Salix's Shiny Things

A magpie blog.

Gratitude for the universe: cultivating a generous heart. September 17, 2014

It’s very silly for a person like myself to claim a spirit guide, but I do, and he is Jackie Chan.  Don’t get me wrong, though:  I know that Jackie Chan is a human being, with flaws and weaknesses, but he’s a human being with incredible talent and a generous heart.  His work inspired me to start exercising, start being out in the world more, and be a more present, fun mother.  Ever since that dream I had where I woke up as Jackie Chan, I’ve been cultivating happiness and a more generous heart.  That dream changed my life for the better, helping me find my inner “Jackie Chan” and let him out to play.

I am so grateful for that dream, and so grateful that I found it within myself to be amongst the living again, with all the crazy fears and joys and vulnerabilities that living entails.

If it hadn’t been for Jackie Chan’s “spiritual guidance”, as it were, I wouldn’t have found myself where I am today, in a new relationship that has brought me a great deal of happiness already, and I hope will continue to for a long, long time.

It was because I was looking for a Chinese fan at Goodwill so that my son and I could try to recreate the fan fight scene in The Young Master (1980).  There I ran into an old family friend I hadn’t seen since my husband and I divorced.  Turns out he’d been trying to catch me since I’d moved back to town because he wanted to ask me out.  I hadn’t seen him in years and out of the blue, we run into each other at Goodwill.  Because I was all gung-ho about getting a fan to practice Jackie Chan style kung-fu moves with.

It floored me that he wanted to date me.  I had no idea.  I had come to accept myself as being unattractive, and I was used to being invisible.  Although I had been cultivating kindness and acceptance towards myself for weeks through meditation, going to church, and exercising and training for martial arts, I had given up on my romantic side.  My heart was capable of only getting me into trouble, and I dared not trust it or let myself think that anyone who could be interested in me would be someone who could really do right by me and my son.  I was only attractive to losers and crazy people, and history had proven that to be true.  So what in the world could this guy, who I’d known for so many years, and who had been a friend to me and mine, what would someone like that want with someone like me?

I said yes anyway.  I regretted it at first, mostly because I was scared and didn’t trust myself to make good choices, but then he was so kind and respectful of me, that I began to think, ok, well, why not?  He’s really good looking and has an amazing job, he’s really smart, so why not just see where this goes?

It’s been a couple of amazing weeks filled with happiness and kindness and generosity.  When I’m with him, I feel present.  I feel more like myself than I’ve felt in a very long time.  And the more time we spend together, the more about him I like and respect.  And I like and respect myself more and more.  Better still, I’m less afraid of being vulnerable, and am more able to cultivate my own heart’s generosity and kindness, towards myself and the world.  I’m able to find ease in this, and allow myself to be guided by my friend’s optimism and ease in being.

This could not have happened without my spirit guide.  I would not have been ready for this.  I would not have been in that store, at that time.

So thank you, Universe, for getting me here.  Thank you, spirit guide Jackie Chan, for helping me become ready to live life again.

Jackie Chan, Young Master (1980)

Jackie Chan, Young Master (1980)

 

Roughhousing: Relearning to inhabit my body August 21, 2014

Filed under: Uncategorized — LP @ 1:28 pm
Tags: , , ,

My son got back from visiting his dad’s family last week, and since then I’ve been catching him up on the kung fu movies that I’ve been previewing for us.  Well, mostly it’s been a Jackie-Chan-Film-Fest-o-Rama, and we’re having so much fun!

After every movie, he wants to tussle with me.  As an only child, he’s got no one else around to tussle with after hours, so I’m it!  Punches and kicks get thrown and blocked or avoided, Tickle-Fu gets deployed, and there have been not a few incidents of Bum taunting from my pre-adolescent son (as they are wont to do – and hey, Jackie Chan does it in Fearless Hyena, so that makes it cool, right?).

Jackie Chan, Fearless Hyena (1979)

Jackie Chan, Fearless Hyena (1979)

pic credit

I feel like I’ve been thrown back 30 years, to the days when my brother and I would watch old Three Stooges movies and then roughhouse in the same style, laughing at our goofiness until one of us would invariably really  hurt the other, and then real fighting would ensue… ah, those were good times (owch!)

the-three-stooges

The Three Stooges

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Since I’ve been exercising regularly (nothing fancy, just sit ups, push ups, leg swings, balance ball stuff, horse’s stance, and lots of stretching) I find myself mostly enjoying these tussles.  Before, he’d end up hurting me pretty easily, as I didn’t have the strength or body awareness or grace to be able to handle the blows effectively, and that made me pretty frustrated and angry.  It was also a factor of my depression, which magnified all the pain.

It feels good, now.  The slight pain of countering my 10 year old’s punches with blocks feels enlivening.  I love this process, now, relearning how to inhabit my own body.  I love being able to spend time with my son doing something we both enjoy.  I love feeling him collapse into fits of giggles with a well timed tickle counter-attack.  I love how these tussles teach both of us how to read each other’s movements and reactions,  how to move with control and respect.

Martial arts and family bonding!

Bruce Lee, Linda Lee, and Brandon Lee

Bruce Lee, Linda Lee, and Brandon Lee

pic credit

 

 

On the refreshing lack of romance in Jackie Chan movies August 20, 2014

This is the first time I’ve been able to sit down and write without interruption for a week – whew!  My son has been back from visiting his dad’s family, and we’ve been having a great time watching Jackie Chan movies together.   This week, we’ve enjoyed Snake in Eagle’s Shadow (1978), Fearless Hyena (1979), The Young Master (1980), Wheels on Meals (1984), Project A 2 (1987), The Tuxedo (2002), The Karate Kid (2010).  Previously, we’d seen Drunken Master (1978), Project A (1983), and Legend of the Drunken Master (1994).

While I wouldn’t say that the Jackie Chan movies I’ve seen thus far do much to showcase women as characters or martial artists, I do find the lack of typical Western romantic narratives to be extremely refreshing. Well, uh, there was the embarrassment of The Tuxedo (2002), which, as one critic put it, starred “Jackie Chan and Jennifer Love Hewitt’s cleavage (source) “.  It was really terrible, for the most part.  My son enjoyed it, but then he’s 10, and the conceit of a suit that can give you amazing physical powers is pretty cool. But man, all the “leering camerawork” (as Grady Hendrix, again, brilliantly put it) makes it seem like a 15 year old boy made the movie.  I plan to make it an example for my son in discussing how not to make a movie, and what the worst sort of examples of “male gaze” look like, but I didn’t have the time to get into it this time around.

But leaving The Tuxedo aside,  I love the lack of love interests in most of the movies, especially the early ones.  For example, in The Young Master, Jackie gets into a fight with the daughter of the police chief who is arresting him (who happens to be the only female character in the movie).   She’s able to handily beat him by cleverly and effectively using her environment against him, which in this case, includes her long skirts to confuse him and obscure her attacks.   The central motivation for Jackie’s character in Fearless Hyena (1979) was revenge for his grandfather’s death, and there are no female characters in this one at all.  In Drunken Master (1978), he makes a bet that he could  get a beautiful young lady to embrace him, which he succeeds in doing by tricking her.  Her mother notices this, and beats him up with her superior and utterly graceful kung-fu.  The central theme revolves around Jackie’s character’s (Wong Fei-Hung) personal growth in responsibility, discipline, and kung-fu.  Which, in a twist, involves getting drunk to fight, but hey, it adds another layer of levity to the plot.  In Snake in the Eagle’s Shadow (1978), there are also no female characters of note, and the central themes are again personal growth in kung-fu, as well as fighting against enemies whose only wish is to destroy you and the knowledge and skills you possess.

So, at least in the films I detailed above, there are no damsels in distress, no girlfriends getting kidnapped, no princesses to kiss and wake up and marry.  For me, this means that I’m free to identify with the main protagonists, Jackie Chan’s characters, without feeling split and pulled into also identifying with characters of my own gender.  Women are not prizes to be won here.  Also, they can be admired as clever and skilled fighters in their own right.  Even though I understand that part of the comedy shtick here is the “Look at him, he’s getting beaten by a girl!” factor, it’s a pretty minor factor, as he goes on to demonstrate that he’s not a bad fighter at all when he’s able to best, for example, a man with a sword in the next scene (Drunken Master).

Romance? HA!

Romance? HA! (Drunken Master, 1978)

pic credit

I’m looking forward to exploring more kung-fu movies, especially those with Sammo Hung (with whom Jackie went to Peking Opera School, and who is a masterful choreographer as well as martial artist).  Apparently, they’ve released the Shaw Brothers archives to iTunes and made some wonderful new trailers for the movies on YouTube.  My son and I watched a couple together, and he’s really excited to see the full movies.

Because adventures don’t require romance, and relationships like friendship and family and brotherhood and student-teacher, matter.

 

 

 

 

The mirror August 10, 2014

Filed under: Uncategorized — LP @ 9:35 am
Tags: , , , ,

Mirrors are strange things.  Sure, on the physical level, they merely allow light to bounce off the silvery backing and into your eyes.  But what you see in the mirror is filtered through your faculties of perception.  Your eyes may let the light in, but you “see” with your mind.  And so what you see when you look in the mirror is not necessarily a “real” or “objective” view of yourself.  What you think, you see.

For someone with depression or anxiety issues or body issues, mirrors can be horrible things.  I’ve learned to ignore them, as spending time looking in them meant looking at someone who, at some level, I deeply disliked and was deeply disappointed in.  I criticized every scar, bump, blackhead, scraggly hair, wrinkle.  I saw them as bright, neon signs showing the world how sad and pathetic I was.

Last night, though, I looked and saw a fierce, strong woman with long hair striped in silver.  I saw a Jade Fox, long hair streaming, eyes confident and defiant.  I saw a Jackie Chan smile, warm with a mischievous glimmer.

Jade Fox, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon

Jade Fox, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon

Jackie-Chan-CelebHealthy_com

Jackie Chan, of course

 

For the first time in a long time, I was happy with what I saw in the mirror.

 

pic credits:
Jade Fox http://www.ejumpcut.org/archive/jc48.2006/womenWarriors/images/10.jpg
Jackie Chan http://celebhealthy.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/03/Jackie-Chan-CelebHealthy_com.jpg

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Suffering, pain, joy, peace. August 8, 2014

Today I hurt.  Physically.  Mentally, I feel joy.  I’ve started an exercise routine and I’m sore all over.  And, for the first time in a very long time, I love the feeling of physical pain earned from good, hard work.  It feels good to ache, deeply good.

I’ve known for a very long time that physical activity is good for the mind as well as the body, that it can help depression and anxiety, and I have tried to get into an exercise routine, but it only went so far.  The exercise (mainly walking 2 miles to the store and back) was a good thing, it was helpful, but it seemed to have only superficial impact.

And now I’m beginning to understand why exercise hasn’t felt as good as it should, or as I remembered it feeling in college when I was on the fencing team (NCAA athlete!  Yes I was!) or in school when I was doing serious amounts of dance (ballet, mostly).

The bruises from my years of emotional abuse went deep.  My mental pain made me super-sensitive to any kind of pain, and it was overwhelming.  Therefore, I avoided all other pain as best I could.  The psychological pain turned me into a walking bruise, and everything hurt.  I could not find much joy or pleasure in exercise because it was mostly like pain on top of pain with no relief.

My mental and emotional and spiritual suffering was like a fog that made everything around me into more sources of suffering.

It has taken a lot of work and time to get to the point of truly recognizing that fact, and being able to do something to change it.

Beginning a formal meditation routine has been key, but what inspired me to begin meditating?  Those roots begin in the decision to get my son into Karate.  Then, being the nerd that I am, I decided to check out what the library had on karate, and martial arts in general.  That lead me to the connection between the martial arts of Asia and Buddhism, as the martial arts were said to have started at the Shaolin Buddhist monastery as a way to help the monks endure the rigors of meditation.

So a few weeks ago, I decided it was time to meditate for real, waking up early and getting down to it first thing (even before coffee!).  I can’t say that I’ve been perfect in keeping my schedule, there have been slip-ups, but more often than not, I’ve practiced meditation.

Meditation has allowed me some space, some freedom of mind, to be able to face myself and realize that I don’t need to suffer all the time.  I can find peace.  Maybe not every day, maybe not every minute, but peace and joy can be found.  And that’s enough.  Even a small opening can let light into a dark room and illuminate it.

My son and I have also been exploring martial arts movies, and have discovered that they can be real sources of inspiration to him.  Learning karate or sinawali is not easy, and it takes courage to persevere.  Martial arts movies, especially anything with Jackie Chan, whose characters my son can relate to, inspire that courage in my son.

And also in me, as it happens.  Watching the classic Jackie Chan movies from the start of his career, I find myself remembering how much I love that kind of physical activity – the stylized fights are not unlike dance.  And fencing as well – facing your opponent, knowing that he or she is probably going to hurt you at some point in the bout, but launching into it anyway, using your training and reflexes to parry blows and deliver ripostes.

A real turning point happened a couple of weeks ago (July 25, actually, as I posted the event to Facebook).  I had a dream in which I had been transformed into Jackie Chan, and it made me so happy.  Not just in the dream, but throughout the day, I was happy.  I have been carrying that happiness and cultivating it since then.

I am realizing that, to be whole, I need to recover that joyful fierceness, that part of me that loves a good fight, the scrappy me, the me that likes to dish it out as well as take it.  I think I’ve been afraid of that, of my “fight”, because, for one thing, it connects me in uncomfortable ways with my ex, who was quick to anger, and quick to lash out, and wanted to fight to put others in their place, who punched cars because she was angry at their drivers who were driving or parking in ways she thought were bad (mainly, getting in her way).

But that’s not my kind of “fight”.  I fight to defend, to dance with an equal, to compete, to challenge myself, to grow, to understand my abilities and my weaknesses, to overcome those weaknesses.    I fight for myself, not to punish others.  I fight because there can be joy in the dance.

Thank you, Jackie Chan, for showing me the way.

Jackie Chan, Legend of the Drunken Master

Jackie Chan, Legend of the Drunken Master

pic credit:  http://www.lovehkfilm.com/reviews_2/ab5734/drunken_master_2.jpg

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Finding my voice again. August 5, 2014

On meditation, healing though goofy crushes, and the crazy beauty of the path.

It’s been a funny path through the wilderness.  I don’t think I’m actually out of the wilderness yet, but I’m beginning to see the path more clearly and enjoy the journey more.  Even those giant, dark, tangled root masses of depression and fear that have seemed to block my way have started to retreat from the path itself and become more a part of scenery.

I’m beginning to recover my voice.

It’s a fascinating thing, this rediscovery of myself.  I had been required to repress so much of myself when I was in relationships.

I have started a proper formal meditation routine, and that’s been very helpful.  I’ve been keeping a journal of my reflections on meditations, parts of which I plan to post here in the future.

I have also found sources of healing and strength in the unlikeliest places.  I never could have imagined the positive effects of having goofy crushes on celebrities would have on me in general.

I’ve been crushing on Peter Capaldi and Jackie Chan.  Big, goofy, sparkle-eyed, Tumblr-obsessing  crushes which I’m enjoying immensely.  The crushes are allowing me to learn to love again, in the safest way possible.  There’s no real risk, no one to hurt or be hurt by.  And to discover that I don’t want or need a romantic relationship with another person in the flesh right now.  I had been mourning the loss of companionship so much this last year.  And raging against the unfairness of it, desperately jealous of my friends who seem happy in their stable relationships.  Depressed by my lack of ability to find a decent partner of my own, and how that made me feel unworthy of any relationship at all.  Unworthy even of living.

Someone once told me that what you love in another person can be a reflection of what you love in yourself.  Having crushes on celebrities is allowing me to explore that:  what do I love about Peter Capaldi?  Does that exist within me?  Can what I find beautiful about him become part of myself?  Can I rediscover my own sense of generosity, my own quick wit, my own enjoyment of my physical being, by seeing them and loving them in Peter Capaldi and Jackie Chan?  Can I relearn to inhabit my body, to take proper care of it, to excercise and train by loving what Jackie Chan does with his own body?  Can I learn to appreciate and embrace my own goofiness and exuberance by enjoying Jackie Chan’s?

Yes.  Yes, I can.  And I am.

It’s a bit crazy.  A bit beautiful.  It’s me, it’s my path, and I’m grateful to be on it, and grateful that there’s no one to push me away from it anymore.

So really, perhaps Peter Capaldi and Jackie Chan are less crushes, than spirit guides.

Yeah, spirit guides.  Thanks, guys!

Peter Capaldi

Peter Capaldi

peter capaldi credit:  http://geek-news.mtv.com//wp-content/uploads/geek/2013/08/peter-capaldi-tardis-575.jpg
Jackie Chan

Jackie Chan

Jackie Chan credit:  https://www.facebook.com/jackie/photos/a.98876792317.90092.30382852317/10152367422782318/?type=1&theater