Saturday, March 30, 2024

Creating Space Within and Giving Yourself Room to Grow and Explore

Art Installation of colored glowing Walls
As children, it is often of paramount importance to us to have our very own room. Although for economic reasons, we often must accept shared accommodation with siblings, and in times of poverty or exorbitant and uncontrollable inflation, you may all find yourself in the same room, or if the situation is even dire, you may not have shelter to speak of, let alone your own space. Notwithstanding, it becomes clear that for each of us, it is important to have our own personal private and un-intruded space.

This is part and parcel of and even a visible and tangible sign of independence, yet at the same time, it also comes to represent the place where we can be truly and fully be ourselves. If we have liberal-minded and permissive parents, we may even have a say in how we wish to decorate it. Moreover, in the comfort of this space, we can engage in activities that we enjoy, that resonate with our inner core and that give us pleasure.

As life progresses, many of us lose that access or at least certain aspects to that sort of privacy. In our college days, we may have a roommate or types of shared accommodation where we can be ourselves and feel perfectly at home, but it may come with certain limitations. Later, when we are living with our partner, that space is lost physically, yet we may maintain it in our minds by spending time away from home, either with friends or on our own. It then becomes a figurative or invisible space where we can be completely who we are without any pretense or excuses.

Incidentally, I am currently writing this not from my home but from a café. The idea, or rather the reason I tell myself, is to be less distracted but that is not always the case and that is not the main reason I choose to do so. It is rather looking for a different kind of space where regular distractions are warded off against and where I can experience different facets of myself. Add to that, the unexpected where I could potentially run into someone or meet someone new, which, however, rarely happens not necessarily due to a lack of people but because of my own timidity.

Oddly enough, I find that ideas in this “other space” tend to flow more freely, which may not be too surprising as there are various others who appear to tap into the same vibes and frequencies or thought patterns. As a university student, I would indeed often “escape” my room, which was tiny, but it was purely my own living space as part of the residential college I was at, and I would go to nearby beaches, including a nudist one, to do many of my assigned readings. Reading outdoors is just more fun, whenever the weather cooperates of course, and the surroundings are not too distracting.

As you can probably tell by now, the room I am talking about here is as much mental as it is physical, if not more so. We all need a room of our own was a song by Billy Joel and it is also a previous blogpost of mine based on and inspired by a podcast I did with creativity coach Eric Maisel. His view was to redecorate and redesign our mind and mental space and give it the renovations, uplifts and upgrades that we wished to have.

The concept is very interesting, and I would like to add to it here. It is not so much the way the room looks, whether your curtains are grey, blue, or multi-colored but how big or small it is. Size does matter. We often take up a more unassuming space not only in reality but also within our mind and spirit. In the real world, it is often due to financial pressures or limitations, and it is no secret that the increased square miles come at a rather significant cost.

Nonetheless, we take on the same mentality and apply it to our psychological space. It may be due to modesty, humility, lack of confidence, or fear of being seen as pretentious, arrogant and ungrateful, or simply because we think we do not deserve the extra space and have to accept and deal and content with what we got and what we get in life as the Rolling Stones remind us that we can’t always get what we want in life.

But those are limitations that we are setting ourselves and sometimes even imposing upon each of us. I agree with setting boundaries to protect ourselves, whether it is physical or in terms of effort, time, and energy invested but I disagree with these types of artificial barriers that we may unconsciously fence ourselves in and with. It is not only about what our room looks, like Eric Maisel explains in his book and on my podcast quite eloquently and creatively, but also how much space we give and allow ourselves. And in our imagination, should the sky not be our upper and topper most limit?

I am saying this at a moment in my life where I find that I have been selling myself short. It comes with the fact that I feel I have come up short and that I have been generally underappreciated, which at the time I assumed was only my imagination until I realized that it was not. It had its roots and anchors in facts and reality. Yet, in all fairness, I have not been doing myself any favors with my own false sense of modesty. This is the type of modesty that lacks true understanding of the facts and actual situation and circumstances. It is false because consciously or unconsciously, it denies and even diminishes if not denigrates our own skills, talents, and abilities.

Put differently, I need to expand my (mental) room because it does not allow for my essence and talents to exist fully. I do not have to continue living in my shabby self-imposed apartment because it is not where I currently belong. Perhaps it is time to move out or move up or even move altogether to a new mental space.

Psychologically speaking, this small room has been difficult because I have been limited myself in many ways. This is what Dr. Carla Marie Manly would designate our jail cell, the place that may be our so-called comfort zone but where we are willingly staying and lodging because we have shut the door with locks and all and barely dare to look out the window.

On one hand, this limited space restricts movement. If your inner space does not have much “legroom”, you will find it hard to go to places. You are not free but often restrained and constrained. You are also filled with negative expectations that seriously hamper your outlook and chances. Anything that is beyond the room you are occupying is not seen as an invitation or a welcome challenge but quickly brushed off as simply not for me.

In our cocoon, we live in an artificially set comfort zone, which is not comforting in the sense of its culinary cousin comfort food, which, although often not the healthiest option out there, fills us up with warmth, pleasant sensations, and pleasing memories. Here, we just remain entrenched in our “home” and filled with fear. The small black-and-white television gives us comfort although we are aware that there are more modern and much better options and variations out there.

Additionally, to grow, we need the room to do so first. Like a potted plant, that needs a bigger pot, so we need an area to expand more freely. That means, we need to tweak our views, perspectives, and expectations. We also need to take a good look at our fear and insecurities, which often turn out to be defense mechanisms based on previous situations that are simply outdated and no more valid. But we hold onto it like our tiny black-and-white TV set in front of us in our shabby apartment space.

We need not only a room of our own but room to grow. And to get there, we need room for error. It is a misnomer that we can get it right just right off the bat. No one can really do that because it is not realistic or feasible. You cannot expect to play Beethoven without taking piano lessons and without those hours and hours of endless practice and millions and millions of fumbles and mistakes along the way. I do not think that practice necessarily makes perfect, but it certainly helps us to tackle things much better. Yet, all this involves both effort as well as the willingness to make errors and be ready and willing to occasionally or often fail as we do so.

Give yourself room for errors and failure. They are not the end of the world but as vital and necessary for your growth as learning scales on the piano. It may not always be fun but if you have your eyes and heart set on a bigger living space, then you must accept this as a part of necessity. Incidentally, once you give yourself the much-needed extra space, you will also give others more room in your mind. They also need space, but it is hard for you to see that when you yourself can barely move.

Finally, you must be willing to accept change and to welcome it into your life. This is a hard thing to do because we get used to and entrenched to certain things and places. We get accustomed to our room as it is the place we know, and we have lived in for a long time.

Moreover, the job that we have may be far from perfect but it is the devil we know. It is better than nothing, we tell or try to convince ourselves. The person we are with we assume to be the best possible option because no one will love us more or better out there. It sure beats being alone and lonely, we tell ourselves. The country we live in, whether it is our home or the home of our choice is simply where we belong, for better or for worse.

Certainly, all or any of this may be true, no doubt. This cannot be judged here without additional details and some scrutiny as well as complete honesty and after serious, intense, and intimate introspection and reflection. Yet, there may be a change in the offing or at the very least some room for improvement in your living space, be it physical or mental, in your relationship or at your place of work.

But if we are blind to it, if we do not see it or choose not to perceive it, it does not mean it is not there. The best way is to expand our room, to not only look out of the window but step out, and then take a second look and find out for ourselves. We may be surprised that we have been living in an unnecessarily confined place but no more starting from now on.

Saturday, March 16, 2024

Ode to Supporting Actors And Actresses That Do Not Win

Ken from Barbie with shades on
The film industry’s award season tends to come to an annual end with the culmination of the popular, prestigious, and much-coveted Academy Awards. Although each award and film festival are precious and valuable on their own, combined they give weight and momentum to several selected individuals who then become the frontrunners at the Oscars.

There is a building and budding narrative that gradually takes shape and form over this period, and we often see certain trends emerge where a handful of specific movies, actors, actresses, filmmakers, etc. are favored throughout. For better or worse, all of this then culminates in the Oscars, the playoffs of all things movies and filmmaking.

Yet, more often than not (the occasional upset, snub, or surprise notwithstanding), we have an inkling or two of who or what movies are most likely going to win in their respective categories. It is not always set in stone, but the element of surprise may have less of an impact once we get to the award ceremony. That said, things become more interesting when there is a close competition or run-off, usually between two opponents that are just too close to call.

Although it may be a more muddled affair regarding Best Pictures (we even had a mix-up in which everyone had easily accepted La La Land as the year’s recipient when it in fact it had not won), it usually becomes more or less clear who the frontrunners especially when it comes to the acting category. This year, the leading actor with a realistic and probable shot was pretty clearly outlined, that is Oppenheimer’s proud Irish boy Cillian of course although Paul Giamatti had a good run and made a strong push by gaining some admirable momentum towards the end.

The Actress in a Leading Role category was an altogether different matter, however. It was a close and virtual tie between two powerful performances (sadly at the time of writing, I have not seen either movie so I cannot weigh in or make any credible or valid judgments on the matter) and up to the very end, it could have gone either way. At any rate, both deserved to win but only one had to be chosen.

Yet what about the other nominated actresses? Essentially, there was no chance for them to win. They started off the award season with high hopes and the potential to win, but they would have to be content with just being nominated. I mean, of course, it is an honor and accomplishment to be there (so many in the acting profession would envy them) but think of it how it must feel to put on your best outfits knowing fully well that you had absolutely no chance of winning.

This is not a matter of performance. The performance has already been done and it is finished now and all they can do is watch and hope for a miracle. Miracles do happen but this is one of the cases where there is very little one can personally do to make it happen or to bring it about. Unlike athletic events, you could have an exceptionally great day and pull off an upset, or the favorites may just have a bad and unlucky day, yet in this case, your fate is in the hands or fingers of voting members.

Many of these nominated actors and actresses know that they have almost no chance of winning and so they go to network and socialize and have fun. A funny incident in the television award season was Pedro Pascal who had given up hope and decided to get drunk only being shocked that he actually won! Yet, for the most part and for most actors and actresses, having a good time is what it is all about.

Yet, I am curious about what it feels like to go to each of the award seasons and not to win a trophy each and every time. Is that not discouraging or having a negative effect on one’s mental health? To say to yourself, here we go again, and we will yet again not win another award? Would one at times not prefer to be watching afar instead of facing cameras and subsequent social media scrutinizing each nonverbal gesture and response to the often expected announcement?

Although generally those in the acting profession tend to show up and they should be good at bottling or hiding emotions like anger, disappointment, frustration, all courtesy of their career, there have been occasional glaring absences, which may be due to involvement in other projects or simply because they do not wish to be there and go through the motions. Yet, here we go again, I am making pronouncements on things I will never experience myself and hence know next to nothing about. And yet, it is curiosity that makes me think and wonder about such things.

I do not have a solution or suggestion here. Except to ensure that those who are not on the winning side ensure that they do not carry negative feelings but instead focus on the positive aspects and experiences. To boycott those events when you know you cannot win would send decisively negative vibes to the entire award season and the film industry itself so showing up on the red carpet smiling and going through the motions despite knowing that there is little to no chance of winning still seems to be the best option out there.

But this is my ode here to support all the actors that do not win and including those who never get nominated. Some of the greatest actors and filmmakers have not won awards and it does not make them any less great. Quite to the contrary. They are who they are, and they (hopefully) know this deep inside.

Then, there are those who should not have quit their day jobs, but they did anyway. They may not be particularly good at acting or filmmaking for that matter, but they have a passion and a dream, and I would be the last person to step on those wishes and desires. You do what you do and if you are fortunate, you will be doing what you love. If awards and recognition come to you, it feels great but that should not be the end goal. The end goal is to do what gives you joy and if it happens to bring joy to others as well, it is definitely a win-win situation.

Maybe we can learn from Ryan Gosling who in my view had the best performance of them all. But like his character Ken, he is a ten, but he does not get what or who he wants. At times, life is such. No matter how hard we try or how much we desire something or someone, we are left wanting.

It is like waiting for a call or calling that just won’t come or materialize.  And yet, the best (and really only) thing one can do for sure is to give an awesome, inspired, fun, and memorable show (Gosling’s showstopping performance anyone?) and not take any of this too seriously. I mean, after all, it is just an awards program and there are other things to life than winning or not winning an award.


Wednesday, March 6, 2024

Upcoming KPU Talk on Arts and Humanities, Creativity, and Mental Health

Dear Blog Reader,

First off, I would like to express my gratitude to you all for visiting my blog! It is very much appreciated! Moreover, I am thrilled and excited to invite you to a free virtual event taking place on March 13, from 12 – 1 PM (PST) on the topic of mental health. I shall be sharing my research interests, my lifelong love and passion for the arts and humanities in addition to personal life experiences.

My proposal is that the arts, in whatever way, shape, and form, have the potential to help us not only deal with stress and anxiety but also to give us comfort and solace during difficult times in our lives. Furthermore, they can motivate us on the quest to find and refine our own unique voice and carve our own path in life filled with empathy and purpose.

Although anything can have its share of disadvantages and downsides, if the arts and humanities are channeled and seasoned with care, hope, optimism, and critical thinking, they can lead us to unexpected shores of knowledge, insights, and epiphanies.

I will talk about my interest in literature, my passion for classical music, opera, alternative rock, and cinema (everything from Taxi Driver and The Matrix to The Dark Knight and Wings of Desire) as well as my deep fascination and appreciation for philosophy and psychology. I believe they can all liberate our hearts and minds from undue stress and negativity, unlock our hidden creative potential, unleash our beautiful splendent uniqueness, and bring inner and outer peace into the world.

I very much look forward to seeing you there and you will also have the opportunity to comment or ask me questions at the end of the session! 😉

You can register here: KPU Arts Speaker Series

Thank you very much and hope to see you soon!