Three times three can equal love

Three love stories.  Three very different kinds of love.  Each leaving an irreplaceable mark on this viewer.

I thoroughly enjoyed recently the complex relationship between the incomparable, and gone-far-too-soon Philip Seymour Hoffman and Joaquin Phoenix in The Master. Traces of the story of Scientology’s founder, L. Ron Hubbard, were certainly evident; those references, though, weren’t the narrative, and they never overshadowed the focal point: the mystery of how and why we form relationships with the people we do.

The equally complex relationship between Dakota Johnson and Jamie Dornan in the deceptively simple though highly-charged love story, Fifty Shades of Grey, and the nuances that drive us into and out of another’s arms, continue to unfold long after the final credits roll.

Rounding out this engaging threesome, the endearing, quirky Israeli film, The Farewell Party, explores the indelible bonds that are created between two people who spend a lifetime together. Touching eloquently on the subject of dying with dignity, the film gently illustrates that no matter how close we are to another human, in the end, our most important love relationships are with ourselves, and with our Higher Power, however we might define that creator of all things.

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Quotes Live Forever

Today’s New York Post reported that a new postal forever stamp, dedicated to Maya Angelou, carries a quote that is not actually hers.

The article caught  my eye because I have gained so much strength from Ms. Angelou’s writing.  In fact, most mornings I include one of her inspirational quotes in my Twitter feed.

Her quotes inspire me every bit as much as I hope they inspire others.

The author to whom the quote actually belongs, Joan Walsh Anglund, told the Washington Post that the quote originated with her in a 1967 children’s book of poems, entitled “A Cup of Sun.”

Judging by the news reports, the 89-year-old Ms. Anglund harbors no resentment toward either Ms. Angelou or the creators of the stamp.

Referring to Maya Angelou, Ms. Anglund said, “I love her and all she’s done, and I also love my own private thinking . . .”

On the one hand, then, it’s a compliment to have a thought so profound that others consciously or unconsciously claim it over time as their own.

On the other, a pattern of words, a choreography of phrases in a poem, are a poet’s legacy, and it is important that Ms. Anglund be given the credit that is rightly hers.

In this instance, the quote should forever be attributed to the one who originally made music out of a magical arrangement of words.

 

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The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion

A Most Eloquent Take on Grief

Life changes fast.

Life changes in the instant.  

Photo of The Year of Magical Thinking
The Year of Magical Thinking

You sit down to dinner and life as you know it ends.

The question of self-pity.”

These were the first words Joan Didion wrote after it happened,  as she tells us in the first line after these words in her amazing book,  The Year of Magical Thinking.

The “it” in the follow-up words to the first words refers to her husband, John Dunne’s, death.

That these words appear at the very start of this remarkable homage to grief is important, as they are repeated in various renditions throughout the book.

Joan Didion’s husband, with whom she had shared most moments of most of her adult life, had died of a massive heart attack, just as they had sat down to dinner, and hence, the reference to life changing in an instant.

Owning My Own Grief

My own mother’s death, though extraordinarily premature, did not happen in an instant.  We had not just sat down to dinner when life as I knew it ended.

In fact, my mother was sick for much of my teenage years, and lost her valiant fight against breast cancer a mere two weeks after I turned 18.

Joan Didion struggled to come to terms with getting through the remainder of her years without the man with whom she had spent most of her life.

I, on the other hand, have spent most of my life without my mother–sometimes coming to terms with that fact better than at other times.

Joan Didion’s Way With Words

Joan Didion is the author of five novels, and one of America’s most celebrated authors.   She is so skilled a writer that she makes it safe for us to look up close and personal at a subject as potentially overwhelming as grief.

It’s almost if we’re all taking this journey through the first year after Joan Didion’s husband died–together.

The Power of Day

Days play a vital role in the story of the year following the death of Joan Didion’s husband.

We learn, for instance, of the importance of the day an editor came to dinner in so far as her husband was alive on that day.  Holidays are merely a few of the other powerful ways in which Ms. Didion used the concept of days to help her make sense of the reality of her life partner leaving her just as they were sitting down to dinner.

With eloquence and grace, defiance and acceptance, Ms. Didion deftly tells us–and surely herself– how she ultimately came to terms with her husband’s death.

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Reflecting on Reflections

As another winter has softened into another spring, perhaps you too have found yourself reflecting on your own upcoming spring.

Which areas of your life call for pruning, and which for nurturing and cultivating to engender even stronger growth?

As the days grow brighter here in Houston, I’ve found myself drawn lately to beautiful plays of light and sky and endless windows.

Photo of Houston's dazzling downtown Allen Center and a reflection
Houston’s dazzling downtown Allen Center and a reflection

Houston seems literally to be blooming with exquisite tableaus created by our big blue sky, clouds, and acres of gleaming glass.

Photo of Houston's dazzling Discovery Green and a reflection
Houston’s dazzling Discovery Green and a reflection

Here, I’ve included a few recent photos to give you a feel.  Perhaps they will inspire you to gently dig deeper into your own reflections?

Photo of Houston's Allen Center reflected on my car roof
Houston’s Allen Center reflected on my car roof

 

Photo of Houston's Westin Galleria and a reflection
Houston’s Westin Galleria and a reflection
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Capturing Change at 3400 Montrose Boulevard, Houston, TX

The more things change . . .

Houston.  The place I wasn’t sure I wanted to move to with my family a mere eight years ago.  Yes, Houston.  The place that is now the top– or one of the top–destinations in the country for visitors.

Barely had I fallen in love with Houston, before the world caught on. Now, so much is changing about this city so quickly that it’s often hard to keep up.

The more they stay the same?

I’m grateful that I was able to capture on camera one brief episode of that change as it happened in 2014.

I’ve written about it here; I wanted in this post to share a few more of the ways in which my camera was able to preserve the beauty of change in the making.

Even as I write this, a crane of a different sort is hoisting steel into the sky, creating a new edifice to fill the space that the building in these photos surrendered.

Beauty, Even in Destruction

I’d like to think that the photos above acknowledge that even in desolation–yes, even in demolition and deconstruction–beauty can abound.

I hope you enjoy viewing these photos as much as I enjoyed taking them.  (For an up-close view, just click on each one individually.)

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If Only: How to Turn Regret into Opportunity by Neal Roese, Ph.D.

A Great Read

A short while ago, I shared the three great books that I was currently reading–and thoroughly enjoying, with a promise to post about each.

BedsideTableBooks1.21.15(r1)

I shared here a wonderful book that touches on shame and vulnerability, Daring Greatly by Brené Brown, and here a fabulous book on getting to know and love fear, Nerve, by Taylor Clark.

In this post, I’ll share some of the wonderful take-aways from the third of the three, If Only:  How to Turn Regret into Opportunity by Neal Roese, Ph.D., a leading researcher in the field of regret.

Our Fascinating Brains

Although I can’t begin here to capture the breadth of research that the author covers in this excellent book, I can tell you that he sheds a fabulous light on the marvel and miracle that are our brains.

If Only by Taylor Clark

With wit and humor, and a fair share of wonder and awe, he talks about our “psychological immune system,” and other ways in which our brains and our minds work together to keep us in one  piece.

Counterfactuals

One of the ways our brain helps us attempt to make sense of an often senseless-seeming world is through what science calls, counterfactuals.

Simply put, counterfactuals are fictional narratives of what might have happened if things had gone differently than they actually had. There are two types of counterfactuals, and they make us either feel better, or worse.

Downward Counterfactuals

Downward counterfactuals lift our spirits because they tell us that it could have been much worse.  Say, for instance, we were almost in a major traffic accident, but narrowly avoided it, with only a small dent. There is a momentary sense of euphoria, when we realize how bad things might have been (the small dent notwithstanding), but weren’t.

Upward Counterfactuals

Upward counterfactuals on the other hand, are more difficult to handle emotionally, because they tell us how much better things might have been, if we had only taken a different course of action.  The value in these, Dr. Roese helps us to see, is that they serve as compasses, so to speak, giving us direction for future actions.

Regret is Good

A life lived without hope is a life almost unbearably difficult to live.  If we’ve made mistakes, hope tells us that tomorrow may very well be better.

It is in this setting that regret plays such a fundamental role.  As Dr. Roese says so eloquently on the closing page:  “Regret is good. Thinking about what might have been is a  normal component of the brain’s attempt to make sense of the world, and of the human quest for betterment.”

And the quest for betterment is a wellspring of hope.

 

 

 

 

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