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Friday, January 28, 2011

Nothing to undo.

(Note: Before I begin this post, thanks are owed to Lauren at Hipstercrite for inspiring the inquiry on beauty.  Ever since I read her exploration of this same question, I've been thinking about it myself).

Every so often, usually when I have the text messages open on my iPhone, the device will suddenly tell me:

 I don't know why this happens.

But I've always found the message oddly poignant.

"Nothing to undo," huh?  It's a hard pill to swallow in this culture.  Or maybe any culture.  In general,  it's difficult to look back on your life at the most painful, embarrassing, or lonely chapters, and say: "Yes, I'd keep those too."
*  *  *

Interestingly, the more I think about "beauty," the more I've come to realize that the most attractive people -- to me -- are those that accept this maxim, "nothing to undo."

And by that I mean, they've accepted it knowingly or not.  It probably takes some exposure to Buddhism or Taoism or some other Eastern -ism to understand radical acceptance on a cognitive level.  But there are those who've never breathed an om in their life, and yet still manage to bring this air of, "I wouldn't change anything" wherever they go.

*  *  *

Last night at aerial class, I watched our instructor perform a routine to "Yesterday" (The Beatles' "Yesterday"), and it was one of the most heart-breakingly beautiful things I've ever seen.  The way she clutched the fabric, while curled up into a little ball, looking so vulnerable -- and then bursting out, extending all of her limbs, suspended by a tiny knot around her foot and even more precarious grip of her hand, one hand, on the silk.

I've watched aerial dance routines before, mostly on the sides of buildings, but those were epic and grand.  This ... this felt deeply intimate.

Our class, normally a crowd of giggling fools because we all look like little kids at this point on the silks, were utterly silent watching her dance.  Except at the end, when my friend Kim and I sniffled a bit, like little sentimental grandmas at a wedding.

Anyway, while watching her, it occurred to me that:

A) Performance is sexy.

B) Performance is sexy because it requires work.  And somewhere in our brains, we can intuit how long it's taken to get to that point, whether we're watching an aerial dancer, a guitarist, an actor, or whatever, and we respect all those hours alone they put into this, and then we realize: Passion.  Is what we're really talking about here.

"Passion" is such a cliched term that I almost hate to use it, but it's true, isn't it?  You can tell when a person has a passion.  Pushing it in your face and reminding you all the time that they do this one thing -- that's not passion.  I don't know what that is.  Maybe insecurity.

But anyway, passion is gorgeous to me.  And it's so much easier to identify what your passions are when you've got nothing to undo.

*  *  *

Here are the things I have often wished I could undo:

A) The fact that I was so goody-goody in high school.  The friends (and husband) I have now had far crazier high school experiences.  I didn't know what marijuana WAS in high school.  I wore sweater sets and tasteful footwear.  I had a lot of friends in high school -- but -- living in Austin, I often feel compelled to lie and say, "oh yeah, I was a total rebel in high school!  Totally!  Always sneaking out of class!"  Friends, I would have rather died than missed class.

B) My weird religious path.  I was very Christian for a while.  And then, NOT Christian.  Meaning -- I defiantly stood in opposition to Christianity, and then I just got mean about it.  Not always to people's faces, but I felt it.

Ross has this saying that I'm about to butcher, but it goes something like: "When you throw an arrow you hurt yourself worse."  Or something?  Anyway, the idea is, when you express hostility towards someone or something else, sure, your target will feel it -- but the action began and ended with you, so you feel it double.  That's the way I was with Christianity.

Lately I have so come to respect spiritualities that aren't bound to specific religions.  It's very freeing.  But still, the moment -- the precise millisecond -- I hear the word "Jesus," something old and bitter is triggered inside me.  Which is a shame, isn't it?  I joke to Ross sometimes that just hearing "Jesus" pronounced the Spanish way ("hay-sus") is better.  Because until I can fully separate the frustrating examples I saw way back when of "Christianity" from the relatively enlightened views of Jesus, which are a lot like Buddha's, which are a lot like modern Indian gurus', I'll still feel the knee-jerk meanness each time someone utters that name.

C) Boyfriends. Not all of them. In fact, not most of them.  But a few straight-up sucked.

*  *  *

So, here's the big "lesson" with these three things.  I think we've all got stuff we'd like to undo.  But that's weight we carry around.  And it's more difficult to let passions bubble up if we refuse to let go of that weight.  It's more difficult to live out beauty.

So with A: As a result of living out my Soccer Mom years earlier than most, I pushed myself to have a more interesting experience in my 20's.  With B, I don't think I'll ever become "born again" but I DO think I'll be a spiritually curious (and hopefully respectful) person going forward. And C -- if I never had boyfriends who sucked, I never would have found Ross!  It took a lot of losers to make me appreciate the grand, knight-in-shining-armor winner, which duh, is how it always play out, right?  Who gets that kind of thing right on the first try?  On the tenth try?

One of the most romantic and thoughtful boys I ever dated turned out to be gay.

He loved Victorian Literature just like me, had amazing restaurant taste, and even better penmanship.  He (literally) looked perfect on paper, but something just wasn't quite right ... because he was gay.  What if I had forced that one through?

*  *  *

So I'm slowly beginning to resist the impulse to "undo" things.  And when I watched my instructor last night dance, I searched and searched her body and face for a time when she was clumsier, less confident.

No one is born spinning through aerial silks.  It's an incredibly awkward art, at first.

But that awkwardness eventually becomes beauty, if you're patient enough.  Which we all know.  It's true of every arena.  The only reason sometimes I feel I can do aerial is because there aren't any mirrors in the studio, so there aren't reminders of my regret refracted back to me.  I just have to feel things out.

There are too many beautiful boys and girls, men and women, in this city to count.

And yet the most attractive ones, the sexy ones, are usually also the passionate ones.

Despite their past failures and present, sometimes palpable flaws, they've got nothing to undo.

*  *  *

(It appears that Jamie Lee Curtis also wrote about the "Nothing to undo" message on iPhones this week.  Random!  Read her thoughts at Huffington Post).


Megan Moede said...

I like you, Tolly. We are blogging soul mates.

Kerissa said...

Tolly - I feel like we led similar childhoods. I was scribbling in my journals, was appalled that people missed class, and didn't know my friends drank alcohol. And exact same with Christianity. I was very devout even through my sophomore year in college and then quickly opposite. I love that I learn about my friend (you) through your blog and even though we're not interacting, it brings us closer.

Really loved this post.

Hipstercrite said...

i agree. all the ladies (and men) that i think are most sexy, aren't necessarily conventionally beautiful, they just had major passion for their art, people, and their life. people like frida kahlo and georgia o'keefe and marlene dietrich and i could go on and on. great article, tolly!

Anonymous said...

Love this so much ... especially because, it's true. Regrets do inhibit my passions, and it's better to just deal with that sh*t, let them go, respect them for the lessons they were.

I am curious though Tolly to hear more about what your passions ARE, now that you've opened a space where you can truly allow and express them?

Unknown said...

Fantastic post! Yeah, I try not to remember myself prior to turning 27, which was when I started to grow up and get over myself.

And Ross is so right...when you put anger out there, guess what you get in's taken me a long time to figure that one out and some days I still struggle.

I *heart* your blog!!!

Kay said...

Tolly, here you go again, inspiring me. I may have to write about my own "Nothing to Undo" glimpses into my life. Funny, I always say that I had a rockin' great time in my 20's & 30's to the point that my son will never be able to run for President...but you know, that statement is very much a "nothing to undo" of its own. Loves, sugarbunny.

Anonymous said...

It is because you haven't typed anything and you shook the phone. Shaking after typing gives you an option to undo.

katherine said...

you and i were very similar, i think, in our younger years. i HATED missing class, and i (still) pride myself on having never had a detention. long lost friend, you are.

two things about nothing to undo: a) my mom taught me a looooong time ago about just letting things be (think: the beatles). those words/that song didn't have much meaning for me until after my parents divorced, i went to college, and things started happening to me that i couldn't control. i struggled for a long, long time with trying to regain control, beating myself up every time something "bad" happened that i convinced myself i could have prevented. my mom told me time and again that there were often going to be things i couldn't control; the only thing i could control was my attitude and how i dealt with the situation, and everything else i would just have to "let it be." a few years ago, i got those words tattooed on my left rib cage in my mom's handwriting, and, as cheesy as it may sound, i have felt way more centered and okay with things since. i think it very much matches with the "nothing to undo" philosophy because i have to let the past be what it is. i wouldn't be who i am today without all the good and bad stuff that has happened to me, so all i can do is be okay with it.
b) "nothing to undo" happens if you have an application open that involves typing (ie a text message), and your phone shakes slightly but you haven't written anything yet. no writing = nothing to undo.

love this post. sorry for throwing up my thoughts with this comment. just thought i should let you know i know exactly where you're coming from. :D

Pink Sun Drops said...

Not sure how many times I've said this to you, but this is one of my favorite posts of yours and ever.

Aaron said...

I finished reading this post, and then went to twitter and this was the first tweet, retweeted by a friend of mine

"One cannot and must not try to erase the past merely because it does not fit the present. -Golda Meir"

I think you hit the nail on the head with the 'i couldn't be where I am today without everything up to this point, bad AND good' notion. Life can't be all amazing- the tough stuff (stough?) makes the sweet parts sweeter.

Enjoyed this.

Austin Eavesdropper said...

@Megan -- Maybe soul mates on many levels :)

@Kerissa -- We should talk about our Christian pasts sometime ... it's weird. My "break" with Christianity was harder than any boyfriend break-up. But just like how you become friends with exes eventually (well, friends with some exes) I feel like I'm finally not so bitter about it. That I can see how it got f-ed up in the process of becoming it's own culture with modern rules and insiders/outsiders, but that in its own time, Jesus the person was a complex and interesting mystic. That's how I prefer to think of him at least.

@Hipstercrite -- Thank you, kitten. You inspire me.

@Anonymous -- I love your question. My passions change often, but the most consistent ones are:

*going on walks
*making our home a warm and (hopefully) creative place to live
*hugging Ross
*squeezing my cat (even though sadly she doesn't share my passion)

@Katie -- I heart you right back, mama. Thank you for loving on this post!

@Kay/Sugarbunny -- Awwww I LOVE that. Everyone should have such a great time in their 20s/30s that their children won't be able to run for president! :D Hahaha. Well most of us at least. Like with @Hipstercrite, you are one of my real-life inspirations.

@Anonymous -- Thank you friend. :)

@Katherine -- Not only do I really love the fact that you have those words tattooed on your body, but I have been giving some thought about doing something similar! So maybe I will get your advice on where to go here in town (if you got it done in town). I have one tattoo but the artist has a crazy waiting list and ... that's no fun.

Here are the two phrases I've been thinking about:

--"Nothing to undo" (kind of as a result of this post?)
--"Only the wild may share" (I dreamt this phrase once and woke up thinking it. It's never left me. I don't know exactly what it means, but I am very fond of it).

@PinkSunDrops -- I love you, Rose. :)

@Your Host -- Wow! See. I think our weird histories make us all the richer. Hard to remember when you're going through a particularly gross time! But I try to remember DURING those gross times that they are the climaxes to my denouements. And that the final, total narrative will be badass! At least I hope so. :)