my journey with truth

Archive for September 2010

So I was watching the Disney channel the other night (judge all you want, I’m not ashamed).  Sometimes I’m shocked in my adult-ness by childhood reminders to tell the truth.  They’re usually obvious, simple, funny and through these qualities become compelling.  I think the appreciation for this simplicity and humor only becomes more acute with age, and somehow what’s meant for a kid becomes more affective/effective as an adult.  No, I’m not thinking of that most famous of famous-yet-made-up stories about truth, George Washington, and a cherry tree.  I’m thinking of the classic Disney full-length animated feature released in November of 1992, Aladdin.

I remember vividly the first time I saw Aladdin.  My family went for my sister’s birthday – she had a few friends from school come along, and I got to sit with them, too, even though I was 4 years younger, a fact that usually makes all the difference in the world to a brand new 11-year-old carving out her identity with friends in a new place/school.  Just to be honest on a tangent with you real quick, I will always be grateful for my sister’s treatment of me in our childhood.  (Our teenage years were a little more strained, but we have moved away from arguing over hair-ties since then).  She had such faith and trust in me as my own person, allowing me to be a part of her world and not just a younger sibling who was not as old and therefore not good enough for her, her time, her friends.  She believed in me and cared for me.  She tried to teach me Algebra when I was in the 4th grade, partly because she was so excited as an 8th grader to grasp the  “if 2X+5=9  then X=2” concept and partly because she thought, though I was 4 years younger, that I could handle it.  I couldn’t and we both ended up tearing out some of our hair that night, but it sticks with me as a touching example of her confidence in me.

Anyway, Aladdin.  So, if you don’t know the plot, we probably can’t be friends.  But I’ll uber-recap in order to get on with things: street-rat Aladdin and Princess Jasmine meet in the market after she runs away, blah blah, they almost smooch because it’s clear they’re meant to be, blah blah, Jasmine is told that the boy in the market was punished with “DEATH… by beheading” (I guess Jafar – the bad guy – has to clarify the beheading part to make it super irreversible?), Aladdin finds the lamp, Genie says he can’t make anybody fall in love with anybody else so Aladdin wishes to become a prince (by law, the only class of people who can marry the princess), Jasmine asserts she is not some prize to be won (while prancing around in what my mom would definitely call a “titty top”) after this “Prince Ali Ababwa” (ohmygoshit’sactuallyAladdin) rolls into town to seek her hand in marriage.  Forlorn about his first impression as a prince in front of J., A. paces around outside the palace where he and Genie end up having a little heart-to-heart.  We now pick up with the official script:

ALADDIN:    What am I going to do?  Jasmine won't even let me
        talk to her.  I should have known I couldn't pull
        off this stupid prince wish.  (ABU struggles with
        his elephant paws to open a banana.  He squishes
        it, and the banana squirts into his eye.  He then
        tosses the banana peel into a heaping pile of the
        same.)
GENIE:  (to carpet, playing chess) So move!  (CARPET does,
        knocking a black piece off the board.)  Hey.
        That's a good move.  (As Rodney Dangerfield) I
        can't believe it--I'm losing to a rug.
ALADDIN:    Genie, I need help.
GENIE:  (as Jack Nicholson) All right, sparky, here's the
        deal.  You wanna court the little lady, you gotta
        be a straight shooter, do ya follow me?
ALADDIN:    What?
GENIE:  (Back to normal, wearing a mortarboard. He points
        out his words on a blackboard)  Tell her
        the...TRUTH!!!

To which Aladdin replies, “No Way!  If Jasmine found out I was really some crummy street rat, she’d laugh at me.”  Genie gives it one more shot, saying Aladdin really ought to be himself (echoed later in the form of a bee saying “Beeeee yourself.”  Remember, I said this kid truth stuff is humorous).  There are 2 ironies in all of this that were striking to me this billionth time around viewing the film.  Obvious, and yet acute in adulthood, Aladdin is so worried about what someone else might think of him that he completely changes his identity, to his great detriment.  The very thing he desires most is hampered by his life-lie.  All Jasmine wants is to find that boy from the marketplace, the one who was more extraordinary than any prince with 75 golden camels and purple peacocks (of which Ali Ababwa has 53).

And now for ironic realization #2: Aladdin is so worried about not being seen as some street-rat to be laughed at that he wastes a wish on becoming a prince despite having sung his self-assertion no more than 10 minutes into the film.  After being condescended to by a prince who calls him worthless, Aladdin walks away singing “Riffraff, street-rat/ I don’t buy that./ If only they’d look closer./ No siree, they’d find out/ there’s so much more to me.”  It’s true!  He’s clever, charitable, fair (keeping his promise to use his last wish to set the Genie free).  The movie even tries to clue us into this even more, since for Aladdin to have claimed the lamp from the Cave of Wonders in the first place he had to be “one whose worth lies far within, a diamond in the rough.”

I’ve seen this movie (seriously) at least 200 times.  It came out while I was still entranced by Disney’s films, I was a consistent babysitter through middle and high school, and as I’ve mentioned I currently watch the Disney channel.  This was the first time I have ever felt this sad for Aladdin.  As a kid I understood the tension of Jasmine thinking the market-boy was dead, yet there he is in front of her offering a magic carpet ride.  I could be frustrated, thinking “Come ON, Aladdin.  She’s SICK of princes, you dum-dum, and she thinks you’re dead.  Like Genie said, TELL HER THE TRUTH!”  But this was the first time I have ever felt this sad.  How had he gone from knowing there is so much more to him than anyone on the street can tell to denying his core identity in pursuit of love?  It was heartbreaking.  Gilding a diamond in the rough is nonsensical.  It becomes not just garish but grotesque.

There’s so much more to me than meets the eye, than what anyone can assume.  I have worth which lies far within.  ‘Bee’ yourself.  These are the truths which Disney once tried to help kids internalize.  As an adult, I think I’m starting to not only get some of the jokes that once went over my head, but to get the truth that once went over my head as well.

Today I cried and cried during church and after.  I cried during prayers, I cried during the Affirmation of Faith, I cried singing, I cried receiving communion, I cried in my car.

I was visiting Reconciliation UMC for a school project.

It was also my first time worshipping on a Sunday since coming back to school.  Yeah, I know.  I go to seminary.  There must be something wrong with me.  There have been a couple Sundays I tried and just… couldn’t.

I clapped (enthusiastically!) more than I probably ever have in a worship service.

Is it possible to feel embraced and lonely at the same time?

Dear Beatrice,
Sorry I haven’t written in a long time.  I need to update my favorites.  The only difference is that instead of Blake Cash being my favorite guy, Ian Witherspoon as my favorite guy.  He has longish (sort of) brown hair with the most beautiful blue
eyes I have ever seen.  He has braces and the best smile.  The only problem is he likes Sarah, I think.  He asked her to dance with him at the sock hop/cotillion.  Today I went bowling instead of P.E. and Connections.  This Sunday is Super Bowl XXXI.  Greenbay is playing the Patriots.  I guess that’s all I have to say for now.  I ❤ IAN WITHERSPOON!!!!

See Ya,
Lizzie

I ❤ I.W.

Oh right.  I think I remember Ian Witherspoon.  He was sort of medium-cute…

J/K!  I TOTALLY remember Ian Witherspoon.  Though I only really saw him at the monthly cotillion dances, I was pretty smitten by his blue (why underline that adjective?) eyes, and the fact that he was super nice, not that distant or impersonal, more-like-tolerant kind of nice.  Plus, I think I remember he laughed a lot at my jokes (and if you know me at all, you know how much laughing at my jokes can totally transform my esteem for a person).

And I think I liked the idea that if we ended up getting married, I could keep my initials.  I guess it’s ok we didn’t end up together since I’m probably keeping my name.  No need to keep Ian around to keep my initials.

Dear Beatrice,                                             Jan. 9, 1997
I’ve decided that not only do I like Blake Cash, but I kind of like Brett Hairston.  He’s medium cute, funny, average smarts, and popular.  He’s really nice to everyone.  I’m going to go watch a movie now.

Bye,
Lizzie

AHHHHHHHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAAAAAAAHAHAAAAAHAHAHA – “medium cute.”

I took ballet as a child from Ms. Bobbie at the Comfort Hermann Sons Dance School.  Believe it or not, Ms. Bobbie still runs the whole show (see this flier, bottom right corner).  Either she’s ancient or she was succeeded by another Ms. Bobbie.  Either way, I’m kind of not shocked.

I was a very meticulous 5 year old in ballet.  My mom always says I looked so serious because I was concentrating on getting everything right, but then, I got everything right.  That was a time in my life when I felt good about my body.  Even as a little girl, I knew I was a little bit bigger than the other girls in my class, but I was good at ballet.  I could do all the moves.  I was a little hesitant when we did “gymnastics” (somersaults and cartwheels) at the end of each class, but otherwise, I felt just right.  My body felt just right.  My body was technically the best in the class.  And my body looked amazing in those recital outfits.  My body was transformed into a princess’s body.  The shirt I’m wearing below used to be my cover-up shirt – that’s the one you wear over your black leotard and pink tights before and after class.  It used to go down to my knees.  I also used to fit on playgrounds.

We moved from Comfort when I was 7.  I never really got back into dance after that move.  I had also been playing tee ball before the move (only girl on my team and a slugger of sorts), and should have moved up to softball the next year.  But we moved.  And I never really got back into a sport after that, either.  All the kids in my new neighborhood swam (I cheered the Forest Oaks Frogs at many a meet) and it seemed like you needed to have been swimming for years to keep up – next to no one even had a pool in Comfort, TX.  The active things that had made my body capable or even a little talented were gone, so all I was left with was the part where I remembered and saw my body as bigger.  And soon that came to mean it was incapable and untalented.  It was just big.

Nearly 20 years later, enter Ninth Street Dance Studio.

“Ninth Street Dance opened its doors in 1993 with the belief that people of all ages, shapes and sizes can enjoy and benefit from learning to dance. Not a studio for professional dancers, we invite anyone who would like to explore new ways of moving and inhabiting their bodies to join us. We strive to provide a nurturing, non-threatening environment in which beginners as well as experienced dancers/movers can enjoy their favorite movement styles or try out a wide variety of new ones.”

I take beginner ballet on Thursdays with Raina and Saturdays with Danielle.  For 60 short minutes twice a week, I feel long and graceful.  Even when I look in the mirror and remember I’m short and wide, I see my arms and my legs doing the right thing, and I’m still graceful.  Grace-full, I should say.  For 60 short minutes twice a week, I gracefully give my body a little slack for being short and wide.  It doesn’t have to be anything other than what it already is.  Even short and wide my body is able to turn my feet out into 1st position, my arms curve well and not stiffly en bas or in 5th position (don’t forget to keep your shoulders down).  For 60 short minutes twice a week, I love my body for knowing how to move rhythmically, keeping time without thinking about it – it’s just something it knows how to do, even if it is short and wide.

I am not a ballerina.  That is the harsh truth.  I have terrible flexibility – you can see it in my demi-plié, which is shallow (if I try to dip just a little bit farther, keeping my pelvis tucked under and not sticking out my butt, that means my heels have to try desperately to stay grounded so as not to cross over into grand-plié in 1st position) but maintains good form.  My feet don’t curve as much as I’d like them to for that beautiful shape ballerinas make in tendu or dégagé, but they curve and my big toe just touches and I strain to keep my turnout, imagining my ankles being pulled forward (as Raina reminds me).

I am not a ballerina.  But for 60 short minutes twice a week, my short, wide body is long and grace-full.

Dear Beatrice,
Wuz [up arrow]?  Sorry I didn’t write yesterday.  Here’s the scoop on school.  Monday was really, really good.  In science, Mr. Beam had shaved over the holiday to just a moustache.  He told everyone that he’s planning on growing the goti [sic] back.  In band, we basically reviewed.  In Pre-Algebra, *Blake was really nice to me.  We cleaned out our notebooks.  In L.A. [language arts] we went to the library.  Today Mrs. Tucker was absent and we started our study of the Middle Ages.  Today was the first day of P.E.  It was pretty good.  We didn’t do much.  In Connections, we cleaned out our note book.  In language arts we worked on posters and took a practice test.  I think Softie is over his cold.  I’ll have to show you a picture of *C.B. sometime!  He’s really cute.  He wasn’t quite so conceded [sic] Mon.  He got a haircut over the holiday and his braces are Red & green.
Later,
Lizzie

I don’t really have much to say about this entry.  I’ll let the progression/reality of Monday was really, really good – My science teacher shaved – We didn’t do much in P.E. – My cat is over his cold stand alone.

A long time ago, I lied to my Aunt Judy.

I thought I was doing something right in one sense, that it would save my life, in fact.  But in the end, it was an incredibly destructive lie.

I was about 7 years old.  And I told Aunt Judy that I couldn’t spend the night at her house because my mom said so.  It was just like what you had to say to friends who invite you over sometimes, it made sense to me.  Also, it was as simple as this: Mom’s word is final in all things (right?) so if I tell Aunt Judy that Mom said so, there is no room for argument.

Here’s the thing – Aunt Judy believed me.  And the other thing is that my mom never said I couldn’t go over to Aunt Judy’s house.  And beyond that, the problem is that my Aunt Judy and my mom have had relationship rifts in their lives, like sisters do, and without being an expert on their relationship (only they are) I am still pretty sure that my lie aggravated some of those rifts.  I did damage that day.  All on my own with my (big) little lie.

You see, Aunt Judy smoked.*  And I had seen all the films at school that documented the damage that happens to your lungs, turning them black like tar, giving you cancer, sometimes making your gums and tongue basically rot.  It was the high age of public service announcements and public health initiatives regarding second-hand smoke as well, and I got a full education between public school and the Public Broadcasting Service after-school programming.  I was absolutely convinced, sure to my core, certain in my heart of hearts that spending time at Aunt Judy’s house was going to kill me.

I’m not kidding.  I held my breath around her for as long as I could when she had a lit cigarette, taking in as few breaths as possible.  I would fret during the nights leading up to planned overnight visits, losing sleep in anticipation of losing my life.  I would sometimes even build myself up to have ‘the talk’ with Aunt Judy.  Instead of the wise and experienced adult explaining the birds and the bees, it would be the passionate and panicked child explaining the smoke and the sudden death.  But I never did have the talk with her for real.  The few times I brought up quitting, she quickly dismissed them.  I drew on facts and figures regarding her healthful prospects, but she would talk around them, assert her autonomy of choice mostly from what I recall.  I never just told her the truth.  I never said, “Aunt Judy, when you smoke, you’re killing me.”  Which, seven years old and weighed down with anxiety, was true in more than one way.

Instead, I lied – I said, “My mom won’t let me sleep over at your house.”  And even though my older sister (who may have had even deeper fears and anxieties in our childhood) and I spent many more nights over at Aunt Judy’s, she has always held onto that lie I gave her.  I can’t blame her for holding onto it, not only because I was the perpetrator of the lie.  Laying down a mother’s law like that was a much bigger deal than I understood at the time.

I never just told her the truth, though it’s true that smoking and second-hand smoke is bad.  It’s true your lungs really do turn black like tar, lung cancer is fast and furious in its destruction, and your mouth and all that is in it comprises the front line in a terrible war.  The truth really is that smoking is bad, and it will rapidly accelerate your death.  That is all truth.  And the truth was that I didn’t want to go over to Aunt Judy’s house.

Instead of telling the truth, I lied.  Ironically, that lie has worked its way into my familial ties like a cancer.

*I should say that my Aunt Judy gave up smoking a couple years ago.  While it’s exciting that I don’t ever hold my breath at Aunt Judy’s house anymore, it’s way more exciting that she has chosen this other life.  Also, the picture below is my mom and my Aunt Judy bonding over ebay.



  • None
  • myjourneywithtruth: i had it in my office at my internship in Corpus Christi two summers ago. ellen davis is brilliant and glows with an aura of holy.
  • amy h: i love this quote. i think i may need it hanging on my wall where i'll see it daily. perhaps in front of the toilet? by the door? bedside table? i'll
  • chaz: That post made me really sad too. Mostly because I want to take young Lizzie by the shoulders and shake her (gently?) into sublime realization that sh

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