Activity.Activity.How to punctuate a life

I recently enjoyed the film “A Man’s Story’, a documentary covering 12 years in the life of fashion designer Ozwald Boateng.  It covers highs and lows in his personal and professional life during that period.  His life is depicted as being full of continuous motion where he seems to have several projects on at any given time.  At one point he appears to be working in Paris and Los Angeles whilst living in London!  He certainly knows his passion and fashion seems to fuel him physically, emotionally and spiritually.  The problem is passion is not enough to encourage a balanced healthy life.

There are poignant moments in the film when he clearly desires an opportunity to stop and reflect but he is pulled, pushed, driven along by the commitments he’s made and something else deep inside.  It takes getting to the end of filming and watching himself on screen for him to reflect a little on his life during the 12 years of filming.  Hindsight often makes things clearer.

We may not have our own autobiographical projects but we also need to find ways to spend time reflecting and just being.  Constant activity is always about the next thing and does not allow for time to appreciate where we are now.

By stopping for breath we might also notice a conflict in what we say we value and how we actually spend our time.  I discuss this in my book An A-Z for your life; discovering and revealing who you are today.  Our values need to reflect the time we give to them.

 Weekends and holidays can be useful times to punctuate activity although these have become more action packed in recent years.  The counselling space is another place to stop, reflect and just be.  Sometimes painful experiences such as bereavement, illness or relationship breakdown force us to stop and see things differently.

How do you punctuate your life?  When do you take time out to reflect and just be?  I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Film: Inception

I very much enjoyed watching Inception recently. The concept of the film is very intriguing as it proposes that we can infiltrate peoples’ dreams with ideas and convince them that the ideas are theirs. When said out loud it is hard to believe that this is possible – surely we all know what is our idea and what ideas we have picked up form others, don’t we? I have to admit here that it is not always clear: many of our ideas and actions are influenced by several people.

This is why advertising works. When faced with a new idea, in the correct package, we embrace it and buy in to it.  In the past we may have been able to trace our purchase to a particular iconic advert – Nescafe, and Boddingtons come to mind, but we now consume so much media that we can’t always remember where or when were presented with an idea. Human nature is social and we want to build relationships and feel we belong.  Allowing other people to plant ideas in our minds can help that process.  We do need to share our ideas and have them grow and evolve.

Maybe the only thing to take from this is to monitor what we watch and listen to. If we surround ourselves with negative input and half-truths then that will affect our view of life negatively.  If we surround ourselves with hardworking, engaged and forgiving people then our life would be very different from the previous scenario.

Another aspect of the film was about what we store in our unconscious, and how that has an impact on what we project onto the world. So, we think our unconscious is fully hidden but sometimes our behaviours say what is really going on underneath.  But how do ideas get into our unconscious?  Well that has been built up over time and through our life’s experiences.

Having watched the film I feel very aware of how fragile our mental health can be – and proud that I allowed myself to trust the film and go on the journey. I did not know how it would end but was very relieved by the ending. (It was completely absorbing and I don’t think it was because I was on a flight.)

At one point it transpires that one of the leading women enjoyed regular trips of fantasy which eventually lead to her losing her grip on reality.  This is not entirely surprising.

The movie also demonstrates: standing by your word, taking a leap of faith, and doing your best to hold on to your family. These are great values that we can all respect whilst recognising the challenges therein.

Another theme being explored in the movie is that of being haunted by your spouse after they’ve died or, you could say, struggling to put to rest the memory of a beloved spouse. It seems a theme Leonardo Di Caprio is keen to explore as it also underlies his other recent movie Shutter Island. Again issues of reality and fantasy are explored and we come to the thought that what is real depends on our perspective?

Have you seen the film Inception and how did you get on with it?

Slumdog Millionaire

Slumdog Millionaire

This is the story of a young man from the slums of Mumbai who eventually gets onto a ‘Who want to be a millionaire’ show.  The film shows his journey from childhood to getting onto the programme and it shows us how and why he knows the answers to those prize winning questions.

I was very moved by the film and eventually allowed a few tears to slowly roll down my cheeks.  The emotional journey was predictable and surprising at the same time.  It’s such a big story told in colour and conveying a great sense of the noise, smells, chaos and energy of the location.    It gives the audience a sense of the hustling, and associated risks, required to get anywhere.  What I hadn’t anticipated was the way in which despite all that they have against them they are not free to be visible as they embarrass the authorities by their simple existence. 

The lead characters need to figure out how to fight the system yet remain invisible and unthreatening.  From the outside it seems that they need creativity, hard work and some luck to make it to adulthood.  From the inside it must be a battle of hope and motivation to see through their reality and encourage the constant struggle.  Without this it would be easy to be overwhelmed by their circumstances and giving up on hope.

Of course this is true all over the world and the bigger the gap between the ‘haves’ and ‘have-nots’ the more risks people will take to get their bit of the pie.   This reminds me of a famous rapper’s motto – “get rich or die trying”.  I now have a better understanding of why rappers (etc.) go on about where they come from because to become successful from such a start says a lot about determination, creativity and application of self.    

However our hero is not motivated by wealth or fame but love.  He met his love as a young man, recognised her as that, had the courage to seek her out when they lost touch, and then do what is necessary to secure their future.  He could not have done it without the help (and hindrance) of his brother.  In the end he loses a brother and gains a lover.   

In some ways it is a simple love story, boy meets girl, overcomes trials, they end up together and live happily ever after.  But the interesting characters, location, sense of hope over adversity, the juxtaposition of kindness and cruelty, presence of neglect and nurture makes it a captivating narrative that keeps you alert to everything on screen.  We in our ‘safe’ western environments need to absorb some of that ‘can do’ spirit when things are not perfect in our lives.  Like many of us, the hero does not look like a stereotypical hero, but action speaks louder than words and he walks the talk to make things happen. Encouraging, uplifting, informative, entertaining and a little sad.




Best film, best book, best theatre experience…

I don’t know about you but I struggle to have a best anything.  It’s not like desert island disks where participants are expected to choose a favourite for all eternity – imagined not real.  I like the fact that I can always find a new film etc that I really enjoy and don’t feel the need to rank them in any way.  I guess that might change in the future. I imagine it’s partly explained by the fact that I often see things after they’ve been around for a while.  I can never be bothered to do the latest thing just because it is the latest thing although occasionally it is fun to know what all the hype is about.

Live shows are different because you hesitate and they’re gone.  I remember missing the all-male swan lake to be confronted by review after review proclaiming its excellence.  Not a good one to miss.  Then again there was a lot of media attention around God of Carnage and I was disappointed by it – more slapstick than expected.  However Prince, Madonna and Kanye all lived up to their hype – brilliant!

In keeping with being just behind the curve I went to see The Dark Knight last night.  I thought it did very well to create Gotham city – not a very nice place.  But what was more interesting for me was to see how the characters responded to their environment, their experiences and the expectations of others. The story is at once complex and simple.  Human greed for power or money or status are all present.  An upstanding citizen behaves like a criminal and criminals demonstrate decency.   I’d love to see the script as there were lost of interesting psuedo philosophical lines in it.  It seems we can all justify anything we choose to do – good or bad.  In the film there was talk of the Gotham getting the hero it deserves (in Batman). [ I recently went to a discussion entitled ‘we get the press we deserve’ – for another time.] As his flaws become apparent he is no longer considered a hero but a guardian angel (?).  There is also an interesting aside between Batman and the joker when the joker deduces that they need and thrive off each other. Hmm. How does that speak to us and what heroes do we deserve in our world now?  Let me know what you think of any aspect of this and tell me about your favourites…