Saturday, October 9, 2010

The last dog-and-pony show

Poster - thanks to circushistory.org.

The NBC comedy 30 ROCK is a favorite here; it makes me happy because I think Tina Fey gets away with murder, mocking the network and its parent conglomerate. Her humor is absurd, out-of-bounds, lets the air out of everyone's balloon. In this week's episode, a new form of trial by ordeal was required of applicants for page positions. This involved singing, dancing if one so chose and, in general, whipping up a frenzied, desperate one-man version of a dog-and-pony show.

I have exhausted my capacity for tap dancing.

In every literal and figurative sense, it is no longer possible to put on a good front, sell anybody anything, please anyone for whom nothing is good enough, reinvent the wheel, pretend I don't care when I do, show up when I am depleted or try and read your mind.

There comes a time when all that remains is what you see is what you get. There will be no performance today. How can one quantify the essential good that has been lost on attempted perfection, even attempted adequacy, while the true self wrapped herself in a dusty cardigan, locked her arms around her knees and wedged herself in next to the stove. It is a shadowy spot, no one would look there for a shiny object.

While this information came to me somewhat later in life, that does not mean it is a product of age, or not only of age. It is the result of awakening to the fact that, regardless of testimony and evidence to the contrary, it is possible to be enough by simply being.

Being is not a passive state, it is not lumpen or sniveling or apathetic. Being is the birthplace of who we really are, it bears the hallmarks of humility and awareness. In being there is no self-promotional quacking but there is clarity about what we do well. Being is a sort of promised land where there is no longer anything to prove. It is the retreat from which we send out our genuine expressions of self without judging the forms they assume. From a state of being we are able to allow. We unfold and emerge, as surprised as any when we see who appears.

What I know is that, for me, chasing money produces no reward, lifelong habits of an undesirable nature seem to take another lifetime to change, I wish I had let intuition guide me all those years I mistrusted it, someone is going to be disappointed and either will or will not get over it, too many broken promises will result in your being downgraded to acquaintance status and all the items I had to shove aside in the back seat of the boat-sized red convertible from last night's dream mean something.

Being can leave us breathless, but not in the same way as flat-out, desperate tap dancing...that is just out of breath. We have the opportunity to become our own source of wonder, while enjoying the role of startled onlooker. We are the microcosm, we are the mythic Lost Cities of Gold, we contain the still moment at the heart of the cosmos, we are the impossible. And if we so choose, we can keep wearing the dusty cardigan. It is familiar and wears like a benediction.

24 comments:

Penelope said...

Yes, true, amen.

Thank you, Marilynn.

(And the dishevelled blonde and her menagerie sprawled in the back of my station wagon means something, too, sadly.)

Marylinn Kelly said...

Penelope - For good or ill, it all means something. Squinting can help give it a hazy semblance of order. Thank you and you are most welcome.

Robert the Skeptic said...

The state of "being" as you describe it reminds me of other cultures, mostly Asian, but others nonetheless who hold older people in high regard. The term "elder" has a certain distinction about it (which troubles me to no end when Mormon missionaries in their 20's are called Elders). But I digress.

What else do we have but our sense of being? Our youth is usually spent and or bodies failing; whatever accomplishments in life either have already been done or will likely not happen. We have only the moment of "now" which is totally compatible with "being".

That we can put our i-phones down and turn off the TV long enough to recognize it is what living is about.

Artist and Geek said...

Marylinn,
Separated by time and space, there is a lot of parallel thinking going on. It reflects a "passion project" that I'm working on...
In my interpretation it relates to the extreme pressures the last few decades have put us through, the sense of "want" and "must have" of hyper-capitalism and very savvy marketing of what we apparently need. A negative shift in society, which ignores our current longevity and quality of life.
An influence by something that has forgotten the individual and seeks conformity.

There are times when I look back at my younger self and want to scream: THIS is not important or true.

Better late than never, I suppose.

Artist and Geek said...

P.S.
I'm inspired by the Stockbroker, going strong in his 80s. Or the grandmother, who at 94 completed her undergraduate degree with her granddaughter, because she never got around to it. Or the centenarian, who went on a world cruise. Or the chemist, who sat next to me in one of my art classes, who opened her ceramics studio in her 70s.

That, to me, is BEING. Doing it now, because it is never too late.

Laoch of Chicago said...

This is very well done.

Laoch of Chicago said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Laoch of Chicago said...

Oh also I wanted to say that this entry reminded me of one of my favorite poems

The Coming of Wisdom With Time by W. B. Yeats

Though leaves are many, the root is one;
Through all the lying days of my youth
I swayed my leaves and flowers in the sun;
Now I may wither into the truth.

Elisabeth said...

'Being is the birthplace of who we really are, it bears the hallmarks of humility and awareness' says so much to me, Marylinn, and yet how hard it is to achieve.

Wonderful writing, as ever. I am inspired by the image of that dusty cardigan. a benediction, you say.

Marylinn Kelly said...

Robert - I agree that other cultures are much better models for states of being as acceptable, even desirable, ways of life. I find in my version of being there is not as much confusion about what might be next, what is the good choice, what action is required to reach a desired goal, yet I feel a sense of guidance about what I can contribute. In our younger lives we seemed to feel we had forever to produce, to achieve, but the truth is we never knew what time we'd be given. Aging makes that clearer but it has always been the case, suggesting that each day is, and has forever been, a gift and yes, aren't we lucky to have given ourselves the quiet to recognize what living is about.

Marylinn Kelly said...

Artist and Geek - Better late than never works fine for me. As long as we are here and even moderately awake, we can hope for evolution.

What might be called a reversal of fortune helped me become more acutely aware that we have become targets for relentless marketing. Realizing that resources were different and needed to be used wisely was a big lesson but also sped up the trip from buying into what you accurately call the negative shift in society and saying an emphatic no to much of what surrounds us.

To have a "passion project" gives focus to our beliefs, a vehicle to bring our discovered truths into the light. I think conformity, either within a family or the larger world can bring upon us what other cultures would consider a soul sickness. My career choice, in this moment, would likely be a combination of stand-up comic/shaman/poet. That should cover it.

Marylinn Kelly said...

Artist and Geek, p.s. - The stories of REAL late bloomers give me such joy and hope...your chemist-become-ceramist affirms what I believe...as long as we are here, present by some definition, it is never too late. And these days, 70 is a very different things than, say, 50 years ago or even less. As long as we expand and resist shriveling of the spirit, anything can happen.

Marylinn Kelly said...

Laoch - Thank you and also for the Yeats poem. I did show up on the days we studied him in jr. college and he has been a favorite. Now HE didn't tap dance around, did he..."wither into the truth" indeed. His root, the self I take it to be, is just the one. I am very glad you shared this with us. Short enough to be memorized without undue strain.

Marylinn Kelly said...

Elisabeth - Thank you; I am glad the piece speaks to you. My feeling is that, acknowledged or not, we have so much more that connects us than separates us. That we come to our truths at different stages in our lives allows us the luxury of diversity. But one of the reasons I associate the process with age is that it isn't easy to achieve; for the longest time I didn't know it was something I was missing. It feels like a gradual, cautious letting go with one hand and grasping, in the opposite direction, with the other.

grrl + dog said...

Funny, I was at a conference that touched on this idea..the younger ones busy quacking and asserting, were if they just "be" all flows from that in an effortless way.

no quack.

RachelVB said...

Our skin becomes that dusty, comfortable cardigan. That's at least what we can hope. Slipping into it and feeling like it fits is a glorious feeling is it not? No pressure, no judgment or if there is we shake it off that skin and it won't ever get inside.
It's wonderful to learn how to live from others, to see how important it really is to trust our instincts and intuitions.
That cardigan is something we put back on after we've decided to run naked, zig-zags in the rain. It's nice to know it's there.
xo
Rachel

Marylinn Kelly said...

Denise - And that flowing is authentic, an expression of who we are and what wants us to give it form. Oh, I have wandered down many a wrong path, echoes of quacking.

Rachel - That's how it got all stretched, running those zig-zags in the rain. Of course. Plus I always tugged at it anyway...it was long but I wanted it longer still...covers a bit more of the nakedness. Trusting our instincts and intuitions, what freedom comes with that, and eventually we find ourselves at home in our own skin.

RachelVB said...

The best kind of home =)

Kerry O'Gorman said...

These words were needed more than ever over the past few days. Call it a slump, a disappointment, a let down, whatever but 4 things made me feel this way over the weekend. Without getting into detail, I was not 'just being'. I was looking to the past and the future and not fully being in the present. Why is it so difficult for us humans to achieve this? But your words helped see things more clear. Who knew!

Pam Morrison said...

Isn't it fantastic that the best place we can settle is into ourselves. And it's so wonderfully close at hand for each of us! It strikes me that the truth you express so well in your post only comes when we have some years under our belts, which is cause for happiness. Poet and journal writer May Sarton talks about the positive joy (and challenge) of growing old - growing being the operative word. I like that too.

Marylinn Kelly said...

Kerry - Thank you so much and I am happy to see you here. In the hahaha category, soon after posting this I was beset by gremlins, the short-lived species I trust, but since they were all internally generated, I could only look to myself if I went rooting for those too-small tap shoes. Please tell me that I am not guilty of putting on shows to try and please myself. I hope not. The past and the future do have superhuman strength at times, don't they? I am glad for any clarity I could add.

Marylinn Kelly said...

Pam - Thank you for visiting, for commenting and for finding something which had resonance. In my clearer moments, I believe we are ALL the characters in the play, all the props, the theater and everything else. All we have to work through is within, as are - including our part of, our connection to, something greater - all the solutions. Growing older has given me a world I greatly prefer to the one I projected when I was younger. And growing is one of the interpretations of increase for which I am grateful every day. I am happy to meet you.

Pam Morrison said...

Hi again Marylinn, it's great to meet you - and I'm delighted to have discovered your blog. Thanks for visitng my workieblog - and with a bunch of flowers in hand. I realise I've created confusion in the ether by having two blogs - a personal one and a work one. If you're ever interested in coming over to see me in the personal blog zone, this thread should connect...

Marylinn Kelly said...

Pam - Thank you for clarification and I will visit your personal blog.