What was I made for? Naming the Invisible
Of course, I went to the Barbie movie. In a theater. With other people. A lot of other people. Many wearing pink.
I wasn’t going to write about the Barbie movie, not (at all) interested in joining the rabble-babble churn around this film but then, I realized there was something I might add. Something which, perhaps, people might finally be ready to see.
In that spirit, here’s my review:
From start to finish, the Barbie movie was a wild romp through a bubble-gum landscape - pure fun. And even though everyone in Barbie Land seemed to be ignoring something important, when they suddenly saw it, and named it - right out in the open! - well, that was an even better kind of fun.
What they saw? The open secret that we (in the real world) already know but have, for reasons we are just beginning to understand, still been unable to talk about in the shared spaces of our mainstream commons in any real way:
That patriarchy oppresses women, and,
that the same system desensitizes and demoralizes men, while robbing them of connection to anything like joy, and,
that this system is built on the false narrative that human beings, especially white, Christian hetero-normative men, are supposed to rule the world, and,
that the tentacles which sprout from this monster serve to separate us (and by us I mean, all men and women) from our bodies, from our planet, from one another and, from our own true nature, and,
that reconnecting with that nature can transform us from plastic facsimiles of self to real girls and boys.
The Barbie movie opens the discussion and offers a glimmer of possibility that maybe we are finally ready to REALLY discuss this in our public media outlets. Maybe, finally, the last holdouts will wake up.
I don’t hold much hope for that. There are reasons the so-called unwoken haven’t yet seen the light. One is that they are so entrenched that they can’t separate from it. Another is that they profit from this system. Be that as it may…
I do feel hopeful about the audience for this film.
I enjoyed the Barbie Movie in a packed house of moms and daughters, dads and daughters, pink-clad clusters of sisterhoods of every age, size, shade and gender. I sat in the dark beside my husband as Ken and his friends demonstrated the absurdity of patriarchy.
“Hear that?” my husband asked, as a giggle wave moved through the darkened theater. I grinned. That giggle was a triumph, a signal. Even if this generation of teens and tweens didn’t completely understand the coded message of this film, they felt it - they got it in their bones. That’s what matters because, even though this movie alone can’t save the world, it is certainly inspiring those who will! And wow, was it fun to sit in Greta Gerwig’s Barbie school beside them.
But then, two days after I saw Barbie, this wave of grief flattened me.
The wave was familiar - a steady and predictable in/out tide of emotion that’s been pulsating all of my life. Normally, when the wave comes, I reach for a story - someone to blame. My childhood, my marriage, my body, my age. I can spend hours channeling regret, resentment, grief. After the tide recedes, hours more working on myself. Solving, fixing, healing.
Today, though, something was different. The grief tide rolled in and I let it come around me. I didn’t blame anyone - not even myself. I just stood there and, inside of the sorrow, inside of the lamenting, I let it have me.
As it took me, I listened and I watched and from inside of the wave, I saw something new: This is not mine.
This wave is not mine. This grief is not mine. All of this pain is not mine - and it certainly isn’t mine alone.
I did not cause this grief but every day I have to deal with it.
I did not invite this suffering but here it is, everywhere.
Inside of that wave I heard thousands of voices, yammering, “You could be better than you are. Try harder.” Inside of my body, I felt the clutch of the insidious subtext: You are not enough.
And then, writing these words, I saw more. Millions of women inside of millions of waves. All of us listening, all of us absorbing the toxic potion of this yammering into our minds, into our hearts, into our very cells.
This wave is not mine, I said - and I’m saying it now. As I say it, I see her - a woman looking up. She hears me. She gets it . This wave is not mine, she realizes. As she gets it, I recognize her - that woman is you, that woman is me. She is awake inside the wave.
As she awakens, self-care is needed
Lately, as I watch the memes flow by on social media, prompting us to self-love, self-acceptance, self-empowerment, I’ve been thinking: They are all pointing to the same problem. We feel diminished. All of this self-care is necessary because we are hurting.
From inside the wave, I see the truth: We are not hurting because something is WRONG with us. We are hurting because something is HURTING us.
That something is complex trauma. The kind of trauma that is so everywhere all the time we don’t even notice it. It’s like a dream. It’s like a virus, an invisible insidious spiderweb of thinking and reactivity that, once we’ve absorbed it, lives on inside of us, restricting our thinking, imprisoning our will and, pardon the metaphor, feasting on our life force.
I have seen this before but never so vividly. I have felt this before but never so viscerally - never in such an embodied physical way.
Astonished, I turned to my husband and said, “I have just spent three hours of this beautiful day obsessing about my appearance - my weight, my age, these lines around my eyes. How much of my life has been devoted to this bullshit? Fuck! What a waste of power.”
Synchronistically, a few minutes later, I received an email from the author, Paul Levy, who has written another book about wetiko. I say this was synchronicity because the arrival of this email reminded me that the Barbie movie is pointing to something beyond patriarchy. Something I’ve been trying to explain. Something that Paul Levy has been writing about for 20 years. Something that the Native American People called wetiko.
Perhaps, we are finally ready to see it - and to take stock of its effects.
If you’re not already familiar with wetiko - it’s prounced weh-tee-koh- Paul Levy has written an overview here: Wetiko in a Nutshell. He writes:
“There is a contagious psycho-spiritual disease of the soul”… “a mind-virus—which Native Americans have called “wetiko”—[that] covertly operates through the unconscious blind spots in the human psyche, rendering people oblivious to their own madness and compelling them to act against their own best interests.
Wetiko is a psychosis in the true sense of the word, “a sickness of the spirit….” that “bewitches our consciousness so that we become blind to the underlying, assumed viewpoint through which we perceive, conjure up, and give meaning to our experience of both the world and ourselves. This psychic virus can be thought of as the “bug” in “the system” that informs and animates the madness that is playing out in our lives, both individually and collectively, on the world stage.
I think this is what the Barbie movie is really about, even if its makers have never heard of this disease of the soul. While the lighthearted (revolutionary, provocative) film calls out the patriarchy by name, it is pointing to something much deeper —that spiderweb of self-harm that is layered into our very consciousness. It is pointing to the ‘dream house’ that entraps us inside a box of consumerism and fear. It is pointing to the internalized self-loathing that cripples our potential.
Patriarchy is only one of the faces of the many-headed hydra of wetiko. It’s a symptom, not the root. The root, I believe, is the deeper, systemic, self-replicating mind virus of wetiko, which feeds on our fear, thrives on our shame, and expands in our cancel culture.
Wetiko eats our suffering and binds us to it by convincing us that the world around us is broken, fallen, dangerous and that we are powerless to change it.
If wetiko is a virus of the mind, its antidote, innoculation and cure are the same simple remedy: Wholeheartedness, Compassion, Generosity. The only medicine that could eradicate wetiko (or at the very least rebalance a world with wetiko in it) is Unconditional Love.
Paul Levy writes:
As if an instrument of a higher intelligence, wetiko literally invites—make that demands—that we become conscious of and step into our intrinsic creative power and agency, or suffer the consequences. Instead of mutating so as to become resistant to our attempts to heal it, the wetiko virus forces us to mutate—to evolve— relative to it. Wetiko is a quantum phenomenon, in that it contains within itself the potential to be either the deadliest poison or the most healing medicine. Will wetiko destroy us? Or will it catalyze our evolution and wake us up?
So, we are left with a conundrum. If we are ready to admit that wetiko is real, if we are aware of its toxicity, what in the world can we do?
We can become medicine. We can devote ourselves to love. We can pull our free will back where it belongs - inside of our own belly. We can use that power to call back our attention and direct it away from fear, onto love. We can return all that we have exiled back into the fold of blessing. Inside the world of love, the only world that’s real.
We have spent centuries practicing the story of our fallen world and our own sinful brokenness. This, more than any other error, has given us the twisted notion that the world is ours to break.
We need a better story and, luckily, we have one. It sits right beside the story of the broken world. It sits right inside our own bodies.
The story of love incarnate. Love in a body. Light, manifest in human form.
We are that Love, that Light. The evidence is built right into our nervous system, capable of self-regulating and re-balancing with the simplest tools: the inhale and the exhale. Also built right in, each of us carries a heart that knows how to beat, and knows how to love. We are empathic, connection-making friendship machines, born to cluster into circles of giving and receiving, of welcome and invitation. We already are the medicine we seek. What a miracle. What a marvel a human being is!
I will see the Barbie movie again. This time, I will go with my friend Judith who, currently in her 70s, is one of my great role models. She is brave. She is beautiful. A dancer, teacher, Kabbalah scholar she is nobody’s Barbie. We are going next Sunday. We will wear pink.
Then, I will go again, alone. Then, I will watch it when it starts streaming. I will memorize this movie until all the plastic inside of me melts away - until I, too, become real.
This is what I was made for - and viva the revolution!
Here’s how to build on what the Barbie Movie teaches:
Make of yourself a lineage of awakening. Retell your own story. See yourself inside the wave of grief and let it have you. And then, from inside that wave, radiate your light. Your love will be a lantern, a beacon, a lighthouse. It will call others to you. From inside the wave, light will gather and expand and reclaim the world for love.
You will find your own way. Here’s mine:
I teach what I am ready to learn.
Before I’m ready. Before I have it all polished and perfect. I show up.
(And here’s a little plug for my new School of Magic and Miracles!)
I tell the truth.
I didn’t always. I thought I was protecting myself, protecting you. Now I know that only truth protects us. I tell the truth, kindly, even when it’s hard.
I name what I see.
I didn’t always. I was afraid of the power. Afraid I’d lose credibility. Now, I know that naming what I see BUILDS my credibility.
I talk about real things.
With my husband, my sisters, my daughter and my son. I talk about real things with my friends. Even when it’s awkward and weird. I do this -we do this- because it’s medicine. We do this because it helps all of us feel and know that even in a world of plastic and pretending, we have an oasis where we can be real.
I study to the roots of things.
When something interests me I chase it to the root. I read everything I can find. I notice who my teachers cite as their teachers. I find their teachers. This builds lineage.
I ask for help.
When something troubles me I talk with a therapist. I call a coach. I do this because I am worthy of receiving support.
I support my body.
I do this because my body is my friend. I work with an acupuncturist, a healer and a massage therapist. They help me stay strong and fluid. They help me keep dancing.
I try new things.
All the time. When I don’t, I get stiff. I start to calcify, slow down and feel stuck. The cure for stuckness is: Try new things.
Move energy. Dance. Sing. Paint. Walk in a new landscape.
I break patterns.
For a living. For my clients. Also, I break my own outdated, unhelpful patterns knowing that new more supportive patterns will come.
I admit to my shortcomings (when I can see them)
and I try (really hard) not to hold yours against you.
I seek out genius
Scholar-writers, like Kelly Diels, who point to things I just don’t see. Gift-leader-guides like Liz Amaya-Fernandez, who opened my eyes to my own privilege (such a brave gift), who guides young people and new mothers to trust themselves.
I invite YOU
Reader, client, student - to tell me what you think. I listen to what you say. You have just as much wisdom as I do. I always want to hear it.
I find the teachers and visionaries who see the way I do
because fellowship helps me feel less alone - and less special - and this helps me trust that what I see is valid, helpful and life-affirming.
I read everything I can get my hands on.
Here are some powerhouses from my bookshelf. Each of these books changed the way I see and think and feel:
UnTamed, Glennon Doyle
Recovery: Freedom from our Addictions, Russell Brand
Women, Food and God, Geneen Roth
The Way of Integrity: Finding the Path to Your True Self, Martha Beck
I offer gratitude for all that I receive.
In that spirit, thank you for reading this far.
Thank you, Greta Gerwig, for this mind-bendingly PINK film.
And Thank you, Barbie, for everything.
Okay, that’s enough now.
Off I go, with great love.
I am so incredibly grateful.
Thank you for you.
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