Small doses of wisdom mend the deepest wounds. The Four Agreements packs four doses without any sugar to help the medicine go down. Here is the hardest agreement for me to swallow: Don't take anything personally.
I honor the practicality of this agreement. My experiences are based solely on my thoughts -- my perspective. I might meet you and not like you. Someone else (let's call her Sally) might meet you and love you. How is this possible? Because I experience you from my perspective, and Sally experiences you from her perspective. It has nothing to do with you.
That I believe you are an arrogant, self-serving imbecile has everything to do with me and the story I tell myself about you. "He's so rude! I can't believe he didn't shake my hand!" What would happen if I changed the story? "He didn't shake my hand. That's okay. Let me try to learn more about him." Telling myself the first story propels me into the I Hate You and Your Mama stratosphere; the second story beckons me to add you to my Christmas card list.
This doesn't mean that we mistreat people while waving a Don't Take Anything Personally banner. We are responsible for respecting, loving, and honoring one another. Although this agreement might sound lofty, it is life-changing and liberating. It frees me from the confines of judgments and opinions; it boosts my confidence, and it restores my power.
The truth whispers to me, and sometimes it screams at me. It resides in my soul and navigates me through life. There are times when I fear the truth -- I don't want to see it, hear it, or acknowledge it. Sometimes I feel that if I ignore the truth I will be better off than if I face it. But in reality, ignoring the truth results in suffering.
Here's what's crazy: I pray for clarity so that I might recognize the truth; I see clearly, and then I dismiss it as though I never saw it. I recently experienced a heart-wrenching break-up with a man whom I swore was my soul-mate. I prayed, "If this relationship isn't for me, please show me." God showed me again, and again, and again. At first, He whispered. Then He spoke. Then He screamed. Then -- it was over. The door of the relationship shut. And I was left out in the cold.
I'm still out in the cold gathering my bearings and picking up the pieces of my broken heart. I'm not grieving the loss of a relationship; I'm grieving the loss of a fantasy. I was addicted to the fantasy of the relationship. The reality - the truth- was a hot mess.
I've learned a few things about myself. I learned that I abandoned myself for a man's attention. I learned that I sought fulfillment from an external source rather than finding everything I need within me. I learned that the truth is always revealing itself to me. All that is required of me is to look Truth in the eye and say, "I see you. I hear you. I will follow you. Thank you."
Kelly Hogan's We Can't Have Nice Things is this week's book soundtrack choice for Gillian Flynn's Gone Girl. The song is about love gone awry. Two lovers can't sustain a loving relationship. The passion they once had has melted into a toxic acid that destroys everything it touches. Welcome to our humble home, we can't invite you in/Cause someone's gone and made a wreck of everything again. They keep their mess hidden behind closed doors. They suffer in silence.
In Gone Girl, Nick and Amy can barely tolerate each other. They've learned that the person they married five years ago is different from the person they wake up to every morning. They hurt each other. The acid is eating them alive, yet they're addicted to the toxicity. This is piqued by the lyric: A teardrop on each pillow here, a hole in every wall/Still I'd rather have these things than have nothing. They don't know how to live without each other. They don't know how to live without pain.
The tone of We Can't Have Nice Things compliments Gone Girl. The laid back -- almost nonchalant-- beat undermines the severity of the lyric, just as the logical and conventional narratives of Nick and Amy in the first third of Gone Girl hide the severity and truth of their relationship. Hogan adds a splash of 1960s girl group vocal flair that adds a whimsy element to the song which also helps to mask the pain of the song.
On his way to town, he comes across a raven with a broken wing. He picks it up and wraps it in the cow-hide. The weather is too severe to continue traveling, so the peasant seeks refuge in a mill. The miller's wife is at home alone. She gives him a place to sleep. While he appears to be sleeping, the town parson stops by. The miller's wife declares that her husband is out; therefore, she and the parson will "have a feast." She takes out four items: roast meat, salad, cakes and wine. The peasant overhears everything.
Before they can take their first bite, the husband comes knocking on the door. The wife freaks out. She hides the parson in the cupboard. She hides the roast meat in the stove, the wine under a pillow, the salad on the bed and the cakes under the bed.
The miller enters his home and strikes up a conversation with the peasant. He notices the cow-hide and asks what is inside. The peasant tells him therein lies a soothsayer, and that it will tell the miller four things; the fifth thing, it will keep to itself. One by one, the peasant, via the soothsayer, tells the miller where all four items are located: the roast meat, salad, cakes and wine. He is amazed. He's so amazed that he agrees to pay three hundred dollars to know the fifth thing. The peasant reveals the fifth item -- the devil hiding in the cupboard. The miller opens the cupboard and out darts the parson.
The wife has some cajones to allow a stranger in her home and then have an affair in front of him.
It sounds like the house has one room, and the peasant is sleeping on the floor while the miller's wife and the parson handle their business a few feet from him. Okay, man of the cloth and brazen frisky miller's wife. If you're that desperate and naive...
Why does the husband knock to enter his own home?
Sure, he could've forgotten his key, or maybe he's over-dramatic and needs his wife to greet him at the door. Men.
Why doesn't the miller ask the soothsayer for personal information about himself, like the name of his best friend or the locations of a few of his birthmarks?A random guest in your home tells you where you can find the roast beef and salad. Big deal. Want to impress me, Mr. Soothsayer? Tell me the first and last names of every man I've dated since college.
Nick and Amy have had a rough five-year marriage. They moved from New York to Missouri so that Nick can take care of his cancer-ridden mother. They are bitter. More accurately, they are pissed: at each other, at their parents, at the economy (they have both lost their jobs), at life. Then one day Nick comes home to find the door wide open and the house in shambles. Amy is missing.
Inevitably, Nick becomes the prime suspect in Amy's disappearance. He senses this early in the game. "It's always the husband...Just watch Dateline." Beneath his placid exterior, Nick's sentiments about Amy besiege him. He never quite understood his wife; he can't make her happy, and she's a thorn in his flesh. Amy speaks to us from the pages of her diary that she wrote before her alleged murder: she loved her husband, and he didn't love her back. She was abused, neglected and scared.
Gone Girl reads like a war story. The narrative switches back and forth between the husband and wife, each sounding like a regime vying for power, infiltrating enemy territory. Nick's twin sister, Go, warns him, "...You're...addicted to each other. You are literally going to be a nuclear family...You will explode." The tragedy is that both parties know this truth. They cannot coexist peacefully; yet, they can't exist without each other. They married each other's facades, and like all facades, they deteriorated, leaving husband and wife to face the ugly truth -- they didn't marry whom they thought they married.
Flynn poses questions about psychological identity and family dynamics. Nick's father is a misogynist who emotionally abused his wife. At one point, Nick questions if he has subscribed to his father's pathology: "I stopped trying to block my father's voice for once and let it throb in my ears. I was not that man: I didn't hate and fear all women." Amy grew up an only child. He parents had several miscarriages before she was born. They called her Amazing Amy and wrote a series of children's books with the same title. Amy hates them for capitalizing on her survival. She feels pressured to be Amazing Amy -- perfect. She wants everything in her life perfect, including her husband and marriage. "I know Nick isn't in love with me yet, but he will be...Fake it till you make it, isn't that the expression?"
There are moments in the book when things seem to breeze over too easily. The credibility of the police officers is questionable. You find yourself asking, "Can this really happen?" and "Are they serious?" I still love this book. It's riveting, and it kept me on the edge of my seat. Buy It.