December is "Best of" Month - Introduction
A kinder, gentler Belle
I was watching When a Man Loves A Woman the other day. The movie stars Meg Ryan as an alcoholic and Andy Garcia as her enabling husband. There was a scene where Ryan hits bottom and confesses to Garcia that she needs and is prepared to get help. She's scared. And Garcia looks at her lovingly and says something supportive along the lines of, "I love you, we'll get through this." And I started crying. Not because it was a touching scene - though it was. But because Garcia was kind in a situation where I would have been mean. I wondered why he wasn't screaming and yelling at her, "It's about time. Look at what you did to the kids. Look at what you've done to us. Not to mention what the neighbors think!" Because that's what I would have said.
My family's emotional response of first choice has always been anger. Things in our house were either peaceful or explosive. I don't remember there being anything in-between. I noticed this habit in myself early in my 20s, when my acting teachers would push me to reach for something else - sadness, vulnerability, charm, anything - before exploding into anger at the first turn of a scene. Audiences pay money to see truthful human behavior, all of it, not just anger; and with anger specifically, audiences (read, people in general) have a low tolerance. There's only so much of it they can be subjected to before they tune out. I inherited my family’s nasty habit of jumping first and quickly to anger, and it has stopped me from living my life. It has turned a lot of opportunities and people away from me, shielded me not only from the things I don't want, but also from things I do want.
So when Andy Garcia reacted to Meg Ryan not with anger, but with gentleness and support, I cried for the person I yearn to be - a kinder, gentler Belle. Someone who isn't so consumed by fear that she only knows how to push people away with her yelling and screaming and accusations.
My name is Belle, and I have anger management issues.
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