I am not a huge movie person. While I enjoy movies, I never seem to watch them. Bill’s and my movie preferences have limited overlap and, consequently, cinema trips have not figured prominently in our relationship. These days I cannot manage to stay awake long enough to watch a movie after we put the kids to sleep so we have become Netlflix’ favorite costumers because we rent about 6 movies a year despite paying for 4 a month. For the most part, the only movies I see are the movies we rent for our Friday Family Movie Night. Fortunately there are many kids movies that are well worth the viewing either because they are touching, such as Because of Winn Dixie or Shiloh, or because they have a double layer of humor: one that appeals to kids and one that appeals to adults, like the Incredibles. In contrast, some kid movies are actually painful to watch (e.g., the Spy Kid films, even a hottie like Antonio Banderas cannot redeem those films). And when you have a weekly movie ritual involving kids, you cannot avoid seeing some of the awful ones.
Today while I was driving the kids to camp, the movie Notting Hill popped into my brain for no discernable reason. I remember it being a very sweet film, with Hugh Grant in his usual character, the goofy roommate, the lovely montage that shows Hugh Grant’s character walking through the market in different seasons to depict the passage of time, and the happy ending of Grant on a park bench, Julia Robert’s head in his lap and his hand draped lovingly across her pregnant belly.
But the line that immediately sprang to my mind was this, “I'm just a girl, standing in front of a boy, asking him to love her.” The line could have come across as groveling but Roberts delivered it with such sincerity and honesty that it has always remained with me as a beautiful depiction of the vulnerability that love requires.
Today I parsed out the line, “I'm just a girl, standing in front of a boy, asking him to love her.” What she was saying is this is who I am, this is where I am, and this is what I want. I chose to say want here because I think that, in this life, almost everything is a desire instead of a necessity. But I admit that I can be overly nit-picky about words and it’s all just semantics.
When I consider the line this way, “this is who I am, this is where I am, and this is what I want,” I realize how amazingly powerful the line really is. How often to we say things in this way to anyone, including ourselves?
“This is who I am.” How often can we admit who we are, right now, not who were and not who we want to be? How often do we accept ourselves “as is” and expect others to do the same? I have to struggle with this daily because I simply cannot be the Michelle I was even six months ago. My goal now is to make peace with the Michelle that I currently am and accept that she is enough.
“This is where I am.” Do any of us really appreciate where we are – literally and figuratively – in our lives? We are a nation that values striving, and to great benefit, but there is value in recognizing and appreciating the here and now. Sometimes, when I feel overwhelmed by my thoughts of the future, I purposely feel my toes against the floor and my back against the chair to remind myself of where I am physically. Last week, watching the kids in their camp performance I began to ruminate about every future performance that I will miss and I had to remind myself, “You are here now.”
“This is what I want.” It’s amazing how little consideration we give to what we really want. There are so many other voices in our heads – all our perceptions of the expectations and judgments of others – that we cannot hear our own voice. What is it that we really want? It took me a very long time to figure out that I actually controlled the huge majority of all those other voices in my head. When I first decided to work part-time after having Amelia, I thought my mentors would judge me but very few thought anything of my decision. I actually think most people are so busy with their own life issues that they really aren’t watching us as much as we seem to think they are. We never really make it much beyond that developmental stage where we think the world revolves around us.
Even when we know what we want, we are afraid to ask for it. I have finally mastered this in the last few months, and I am amazed by what you can get just for asking.
A friend of mine had a very sick newborn in the intensive care unit recently. I wanted to do something for her, but in my fragile condition, I cannot do much for anyone. Then I thought about an article I read some years ago about a photographer in Chicago who volunteers to photograph sick and dying newborns. If Bill helped me get to the NICU, I could take the photos of the baby.
I knew this seriously ill baby would have tubes coming out of his nose, mouth and chest. I wanted to be able to capture his innocence without the visual reminders of the medical situation. To do so, I would need to focus on ears, toes, hands, and other small parts. But with my current stash of lens, I cannot focus at close range; I needed a macro lens. So I went to the camera store and I told them the story, “I don’t want to buy the lens. I just want to take pictures of this very sick baby and bring the lens back.” Without any hesitation, the manager agreed to my proposal. Now a mother has pictures of her sick baby. “Ask and ye shall receive.”
So in the car this morning I asked myself “Who are you? Where are you? And what do you want?” I prayed to God (I pray a lot for someone with a mustard seed of faith) and said, “I know I am just one person in a world of billions, but I am a very sick mother who is not finished living yet. I would like just a little more time. It doesn’t have to be a decade; I just want some more time to finish everything I want to do. I am doing your work. Please let me finish.”
We cannot control the answers, but we can control the requests. The request merely requires us to be fully aware of ourselves, our place in the world, and our desires.