Between stimulus and response, there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom. –> Victor Frankl
One of the most profitable sectors in the ever so challenging world of 21st century publishing is that of the “self-help/self-improvement/inner awareness” genre. A couple of years ago, $550 million was bandied as its contribution to the industry — and the numbers have only increased with the advent and explosion of e-media. Like so many others, over the years, I’ve wandered into the area to reinforce New Year’s resolutions, to figure out parenting questions, and just because I tend to think books are where you find answers. Of the billions (exaggerated a touch) I’ve seen over the years, only a few come to mind as truly useful. The “What to expect when you’re expecting/parenting/etc.” series became my pregnancy and new parent Bible. The pediatrician didn’t love them as much, going so far as to suggest I throw them out and ask my mom — notwithstanding that she was dead — in other words let things happen in the moment — which may have been the best advice from book or doctor.
One other that I find rather delightful is The Happiness Project: Or why I spent a year trying to sing in the morning, clean my closets, fight right, read Aristotle, and generally have more fun.” Gretchen Rubin’s book/blog brings no secret of happiness that hasn’t been disseminated before — however, she is completely & utterly joyous in both her methodology and her results. And those results pay homage to a love of books that permeates the entire work. It also reminded me that for most of my life, it wasn’t the “self-help” section that answered the ever so burning questions of childhood and adolescence — more often than not, it was a novel. In the next few posts, we can discuss some of the most important — today I want to look at one that taught me ever so much. Meg Murry, from A Wrinkle in Time, offered me answers to questions I didn’t know I was asking.
The first time I encountered Meg and her story was in 3rd grade. Ms. Matthews was perhaps the most wonderful, creative teacher that has ever existed. A true child of the 70s, she wore caftans and beads, and her flaming hair was cropped à la Mia Farrow. One of the coolest things she did was every afternoon without fail, she gathered the class back in the “reading nook,” and read great novels to us. On that carpet, akin to Aladdin’s or so I thought, she shared Les Misérables, Wrinkle, Trumpet of the Swan, and whatever else she could in a day before worrying about standardized testing.
A million re-reads later, what did Meg teach me about life? Why does she make the Frankl quote relevant to today’s discussion? A straight reading of Wrinkle will bring a similar Harry Potter-like revelation that power and control sans love are destined to fail — like Harry, and Narnia, the book becomes de facto Christian allegory, relishing the light versus darkness metaphor. Like Harry, or Edmund — Meg doesn’t see her power. However, in those spaces where she has to make choices — the reader can see the stasis of fear, self-worth weaponized, impatience manipulated.
Meg was an impatient, self-questioning young lady who to put it politely had “anger issues.” Now in a world of Cinderella, Rapunzel and the ever-obedient Mary Ingalls — a smart ass that was impatient was like manna for a girl who managed mostly proper southern lady, except for the sarcasm that bled into conversations unexpectedly. While my father handed me George Washington’s axioms to learn to manage my temper, it was Meg’s struggle that made it click.
Meg’s final lesson is similar to the one I learned from my beloved Scarlett (Gone with the Wind, just in case there’s doubt). Each of them had to learn to work in tandem with others for success, and each found love, Meg & Calvin’s relationship perhaps a little more stable, yet the ultimate lesson is a personal one. Both women learn that they have to make their own decisions, take the responsibility or the fault — and emerge on the other side. Maybe not the happily ever after of a Disney fairy tale, but a lesson strong women should revisit.
- Rose Garden (Southern Culture on the Skids) — in a spot on cover of the Lynn Anderson hit from my childhood — good for someone who always tends to please people
- Your Every Color (Train) — part of the pre-Soul sister collection — I love the way he convolutes senses.
- Brave (Sara Bareilles) — a song about walking into your life — and owning it!
- Rose Colored Glasses (Animal Logic) — ex-Police Stewart Copeland with guitarist Stanley Jordan & Deborah Holland — does she want the world filtered or not?
- Who Needs You (the Orwells) — awesome name! Not quite Green Day angry, but a fierce bad with a driving beat
- Anyone Can Whistle/Being Alive (Sutton Foster) — Sutton Foster, incredible voice on Broadway, did this mash-up
- Southern Nights (Glen Campbell) — no matter where you go, there you are — I was raised on red clay and tobacco — sweetened with peaches & summer storms. It shaped my passions and gave me wings…
- History (This Wild Life) — indie band that transitions really well…
- No Man’s Mama (Carolina Chocolate Drops) — kick ass, take no prisoner’s womanpower kind of song — and it’s almost 100 years old!
- Mountain Heir (AJ Roach) — another of those, where do you find your peace…. waterfalls, and mountains — and yet the ocean like its rhythms are rising and ebbing within me…
- Everybody Says Don’t (Barbara Streisand) — another Broadway song by the incomparable Babs, about blazing your own trail
- Do It Anyway (Ben Folds) — a shout-y, rollicking perfectly in your face anthem about facing your fears
- You May be Right (Billy Joel) — one of those teenage anthems that actually models good communication — i.e., validate what the other person is seeing, “you may be right,”
- True Colors (Cyndi Lauper.) — iconic ballad, made new with each cover…
- Just Keep Breathing (We the Kings) — one of my friends talks about just “going forward through things,” — this would be that soundtrack
- I Stand (Idina Menzel) — her voice, and the song asking “where is my strength?” there’s one line that drives me crazy — no one needs to save you… small quibble, it lays nicely in the lyrics
- Wagon Wheel (Old Crow Medicine Show) — one of those songs everyone assumes is traditional, but comes from a Dylan throwaway chorus and OCMS’s fantastic integration of it into a southern travelogue — “if I die in Raleigh, at least I will die free!”
- Ripple (Grateful Dead) — one of my favorite Zen-like lyrics — about the inter-connectedness of the world — got called Zen-like today, don’t see it…
- Changing of the Seasons (Two Door Cinema Club) — danceable miscommunication — hey it works — little less tragic than “seasons in the sun,” from childhood chorus (who asks little kids to sing that!!)
- Be Who you Want to Be (Max Frost) — YouTube sensation turned recording artist — fantastic self-awareness anthem!
- Goodbye Alice in Wonderland (Jewel) — bonus song, hey it was her birthday Friday! Like the line “there is a difference between dreaming and pretending”
What you are is what you have been. What you’ll be is what you do now –> Buddha
Take care, Aly