father’s idea that you had to be practical first.

I think designing and building bridges is pretty practical, personally, but my grandfather obviously didn’t.  Well, my father listened to him and got his degree.  Then he and my mother got married, and she had her breakdown and my oldest sister had her back injury.  Somehow they never got better.  And my Dad couldn’t get off the treadmill.

He never played the martyr, it wasn’t in his nature.  He made the best of a bad job, but over the years he lost his spontaneity as he gave up everything that was meaningful to him.  Why did he do that?  Well, my mother played a massive role in sucking the life out of him.   Always criticizing him, sapping his joy, soaking up all the family resources, accusing him of being the author of her breakdown.

He’d made a vow “in sickness and in health” which he didn’t believe he was allowed to break.  Did he want to?  I don’t know.  He never showed that he did, not even covertly.  It never occurred to me as a child that he didn’t want to be where he was, that he didn’t want to be my father, didn’t want to make sure we all had food and clothes and a roof over our heads.  I don’t know how he found the strength to stay participating, to do the job that he hated, providing for everybody.

As a small child I knew him to be a bright-spirited, big-hearted, energetic, creative, sociable man.   Everybody loved him.  By the time he died – just before he was due to retire – he was a ghost of his former self, although he was looking for a way to get his mojo back, to retiring and studying different religions at university.   But he was too tired, and somewhere within him I think he made the decision it’s enough now, I need to rest.

Anybody looking at him might say he never listened to his heart, never gave himself the chance.  But I’m not so sure of that.  Maybe the thing he set his heart on more than designing and building bridges was to keep some degree of stability and normalcy in the family, to be honorable and keep his promises, no matter how hard it was for him.

He taught me the sanctity of promises and the reality of love.  But he also said to me dream as big as you can, and live your life in the biggest way that you can.  I smile at the memory of him saying if you want to do something and you know you’re going to be told you can’t, do before you ask!  You may get into trouble, but at least you’ll have had the satisfaction of doing what you wanted to do.

Life isn’t simple.  I’m beginning to see that the dreams I thought I had for him are really the dreams I have for myself.  He did follow his heart, and he did it successfully.  I just wish he could have had it easier.  I wish he was alive.  Well his body isn’t here any more, but his spirit lives on in my heart.

Brianna Popsickle’s Letters from a Suburban Prison

“That’s a great picture of your son on his horse,” I said cheerfully.  To which my doctor replied “that’s my wife.” Brianna Popsickle, on Awkward Moments.

What is it about life that nothing stays right all the time?  Or maybe the problem is with the idea we all seem to run off that life should be right all the time.  And that it is – for other people.  Just not us.  Or it could be if only we could find that magic rule book – and then understand it, of course.

Well, here’s the news.  No matter how perfect somebody’s life looks like from the outside, you can bet it’s not like that for them on the inside.  I know that because my friend and fabulous author Brianna Popsickle told me.  This is what she said:

“Two things.  You’re not crazy.  And that normalcy you’re searching for doesn’t exist.  Everyone is fighting their own demons, they just don’t talk about it…”

Somehow I find that kind of reassuring.  Not that I want everybody to suffer, just that I need to know I’m not the only one wrestling, with big things and small things.  Because the worst thing of all is to think we’re alone, we’re the ones who can’t get it right while the rest of the world sails into the sunset.  Perish the thought.

Well if you want to read a book about how right it is to be just you no matter what, and to feel reassured that the things you think only happen to you also happen to other people, read Brianna’s book Letters from a Suburban Prison. It’s her take on her own life so far.  As she says in her Preface:

“Women are complex creatures.  As little girls we grow up believing in fairytales and happy endings.  As we journey through life however, we realize it can be anything but.  Comedies and nightmares come to mind.

In Letters from A Suburban Prison, I’ve shared my thoughts and feelings on everything from childhood, romance, marriage and motherhood to mid-life crises and empty nesting.”

It’s the most inspiring, funniest, warmest, and most touching book I’ve read for ages and one that I know I’ll return to over and over again.  How does Brianna do it?  I don’t know.  Perhaps because she’s one of those people who really lives and lets life impact on her powerfully. Sometimes she’s hilarious – a great comedic writer with a truly dry sense of humor – and sometimes she gives you goose bumps and that lump in your throat.

Always she’s real.  Always she shows you that life, for all that it usually doesn’t go according to plan, and often throws terrifying curved balls at you, is still the most wonderful thing.  Letters from A Suburban Prison, an entertaining book with a big message from a big heart.   I couldn’t put it down.   To buy it click this link.  Or click on the book image above, or the photo below of the author.

One more thing.  The book is beautifully put together, with fantastic cover design by Kyle Weber.  It’s a treat in every way.