Shame, Mr. Rogers, and a Wee Bit O’Cream
I’m starting a weekly lullaby feature on my Facebook and Instagram. If there’s a lullaby you’d like to hear, let me know! So far, I’ve done this Mr. Rogers tune and this one on a classic. It makes me happy. I hope it makes you happy too.
This August, I'll be driving out from LA to Minneapolis and back again as part of my friend’s theater show. I’ve managed to wrangle a few of my own shows along the way, but if you happen to have any suggestions or would like me to try to swing by to say hello, let me know! Announcements of the particular when, what and where in the near future….
There’s a brand new interview about my album "The Many Lives of Mockingbird" with Bruce Dennill of pARTicipate magazine. You can read it here.
I started writing this blog, as you’ll see, on St. Patrick’s Day, so forgive the tardiness.
And now…onto thoughts…..
St. Patrick’s Day is one of my favorite days of the year. I remember one year, when I was about 7, my mom and I built this tiny house out of sticks and leaves and hot glue and left it out for the leprechauns. In the morning, I swore I saw tiny footprints around the little house and when I went to my sock drawer, I found a silver locket that had somehow been transported from The Little Princess movie it came from into my morning choice of sock. My adult brain could easily go into overdrive to extrapolate how these precise series of events came to pass, but I’m actively working to avoid thinking about that. There are many things in this world that take away our magic, I’d rather keep the small bit of mine left. And, real or not, the small magics of our world imbue a sort of gratitude, a feeling of connection, a sense of give and receive, of smallness, of wonder. There’s a beauty there that does not need to be cheapened by the hubris and belittlement of further explanation.
Let the world have its damn mysteries.
I watched the Mr. Rogers documentary recently “Would You Be My Neighbor?” There were many moments in the film that touched me deeply, but among them, was when his wife recounted that he, at the end of his life, asked her whether she thought he had been good enough to get into heaven. Mr. Rogers externalized his anxieties and insecurities into one puppet in particular, Daniel, who was able to share the fear and anger and sadness and the ultimate shame he felt at having those emotions. At one moment, the documentary shows Daniel singing a song in which he says ‘Sometimes I wonder if I’m a mistake’. Bypassing for the moment how heartbreaking it is to think this wonderful man felt these things, I find comfort that even someone who sometimes feels that profound sense of shame can accomplish something so beautiful, so monumental.
I don’t know what the antidote to shame is, and I honestly wish I did. I think it would heal a lot of suffering in this world. I’ll digress for a moment to clarify that when I say shame, I mean something different from guilt. Guilt being the feeling of ‘I did a bad thing’ and shame being the feeling of ‘I am a bad thing’. I am no stranger to shame, and I’d be willing to wager that neither are most of you. That said, I think there are a couple lessons that we can take away from Mr. Rogers about dealing with our shame.
First and foremost is to cultivate a sense of wonder. Wonder makes us small in the world again. It makes us part of everything. It supersedes our self-awareness just enough to keep us putting one foot in front of the other. It is a beautiful thing to see the joy it brought Fred Rogers to watch an orange fish in a fishbowl in silence for a minute.
Second, would be serving others. There has been a lot of talk about gratitude in recent years and I believe gratitude can be a wonderful thing. However, if you’re like me, sometimes my mind follows my actions, and I believe doing good for others can bring you out of yourself enough to feel grateful for what you have, for where you are, for what you are. Serving others need not be big or grand or recognized. It can be as small as a compliment, a look, a good joke at the right time, quietly being there at another. The small good you do makes you the person that shame won’t let you believe you are.
Back to my leprechaun friends. I haven’t done anything for the wee folk in a long time, but this year caught in a moment of whimsy, I set out a small leftover airplane pretzel that had been a remnant of a nighttime forage and poured my coffee mate into a wine glass and offered it up to the little folk. They’re supposed to be fond of cream, right? And if I were a leprechaun, I’d appreciate claiming my cream in some fancy glassware. (I left a nice tip for the cleaning folks at the hotel in case the living world doesn't choose to share my fantasy). Wonder plus a little offering….it’s a step. A small one. But it’s there.
To wonder. To steps. To Mr. Rogers.