Tag Archives: brainwashing

Tuesdays with Morrie

I pick up a little book called Tuesdays with Morrie while on holidays in Spain. I saw it years ago but avoided it because the blurb on the back made me worry that it’d be a depressing read. It is about a dying professor (Morrie Schwartz) and his younger student (Mitch Albom). This time, I am ready. I devour it in two sittings. And I cry and cry and cry.

It isn’t that it’s unbearably sad. It’s just so touching, it moves me like nothing else has for a long time. I can feel Morrie’s energy with me as I finish the memoir. I love him. I can honestly say that he (and the endearingly honest Mitch) has changed my life. The gradual shift in Mitch’s attitude inspires me almost as much as Morrie’s wisdom.

Morrie allowed himself to let go, to be vulnerable, and to ask for help. He observed that, when you’re an infant, you need help from others and, when you grow old, you require their assistance also. However, what we fail to acknowledge is that we need other people in between times too.

Morrie told the tale of the little wave that witnessed other waves crashing against the shore. The wave wailed, fearfully: “Oh no, look! This is the fate that awaits us. How horrible!” Another wave reassured him: “Don’t fret, little one, for you are not a wave, you are part of the ocean.” As Rumi wrote: “You are not a drop in the ocean. You are the entire ocean, in a drop.”

Morrie’s message has made me realise how closed off I’d become. I’d tell myself that “I like my own space”. I’d go home while co-workers would sit and have tea, a chat and a laugh. I’d stay alone in the flat watching episode after episode of The Good Wife. I’d spend weekends preparing classes instead of exploring the countryside with loved ones. I’d retire early rather than spend time with friends.

I still believe that there should be a balance between rest, work and play and between stillness, silence and moments of noise and interaction. But Morrie’s story has shown me that the most important thing in life is to love. To share what you have with others. To give another human being the gift of your time. Morrie said that he was always 100 per cent present with whomever he was speaking. When he was talking with Mitch, he thought only of Mitch. This resonates with me as I am often in the company of others when I’m not really there. I’m thinking of what needs to be done, or how I shouldn’t have eaten that or I might even be putting a photo through Instagram while somebody attempts to converse with me.

Morrie’s big, brave, generous heart has made me resolve to really live life, to connect with people, to appreciate nature, to question the values we’ve been brainwashed into adopting, to understand that love and peace are what’s true and priceless compared with ever-changing, unreliable material and physical possessions. One of my new goals is to do something that makes me feel alive every single day. I also promise to be present with people, as if each encounter were our last, and to ask, in the words of Robert Holden in his book Loveability: “How can I love you more?”

I have a couple of hours before I have to head for the airport. I could go for a last swim at what the locals call the “healing beach”. But it’s a bit of a walk, I mentally argue. And it’d mean packing a wet bikini. Then, I remember that I’m living life. So I set off in my flip-flops, carrying a pink towel. A line of ants and a yellow butterfly cross my path. A lone purple wildflower on this dry dirt track reduces me to tears. I offer an Hola and a smile to an old man sitting alone. He returns my smile, its corners clipped with surprise. An elderly couple stroll ahead, hand-in-hand. Yet again, my eyes mist. I beam as I spot a set of keys a stranger has carefully balanced atop a bollard.

My breasts bob and sway as my feet flap upon the sand. I feel like an ancient elephant striding across the desert. I inhale the scent of my sweat that has collected in cracks and creases. A homeless man sits on a wall behind the beach. I abandon my beach bag and strip. I don’t suck in my stomach. Not today. I duck my head into the ocean even though my hair was freshly washed this morning. I am alive.

Mitch and Morrie used to say, “We’re Tuesday people” because they usually met on Tuesdays. And I am writing this piece on a Tuesday, watching the waves surge and retreat, with tears in my eyes and a heart that’s breaking… wide open.

Image: Author's own

Image: Author’s own

Don’t Hide; Seek Yourself

Last night, I dreamt that I was going to stay in a hostel with a young couple. I worried that the couple wouldn’t get in if they weren’t seen to be with me. They went in ahead of me and got in, no questions asked. As we settled in our bunks, I could hear the couple talking loudly. Again, I worried that others would judge them, dislike them, and maybe even kick them out. I was surprised to see the older people around them smiling, joining in, laughing, and even telling dirty jokes.

When I awoke, I wrote down this dream. I realised that I am still trying to control my feelings and behaviour. I think I need to change myself because I’m afraid that if I don’t, others will criticise or reject me. In certain situations, around certain people, I believe that I “should” behave a certain way in order to give off the “right” and “acceptable” impression. I fear that if I am open with my emotions or childlike in my behaviour, people will have nothing to do with me. However, in the dream, the older people enjoyed the lightness the young couple brought to the hostel. They even began joking about “inappropriate” things.

I recently started seeing someone who’s very calm and centred. I really like the way he’s so sure of who he is. He doesn’t change himself for anybody else. However, I worried that I wasn’t as together as he is. That if he found this out, he’d be out the door. I know now that I started to close myself off a little, trying to control and even change myself. One evening, as we played CraniumI was so astonished to answer a factual question correctly that I actually tumbled off the couch, landing in a heap on the floor. I had been taking myself so seriously and I still wound up arse in the air right in front of him! I laughed and laughed.

I am adamant now that I am not going to change myself for anybody else. Thankfully, we are all different. We can learn from each other and enjoy our differences, bringing new depths and dimensions to our lives. I was drawn to this guy because he is so sure of himself, which is clearly something I need in myself. And maybe he was drawn to me because he sensed that I could bring an element of fun into his life. And whether it lasts or doesn’t last isn’t important. We should keep learning and growing, no matter what, always remaining open to love for and from others and, most importantly, for ourselves.

This got me wondering how much do we close off to when we hold back, when we suppress what we’re really feeling, and when we deny ourselves what we truly desire? All because we think we have to hide who we are. We are afraid that if we are our true selves, if we express what we’re feeling, and ask for what we want, we will be judged, criticised, and abandoned. So, we control ourselves. In new relationships, in the workplace, and even amongst friends and family, we hold in our opinions because we’re afraid that we won’t come across as being intelligent or witty or loveable.

But here’s the shortcut – be yourself and you’ll find out much, much sooner if you and your partner are really suited. Or your ideas might revolutionise your company. Your friends and family members could learn a lot from your views. The simple act of being yourself is so freeing that it will allow others close to you to be themselves also. Judgement and role-playing will dissolve. You will become assertive in asking for what you desire in your life. People will know where they stand with you because you will be reliable to them – you will always be exactly who you are. And because you are no longer judging or trying to change yourself, those around you will know you are not trying to control or change them either. How liberating!

Of course, it’s not easy to be yourself. First, you have to know yourself, own and accept it, forgive yourself, and love yourself unconditionally. Then, you can gift that beautiful, unique, sparkling true self to the world. Today, decide not to hold back any longer because you would be doing yourself, and those around you, a huge disservice.

Cult Brainwashing

Last night, I was held captive for almost two hours by Elizabeth Olsen’s arresting portrayal of a young woman who had escaped an abusive cult. Martha Marcy May Marlene is an excellent independent film that centres around a young adult who is confused and paranoid after having spent over a year with a crazy but cunningly convincing cult.

Two things really got to me about this film.

1) How easy it was for these predators to suck in vulnerable youngsters.

The charismatic leaders offered runaways the “unconditional love” and “support” they had been denied throughout their childhood. They then cleverly laced their hippy cocktail of freedom, sharing, nature and love with their sinister views on sex and death.

2) The lead role isn’t played by a stick insect.

We may find the cult’s brainwashing dangerous but what’s just as scary is how we, as a society, have been brainwashed into thinking that skinny is beautiful and that curves must be lost, or at the very least, hidden.

The star of this film is gorgeous but she’s also curvaceous. She’s not overweight but she’s big for an Olsen (Mary-Kate and Ashley are her older sisters). I’m not used to watching movies starring meatier heroines. It got me thinking: If all our leading ladies had bodies like hers, we’d aspire to having more natural, feminine figures.

Don't tell me she's not a stunner!

So, why don’t we stop being so impressionable and cease falling victim to society’s dictates on fashion and desirability? Society is the dark and manipulative cult that’s trying to make you forget what’s important in life and who you really are. Don’t be afraid to walk away. And always remember that you are magnificent just for being you. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

"Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it is time to pause and reflect." Mark Twain

Images: http://www.zimbio.com/pictures/Yuf36xrF9DU/Elizabeth+Olsen+Martha+Marcy+May+Marlene+Photocall/OxqcVRoB1TR/Elizabeth+Olsen; http://favim.com/image/24088/