I love this lesson.
Brown talks about the drawbacks of being cool, that cool is a straight jacket we imprison ourselves in. She talks about how she didn’t include the chapter on laughter, song, and dance in the first draft of The Gifts of Imperfection because she thought it didn’t seem deep enough, and then her assistant pointed out that the data that said those things were important was all over her research, and that she wasn’t including them because she thought they weren’t cool.
And that made me remember a tiny moment from my life that has stuck with me for thirty years because it was so important. I was an art teacher, and I’d gone out to eat with the other art teachers in my system, nice women all of them. We liked each other, we had a good time together, it was a fun lunch. And as we went out the door into the sunlight, somebody said something and I laughed, loudly, and one of the other women said, “Jenny!” in this scandalized voice because I’d been so loud. And I stopped for a second, ashamed of myself. In that same moment, a guy was going into the restaurant, and he didn’t stop, but in the second after she said, “Jenny!” he said, “God, I wish I could still laugh like that.” And in that same second, I had to choose which one I was going to say “yes” to.
Needless to say, I said yes to the guy.
Since then, whenever I’ve thought, “Don’t do that, people are watching, be careful what you say, don’t lose your cool,” I’ve thought of that guy and remembered that I don’t HAVE any cool. My lack of cool is why I’m a terrible but enthusiastic dancer, why I’m an awful but loud singer, why I write romance novels and don’t really care what the NYT thinks, why I’m going to be an embarrassment to my grandchildren the same way I’ve been an embarrassment to my daughter. The whole world thinks I’m not cool? The whole world is right. This is my life, I’m not going to waste it being quiet and dignified.
So when Brown’s chapter 9 was on laughter, song, and dance, I was with her from the first line. Then she gave us the journal assignment, and I laughed and e-mailed Lani and Krissie:
Okay, we haven’t really been doing this together because we’ve all been so busy and the Krissie freaked us the fuck out, but this week’s lesson is so us that I think we should do it together. We’re supposed to make a soundtrack for our lives with five songs:
1. A song that lifts you up
2. A song that makes you dance
3. A song that makes you sing along
4. A song for tough times
5. A feisty, ass-kicker song to inspire you.
I’m not sure what mine are yet, but I really want to know what yours are.
It was tougher than I thought at first because all of the songs I love make me sing and dance and lift me up. Roseanne Cash, Dusty Springfield, Sam Cooke, John Hiatt, Eric Clapton, Sara Bareilles, Dixie Chicks, the Drifters, Johnny Cash, Brad Paisley . . . how can you NOT sing and dance to these people? So I made a tentative list, and then I actually played songs, thinking about what they’re supposed to do, and eventually I ended up with this:
1. Rise-up: Scarbury: “Theme to The Greatest American Hero” (Yeah, I couldn’t believe this one, either, but there it is. As I believe I mentioned, I’m not cool.)
2. Dance: Clapton: “I’ve Got A Rock and Roll Heart” (How can you not dance? I mean, REALLY?)
3. Sing-along: Blue Swede: “Hooked On A Feeling” (and thank you, Guardians of the Galaxy for the “ooga chaka” that will now always make me sing out loud)
4. Tough Times: Hiatt: “Child of the Wild Blue Yonder” (Because this one reminds me that I’m Jenny Goddamn Crusie and I can do anything)
5. Ass-kicker: Benatar: “Hit Me With Your Best Shot” (So obvious once I played it; I’d had Cee Lo in this spot, but I’m really not a “Fuck You” kind of person even though I love that song, I’m much more of a try-it-and-die kind of woman.)
We were supposed to illustrate our song list, but I went back to find a picture I’d used in a collage earlier and thought, “You know, I like most of that collage,” so I recycled a lot of the original:
The other half of the assignment was to design our album cover, which was actually kind of tough because those songs? They don’t really go together well enough for a theme. So I decided the theme must be me. (Because it’s ALL ABOUT ME.) So I hit Photo Booth and took pictures of myself singing along using different filters. I have never in my life had so many pictures where I was naturally smiling. Here’s the result with a photo-bombing Frumpy Bunny:
And here’s Lani’s:
Krissie is swamped this week, plus the first list she sent had ten songs on it, so she’ll probably do hers in a different post.
The Dig Deep was to identify shame gremlins, and because I wasn’t paying attention, I put mine on the wrong page, but I feel no shame. Also, they’re not that interesting because they’re my basic toxic messages which, thanks to these two courses, I’ve pretty much nailed to the wall most of the time:
“You look stupid.”
“People are laughing at you.”
“The neighbors will think you’re not right.”
“You can’t sing.”
“You’re not good at that.”
I wrote them on a page next to a scowling Frumpy Bunny, so I put a sign in his hands that said (in homage to Krissie): “Not my shame, not my gremlins.” So that took care of them.
Your turn: What’s your playlist?