What do a Gingerbread House, Footloose, and the Last Jedi have in common?

It’s a strange feeling when faced with evidence that contradicts how you [prefer to] perceive yourself.
I consider myself to be flexible and go-with-the-flow and while I embody that a lot of the time, I can also be inflexible and cling rigidly to my ideas about how things “should” be.
I’ve been thinking a lot about my beliefs and opinions this past week. This past week, a gingerbread house, Footloose, and the Last Jedi all showed me how fixed I can be in my thinking.
How come I can be flexible if we miss an exit on the highway, or if someone is running late to meet me, if we need to find a creative idea at work etc. Yet in other situations I feel a constriction inside my chest when I face new ideas from others, even my own children?  I certainly don’t want to be an obstacle to my kids’ or anyone else’s creativity and confidence in coming up with their own ideas.
Exhibit A (gingerbread house) – on Wednesday afternoon I was making our third (and final) gingerbread house with my 5 year old. I love decorating gingerbread houses and have such fond memories of doing so as a child! After taking a backseat role in the construction of the first two gingerbread houses, I saw my desire for control creep into the building of the third house. I had an idea to spread icing in the “backyard” of the gingerbread house and put green candies on it like a yard (I noticed how much I enjoy symmetry when decorating and creating patterns with the candy.) I’d spread icing on half of the backyard when my 5 year old swooped in with some tiny gingerbread icing people, laid them down and said they were “makin’ snow angels!” There was one split second where I felt myself clench up thinking to myself “Nooo, I was making a backyard!” and I observed that internal reaction and realized how attached I’d gotten to my own idea. Her idea was awesome and creative.  She was so cute and delighted to place the g-people on the icing. We had a ton of these little icing gingerbread men [I’d ordered on Amazon] and they did look adorable making snow angels in our icing snow.  In that moment, I chose to respond with openness and said “Wow, honey! What a great idea!”  I really meant it!  It was a great idea. It was fun and whimsical! My whole intention was to have fun and make happy memories in the process of decorating these gingerbread houses.  I felt how close I was to ruining it by clinging to my plan for a green candy backyard.
Little ginger-people making snow angels. Look how happy they are? Notice my symmetrical color pattern of holiday “lights” on the edges of the roof. Who knew I had this inner control freak?
Exhibit B (The Last Jedi) – I saw the Last Jedi this past Sunday.  I loved it because I’m a super Star Wars fan and enjoy that imaginary world so much. Hans Solo was my first crush. I dressed up like Princess Leia playing pretend with my brother when we were kids. I have a Chewbacca keychain. My lovely friends gave me a beautiful scarf for my birthday recently with secret printed R2D2s on the fabric. You get the point! After reflecting on the movie, I became quite incensed by some choices that director Rian Johnson made with the story and the characters. I hadn’t been that fired up about the franchise since refusing to see the Hayden Christensen trilogy (Episodes I-III) for over a decade in protest of him playing Anakin Skywalker.  I don’t want to share spoilers with anyone about the Last Jedi. However, I went on a rant to my husband the night after about some of the jokes, sub-plots, and lines that were written for certain characters – taking issue with many of them.  That said, I also loved other pieces of the movie.  Although I felt “right” in my criticism and super smug about it, I experienced some low feelings in the days to follow wondering if I was clinging too tightly to my own vision of Star Wars “should” be.  There are millions of fans out there aside from myself (not all who will agree on anything either) so who am I to get all pissed off about Rian Johnson’s choices? Where else in my life am I clinging too tightly to things, ideas, or old beliefs?
Exhibit C (Footloose) – this is an oldie but it came to mind during my self-reflection about the Last Jedi.  The Footloose remake came out in 2011 starring Julianne Hough and some other guy named Kenny Wormald.  I was SO PISSED that Hollywood remade Footloose. “It is a classic! It cannot be redone” I said to anyone who would listen (or who was stuck listening to me say that). “Kevin Bacon is king!” I still haven’t seen the movie. I was also angered this past year to hear that Hollywood would be remaking the 1987 movie Overboard starring Kurt Russell and Goldie Hawn (which I recognize does have some problematic story elements that would not work nowadays). After a quick Google search, I see the remake is coming out next year starring Eva Longoria and Anna Faris. Maybe it will be funny!  Maybe it won’t!  Another piece of info from my googling the Overboard remake is that they are reversing the roles of the man and women. Hmm. Maybe I will see it as a curiosity excursion and alternative option to my ranting about movie remakes I never actually see because I am stubbornly clinging to my criticism.  [Just for the record, I have no issue with the 2016 remake of Ghostbusters and still want to see the all-female version directed by Paul Feig!  Since having kids, I lag way behind seeing movies in a timely manner.]
I want to open my mind more consistently to people remaking things from the past, accepting others’ ideas more readily, even in what may seem like the smallest moments. Taking improv classes is also helping me with this intention.  I’d sincerely like to change my current trajectory which is heading towards crotchety older woman who rants about how “everything was perfect as it was when I was young!”  What if my kids want to go to the movies with me 10-15 years from now (fingers crossed) and I start yelling about the latest reboot of let’s say The Big Lebowski and become indignant like “how dare they remake that movie?”   I imagine the effect would be that I’d bring the mood down and disconnect myself from my children in that moment. What if I choose openness and curiosity instead?  Fast forward to this imaginary conversation in 10-15 years: “Wow, so they’re remaking The Big Lebowski! What was one of my favorite movies when I was in college. I’m so curious to see how it comes out. Who’s that actor/actress playing the Dude’s role? I don’t recognize them. Oh wow, a robot? How ingenious!”
My kids are growing up way too fast. I am growing older. My friends are growing older. My parents are growing older. My grandmother is growing older (she’s amazing at 96!). Yes, this is part of life. On a rational level, I know that time marches on! Yet I’ve noticed a resistance and an undercurrent of struggle with change recently.  Last month, I cried in the car on the way back from visiting my 96-year old grandmother at her apartment just because it hit me that time is passing.  I’ve also been known to cry sometimes on my kids’ birthdays for the same reason. Is my struggle manifesting in odd ways such as my getting so cranky about movies? And feeling controlling about symmetrical candy-backyards for my kids’ gingerbread house?
Of course, I could have bought my own gingerbread house kit and decorated it to my liking and gotten all obsessive over it.  I probably would have enjoyed the process!
Fa La La La La! Check out my perfect dream g-bread house with powdered sugar chimney smoke, ya’ll!
However, I may have missed the lesson and opportunity to take a look at what was really going on for me underneath.
While I am someone who often likes to change it up and experience variety, I also have a hard time in certain situations accepting that life, my loved ones, the world, and I are constantly changing.  Sometimes I embrace change and other times I resist it. I’m learning that sometimes sticking to our beliefs can serve us well and empower us. Other times, old beliefs or patterns may not serve us, our relationships, or what we are trying to create in our lives.
This holiday season, my intention is to be present. Only then will I set myself up to choose openness. I almost wrote “extra present” or “super present” but I believe that in regards to being present, you either are or you aren’t. It feels true to me right now so I’m going with it.
Maybe the only constant is that now is the only moment we have…
The only moment that matters…
The only moment where we are in control of how we want to show up…
Creating the kind of impact we are aiming for.
Wishing all of you joy, peace, your favorite things, quality time with loved ones, laughs, and a bit of magic over the holidays and into 2018!
What do you want to create?