Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Little Monsters vs Fraidy Cats

The faces and names flash almost incessantly across iPad, iPod, and smart phone screen newsfeeds. Try and spend 5 minutes on cable or satellite TV without hearing one of them: Casey Anthony, Lady Gaga, Jaycee Dugard. On and on flash the stories and names that remind us we live in a fraidy cat world that is upside down.

Casey Anthony lost her way. We may never know how or to what end her wandering drove her. Jaycee Dugard lived a life that few people will live to tell about. Yet, she has emerged with grace and poise. Her resilience is as mesmerizing as is Ms. Anthony's apparent depravity. How do you explain the difference between the two young women?

One seems to have lived a life of relative privilege and made the news for a crime that may never be solved. The other survived decades of deprivation and torture at the mercy of two monsters, yet she shows every sign of making an effort to thrive as a productive member of society. Lady Gaga, the Madonna of her day, beckons to the disaffected and asks them to join in her movement of 'little monsters'. Instead of rolling their eyes and renouncing her art form as the highest level of kitsch, disaffected kids swarm to her in droves.

Courtesy Mad Penguin Creations
I think a lot about trends as I read and watch. One of Katie Couric's Today Show interviews from more than 5 years ago still haunts me. She had a panel of college-aged girls who explained the concept of 'friends with benefits'. I knew I was getting older when I no longer recognized 90% of the names in People Magazine. That interview gave me to know that I was not old. I was ancient. After the interview, I decided to do a bit of research. I watched a couple of seasons of Sex and the City. The young women in Katie's interview had opined that this one show had the most powerful effect of anything else in their lives. Huh? Oh my! I wondered, “What were their parents thinking at that news?” I set about to see for myself why this show could be so defining for a new generation barely older than my Son #1.

My heart broke that day and kept on breaking as the echo of their words weaved in and out of each episode. Yes, I admit. I saw the appeal of a tightly knit group of girlfriends who always had each others' backs. I saw the appeal of the clothes and the fancy New York lifestyle. I saw, also, the empty pursuit of nothing much higher than the pursuit of one's own amusement and fulfillment. I could see no life defining purpose beyond the end of one's own nose. It would have been easy to excuse the narrow, tunnel vision of the writers given the compressed nature of time on TV. It was easy, that is, unless you had seen Katie Couric's interview and understood the power of the media on fragile lives in the midst of the fragility of living life.

When I had that little dust up with the young couple in the grocery store parking lot a few weeks ago, I looked in that young woman's eyes. When she finally looked up to meet mine, that is. In that moment, I wondered, “Was Sarah Jessica Parker's character your role model, or was it one of the other ones? How well is that working out for you?”

As I write this blog, I sometimes have delusions of grandeur. I don't think it has risen to the level of psychosis. I'll check my shrink and get back to you. Ok...I'll check both of the ones I have on informal retainer as well as the therapist I see formally. Between the 3, I imagine they can come up with a reliable consensus. I told you I would take my mask off. So, I owe it to you to tell you the bare-faced truth.

Here goes:

I remember snippets of the show were Sarah's character was sitting at her typewriter opining about the world and how she fit into it. I sit here, and I think, “I want a world of little fraidy cats. Lady Gaga has her little monsters. Why can't I have my fraidy cats? A whole WORLD of them.” Yea, like I said, I'm pretty smitten with you guys-- like a teenager in love. Tonight, I want it more than anything because I am so acutely aware that no matter who you are, you are hurting and afraid of something. Even if you have your game face on all the time and never let anyone see you sweat, you are a fraidy cat at some point in your life.

Courtesy Mad Penguin Creations
You see, I know the same thing that drives Lady Ga-ga's little monsters to adopt her as their hero, mascot,and spokeswoman is, in reality, the same thing that has driven me to write my way back to God. It even drove me to invite you to come along for the journey. I was never more sure that I am surrounded by fraidy cats afraid to take off their masks than I am tonight. It doesn't matter if you are a little monster who was raised by atheistic anarchists that revile any suggestion of a creator God with a master plan, or if you are a fraidy cat who punches your attendance card every time the door of a church is open. The heart cries out to know: Why am I here? Who cares? Where do I fit? Where am I headed? Does anybody really know I'm here? In the end, will it have mattered anyway and, if so, to whom?

I am achingly, acutely aware of our mutual journey tonight because of news that has slipped upon me by surprise. I first heard it a few days ago, had a prayerful moment about the trauma of another family, and moved on to attend to my life. I have just put together all the pieces of news to realize this family is no a stranger to me after all. Not only that, this 12-year-old victim of suicide has shared a karate class with my son #2. He has ridden in my car. I have known his mom and 2 of his siblings since 1993. One of his older brother's was a former student in my mom's morning out K4 class. He is not a statistic or a face on the news. He is a living, breathing child who has lost all hope in the midst of this fraidy cat world. He did so despite living in a loving home with the sweetest, most conscientious parents I have been privileged to know. She left her medical career to be a mom. Their lives resonate with mine because they too have a child on the autistic spectrum, the older sibling of the child who lost all hope. I hope, I pray, it was an accident. I know the questions that fill my heart tonight. I can only imagine the ones that fill the hearts of this dear, sweet family. Even for folks of ardent faith, in this upside down, fraidy cat world, life can break your heart almost beyond repair.

In the quiet of my world tonight, these words whisper from the depths of my soul out into the expanse of the universe --

Psalm 61:2 (NIV)

"From the ends of the earth, I call to you; I call as my heart grows faint, lead me to the rock that is higher than I. From the end of the earth I cry unto thee, when my heart is overwhelmed: lead me to the rock that is higher than I"

If you know a fraidy cat who is hurting tonight, tell them you know a place where they can come in from the cold.  Come back tomorrow, and bring them with you. I'll be here if you will, ok?  Love you long. Love you strong.  

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