cinderella memorandum

cinderella blog 1Goodness knows I could stand to write about planting potatoes right now, but we’re still shaking off post-production whiplash from Lulah’s fifth performance run with the local high school theater group. We are so proud of her. It was great. The songs are still rolling around in my head all day. The experience of live theater really sticks to my ribs.

The Spring 2016 show was Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella. I had never heard of it before, but we quickly got up to speed by watching the (rather ancient) movie version starring a very young Julie Andrews as Cinderella. Lulah has had a long-standing aversion to the Disney cartoon Cinderella, even though she’s never seen the movie, so we were relieved to find that the musical version was quite a bit more spunky and fun than the sappy sweet Disney. I was even more pleasantly surprised to find that the Rodgers and Hammerstein version had been “updated” with a new sub-plot involving a political fire-brand who falls in love with one of Ella’s step-sisters and convinces Ella to tell the prince (the charmingly clueless Prince ‘Topher) that his people were being treated unfairly. In the end, Cinderella is not only escorted out of squalor and oppression and into Queen-dom, she also carries her people with her and convinces her true love to establish a democracy. (Wow, right?)cinderella 6cinderella ten minutes ago 2

The kids are so gorgeous. They throw themselves into the show and transport us into a suspended reality. For those hours, we believe them in their characters, in their sincerity, and their hilarity. And then, after the curtain call, we see them return to themselves, but still in fancy costume. They have such wonderful vitality. They are beautiful in so many ways.

cinderella grand entrance

cinderella blog 2Watching the show, night after night, I began to wonder about my own personal sub-plot in the drama of this High School Theater group. Why am I so mesmerized by the activity of the show? Something happens to me when the lights go up on that stage. Seeing those fresh faces, teetering on the brink of adulthood, takes me back.

And the truth is, looking back is not a completely comfortable experience. I remember some of the thrill of BEing where they are now. I remember the small sea of faces in the audience – trying not to be TOO obvious about seeking out my loved ones – letting the months of rehearsal, memorization, repetition, flow through me. I remember the magic of performance as art. And I remember being a contradictory teenage bundle of energy, bravado, and insecurity.

Don’t get me wrong – it was a great time. But in the midst of all that fun stuff, I never believed that I was enough. I wasn’t pretty enough, or smart enough, or strong enough. I didn’t let on about my perceived insufficiencies much, but I held onto them inside. (The way so many of us do.)

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Watching the stage, feeling my heartstrings plucked, it becomes obvious that I was plenty beautiful, smart, and strong, just like they are now. I don’t know if I would have listened to anyone telling me that I really was sufficient, for myself, and for the task ahead of growing up. But I can’t help wishing that I had felt a little more comfortable in my own skin (I had nice skin, but I didn’t know it then.). The past has passed.

There’s always room for greater peace, though, and that’s what washes over me in the aftermath of the show. By opening my heart to these kids – my own, as well as all the others I am fortunate enough to meet in our community – I have the opportunity to make peace with my old demons of insecurity and self-doubt. Watching these young people at play and at work on this show, has helped me remember myself as I was, and extend the affection I feel for the kids towards that (rather grumpy and critical) memory of myself at their age. When I am able to look into my past with greater compassion and affection, I become more capable of loving my life as it IS, right now. What a gift.

cinderella fairy god mother hug

In return, I hope to add my voice to the multifaceted cultural message these young folks are absorbing as they move toward maturity, because the Disney storyline doesn’t work for a lot of us, and it’s good to have options. Here I am, long enough past adolescence and early adulthood to be irrelevant, strange, or maybe a little wise. I guess it’s up to them to decide.

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These days, my voice travels to the next generation primarily in the context to being a mother – mostly, Lulah’s mother. My best bet is to embrace and enjoy my post for all it’s worth. And so I am… Lulah’s mother who doesn’t wear make up and refuses to color over the gray in her hair. Lulah’s mother who drives the muddy car. Lulah’s mother who brings a ball of wool and a crochet hook to rehearsal. Lulah’s mother, who insists that it’s good for you to stand on one foot and breathe. Lulah’s mother, who wants you to touch your toes, drink more water, bend your knees, AND relax. Lulah’s mother who wants you to be yourself, and believe in yourself as much (or more) than the rest of us believe in you. Lulah’s mother may be a little batty, and maybe that’s alright.

cinderella the shoe does not fit

But my aim is true. I want them to experience for themselves that they ARE sufficiently beautiful, strong and smart, that they are just as wonderful as they dream themselves to be, and also that they have so much farther to go. I want them to have confidence to walk into the world around them, not as masters, but as students of LIFE, because the best masters also stay students.

Life is full of foibles. I may not succeed in my heart-felt effort to inspire greater confidence in personal goodness in the next generation, but having seen the possibility for myself, in myself – I have to try.

So, thanks kids, for the great show, for doing some yoga with me, and for being your beautiful selves. Please – carry on. Keep singing. You are on a roll – don’t stop growing!

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May your shoes always fit!cinderella the shoe fits

letter to my brother

Dear little brother,

It’s happened. You’ve lived 16 years now. It’s a big time of life. I thought I’d offer some words on the subject, if you’d like to read them.cobys party1

I know it’s kind of strange, having such an older big sister, but there are pros and cons to everything. As for cons, I don’t have cute friends to bring around and flirt with you. I’m not up to date on your generation, necessarily. But the pro is that I have had twenty three years of experience past your present age to reflect on LIFE and tell you about it and I’m still your sister, the only one you’ve got. So here goes…

Things can get pretty weird in the teenage and early adult years. Just saying, if that’s the way it is for you, you’re not alone, at all. There’s stuff that goes on in those years that won’t make sense for a real long time, and might never make sense at all. Making sense of it will be up to you. Though some of the details might never be revealed to you, ultimately it will be your job to make peace with your memories. If you can learn to let some things be a mystery for the time being, you’ll sleep better and live more happily.

But living happily isn’t always what it’s cracked up to be, so let’s not get hung up on that one. Sometimes life just gets rough. No way around it. Sometimes there are things out of your control that conspire to make you miserable, and sometimes you dig your own holes to fall into. Either way, it happens. But the good part is, it doesn’t last. No matter how much you commit to wallowing in misery, you will also have wonderful opportunities for joy. AND, maybe even more importantly, your rough times will somehow come to serve you, or let you be a service to someone else, down the road. So, if you can, keep your eyes open, even when stuff really sucks, and be open to whatever learning is coming at you by way of your suffering. There’s no knowing what will become valuable to you as time goes on.

One more thing about happiness. It’s great to be happy. And – you’ve got to make room for happiness. It will not just take over. This world, especially the part of it connected to technological, electronic, wi-fi gizmos, goes fast and faster. Joy moves at a more natural pace, like the wind and water, and that deep, satisfying in-your-gut happy feeling really moves more like warm molasses. As I’ve observed the rapidly spreading world of social media, I’ve not observed any real gains in that deep-gut happiness from it. Not to say it isn’t great fun, and amusing. But really – the fun is in YOU, not the machine, game, or website. Fun will come and go. The thing worth pursuing and cultivating is that deep, soul engulfing joy. Try not to forget that.

This next one is hard to hear. I’m only starting to hear it myself. I’ll share it with you in the hope that sometime it will ring true to you, maybe before you’re my age.

There are a great many experiences in life that no one can prepare you for. Having a baby is one of them. The loss of a parent is another. Falling in and out of love are up there, too. No one can prepare you for the intensity of emotion and gut wrenching personal evolutionary work involved in these basic acts of living. At the same time, lots and lots of people will try to prepare you. And you should listen. What they say won’t make sense, and you might just want to shake them off. You might think that you won’t feel the way they felt, or act the way they acted (most of us think this). You might be right. But that doesn’t mean that what people (usually older people) have to share with you isn’t incredibly valuable. No one can BE you. That’s your job alone. No one can know your thoughts, feelings, or reactions to reality, but we can all still learn from each others’ experiences, because we’re all human. It’s a great thing to have in common, and it’s really one of the best tools we have for navigating the bumpy parts of existence.

OK, one more big one. My wish for you is that you will always continue to grow. You have no choice to but change, but positive inner growth is a different matter. Like happiness, you may have to give it some attention. Always growing doesn’t mean that you’ll never hold a steady job. It just means that you can come to see your life in different lights as time progresses. It means you can adjust the way you treat yourself and relate to others according to the situation at hand. I like to think of it as a resilience of the soul.

One thing about growing is that it will keep you humble. From where I am now, rapidly approaching forty years along, I can look back at myself in many times, places, and experiences and shake my head at my own antics. There was so much I didn’t know – so many mistakes I made. I know more now. But I’m not done, and there’s little doubt in my mind that I’m still making some dumb mistakes. Later, I can shake my head about them. Hopefully, I’ll know better by then than I do now, and I’ll still be learning. No matter how much we learn, there’s always more lessons on the way.

There’s a line to walk, here, between propelling yourself forward and beating yourself up. Though there are a few choice episodes that really make me wince to recall, mostly I am able to see my younger self with eyes of compassion. It’s important not to drag yourself down in the muck of an ignorant past. Live through it, push yourself to learn from it, and forgive yourself. It’s good to practice that. With practice, you’ll get better at it as time goes on.

Jesus talks a lot about love. Dad uses the word compassion more. Don’t worry about semantics, but please, do think about love and compassion. I’m not talking about hearts and flowers romance. Cultivating a basic warmth, a solid love, for yourself, will protect your heart and mind from many potential pitfalls and heartsickness. I know you have love, because you are loved. My hope for you is that you use the love given to you from the unconditional base of our family, no matter how unconventional we may be, to build yourself a good, strong life, all your own. I hope you will be compassionate towards yourself and others, steadfast when the storms of life rage, and confident in the goodness that will come from many years of a life well lived.

Otherwise, work hard in school, play hard all the rest of the time, be patient with your folks, have fun with your friends,and always drive carefully. And even if I seem like an old fuddy duddy dinosaur of a sister, know that you ARE my brother, and nothing will change that. I’m here for you. It’s been wonderful fun for me to watch you grow up, and I’m sure that the ride will only get more interesting.Chief Coby and Coree Dec 2003

With love,