Where the Wild Things Are

(spoiler alert – if you haven’t seen the movie yet, I do discuss the ending)

I’ve never read the book – not as a child, not to my own children. But ever since the previews for Where the Wild Things Are began playing on TV, I’ve been strangely drawn to the movie. I finally went to see it this past Friday and it has stayed with me in a way that few movies do.

First of all, there’s no denying that Max, the unruly, imaginative, emotional little boy in the film reminded me of my own little wild child, Cameron. It’s not that Cameron was just like that or that our family life had the same dynamic. It’s more that, for me, Max’s adventure played up the hurts of childhood as felt by a child and touched that emotional chord in me that still feels my own son’s pain even now, more than five years after his death.

Max’s mother is, most of the time, sweetly loving and displays extreme patience – a skill I never mastered to any degree. She listens to Max’s hurts and helps him clean up his messes. Even when she’s stressed by work, she takes the time to really listen to Max, to encourage his imaginative storytelling rather than brushing him off. She is the mother I wish I would or could have been. The only time we see her snap is when Max begins acting out in front of her new boyfriend. While she seems to love Max unconditionally when they are alone, she’s embarrassed by what her company will think. This is more like the mother I was. How many times I felt that sinking what-will-the-neighbors-think feeling when Cameron acted out in ways that were out of control. Max’s out-of-control behavior escalates into a rage and culminates with him biting his mother then running away. Cameron’s rage took him much farther away from me, into the self-destruction of addiction and a land of no return.

In Max’s running away fantasy, he goes to an island where the wild things are. He meets larger-than-life characters who mirror his outer circumstances and his inner responses. There’s one who smashes things in anger, just like Max; there’s another who feels unheard and wonders if anyone even knows he’s there, just like Max; there’s a mushy couple always wanting to kiss each other, just like Max’s mother and her boyfriend; there’s one who took off and abandoned the others to be with her new friends, just like Max’s big sister. This imaginative inner landscape is just like Max’s life – except that here, Max gets to be king. He sets out to create a place where only good things happen. He learns that it is a much more difficult job than he imagined.

Eventually he realizes he must say goodbye to his wild anger and sadness. He chooses to leave the land of the wild things and return to his imperfect home. The reunion scene with his mother is touching and heartbreaking all at the same time. It is a poignant, wordless mix of relief, forgiveness, acceptance and love – a true homecoming in every sense. Oh, that every little boy could feel such love.

To me, the film is a beautiful depiction of what we must learn if we are to grow up. And what we must learn if we are to heal our own grief. We all sometimes travel to where the wild things are. We live in a messy world where bad things happen. We get hurt and scared and angry. And we must learn not to squash or kill all those crazy things we’re feeling, but to befriend them and to rule them benevolently. Ultimately we must learn that however big and real and hairy those feelings are, love is always stronger and love is always waiting to welcome us home.

“It’s all yours. You’re the owner of this world,” wild thing Carol tells Max. May we each learn to rule it wisely. May we each choose to return to love.

As always, I welcome your coments here or by email (Claire@DeepWaterLeafSociety.com)

Visit my website: http://www.deepwaterleafsociety.com/

A Prickly Kind of Love

I’ve been wanting to write about this ever since Mother’s Day a few weeks back, when my brother brought me a very unusual gift.

I’d spent a couple of hours with my Mom that afternoon and apparently had just missed seeing my brother there. We’d probably crossed paths on the road, as I later learned that he’d headed to my house when he left Mom’s. I was surprised when I got home and my husband said, “Your brother was here. He brought you a Mother’s Day present. It’s on the back patio.”

Why would my brother bring me a Mother’s Day present? It became a little clearer when I saw what it was.

This Prickly Pear cactus had started as a volunteer in his yard a couple of years ago and he’d had it in a pot for a while. His wife reminded him that I see and find hearts everywhere and told him he ought to give this cactus to me. A perfect gift for Mother’s Day, as most of the hearts I find I attribute to my son Cameron – little love notes from the other side. So maybe it was a gift from my brother or maybe he was just the delivery boy. The Universe works in mysterious ways.

When I think of my relationship with Cameron before his death, the prickly nature of this particular heart seems quite appropriate. There was nothing soft and gentle about our love for each other in this lifetime. It was dysfunctional, co-dependent, fear-based, manipulative and controlling. It was not a soft and gentle love, but it was love.

This prickly little heart has gotten my mind to working on the whole concept of love. What it is. What it isn’t. It’s been one of the mysteries I came here to solve for myself this time around, I think. I’ve so often heard that fear is the opposite of love. That always puzzled me.

The fear/love dichotomy is one of the questions I tried to sort out after Cameron’s death in my journaling and in my book, The Deep Water Leaf Society. My love for Cameron was deeply rooted in and expressed as fear most of the time. But if fear is the opposite of love, then did I have it all wrong? Did I ever truly love him? But if I didn’t love him, then why would I have feared for him so deeply?

At the culmination of my healing journey in a profoundly moving and transformative experience in Egypt, the goddess Sekhmet instilled in me a visceral knowing that Love is the only power. I can feel the truth of that in my gut and in my heart, but when my mind tries to grasp it I find all kinds of paradox and evidence to the contrary. I see so many things in this world that sure don’t look like Love. I see all kinds of things in me that sure don’t look like Love.

I was talking to a friend recently about how most of the care I provide for my mother feels like responsibility rather than love. How I get impatient and go through the motions without really connecting much of the time. I wrote a piece some time ago (you can read it here) about one of my mother’s hospitalizations and my thoughts around the fear of death and dying. In that essay I wrote, “I’ve learned to ask myself, ‘What would love do? What is the loving response?’ The answer isn’t always clear.”

In talking this out with my friend, I said, “Most of the time I haven’t a clue what love would do, what it would look like in any given situation.” My friend wisely pointed out that just because I don’t feel loving as I do the things I do doesn’t mean that what I’m doing isn’t, indeed, the loving thing. I came to the conclusion that rather than asking what love would do, I should just invite Love to flow through me and do what it knows to do. The freedom in that is that I don’t have to figure it out. All I have to do is be available and open for the One Power to do its work.

I’ve just finished reading Neale Donald Walsch’s new book, When Everything Changes, Change Everything. Walsch talks about fear and love quite a bit in this book and he has a refreshing take on it. It helps to clear things up for me. Rather than saying that fear is the opposite of Love, he says that “fear is a demonstration of Love.” As if to echo my own thoughts, Walsch writes, “If you did not love another, you would not fear for another, or be afraid of what might happen to that other, because you would not care what happened.”

Walsch asserts that “fear and Love are the same thing, expressed differently. Likewise, every other emotion is Love in another form. There is only one emotion. That emotion is Love, expressed in a thousand different ways.”

If Love is the only power, and I believe that it is, then despite any appearance to the contrary everything I see in the world must be an expression of that Love. Perhaps it is as don Miguel Ruiz says in The Voice of Knowledge. Perhaps humanity’s “fall” was our disconnection from knowing that everything is Love and our buying into false perceptions and judgments of things as good and bad, pretty and ugly, right and wrong. Perhaps we create expressions of fear and anger – sharp, twisted expressions of love – because we’ve closed ourselves off from the Source. Love still finds its way through, but it is shaped and molded by the restrictions and limitations we imagine within ourselves.

And so, like this little heart-shaped cactus, what I can do is vow to let Love express through me, even though I may be an imperfect vessel for its expression. I can try to release those things that block Love’s flow, including all those judgments and perceptions about myself and others. I can choose to recognize and welcome Love in all of its thousands of prickly forms in the world around me.

As always, I welcome your coments here or by email (Claire@DeepWaterLeafSociety.com)

Visit my website: http://www.deepwaterleafsociety.com/