"Love is the only force capable of transforming an enemy into a friend." ~ Martin Luther King, Jr.
Many times in therapy sessions, someone will spend 50 minutes of the 60 telling me what they don't like about their partner. When I ask why they stay, the answer is usually "I love them."
These kinds of things always make me ponder love.
Someone wise once told me that love isn't what you feel toward another. Love is what you feel around another. You love someone when you can be the most you that you are around them. This idea of love touches me. Who can we be around that truly lets us be who we are?
So often we get into relationships and then proceed to change someone. Maybe we are right and the other person would benefit from the change. But at its core we are not really accepting them, and we are not respecting ourselves.
I've been reflecting on a few key experiences that reminded me who Wanda Petunia is and why I love her. While it's easy to think of Wanda as a plush toy pig, really she is the spirit of self-care and self-love as the foundation for sharing love. Wanda has helped me be who I really am around her. She wants you to feel you can be who you really are around her too.
A few months ago, I met Joanne Spataro via Comic Girl Coffee and Books. Joanne is the partner of Lara Americo who founded Comic Girl Coffee in Charlotte - an inclusive space for LGBTQ+, women, people of color and immigrants. Joanne came to my space so we could brainstorm and talk Wanda. As we began to talk, I handed her a plush Wanda.
When she left, Joanne remarked that holding Wanda made her feel calmer and it surprised her - as she wasn't expecting anything. Later, Joanne shared the inspiration of how Wanda was the loving and compassionate opposite of the "Dammit Doll" - and this felt like a "Eureka!" insight for me.
I've never paid much attention to the dolls, but looked them up. It felt odd that someone would buy a doll just to hit things with it. Wanda was another option - a mindfulness friend to sit with you and comfort you as you looked inward, not lash out or in.
So many times when we are angry, it's easy to lash out. For many, myself included, we also lash inward. If it's true that there's usually another emotion lurking beneath anger ~ frustration, jealousy, disappointment, sadness... wouldn't it be wiser to sit quietly, pay attention to those feelings and create inner transformation?
In his book, "Anger," the Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh cautions about expressing anger outward physically. Anger expressed physically can inflame our nervous system and mind, not calm them down. Of course, turning our anger inward (aka depression) is not helpful either. How many of us energetically lash out at ourselves and become our own "Dammit Doll?"
Then last week, I heard an NPR story about an art exhibit of punching bags. These bags have the faces of Donald Trump, Kim Jong Un, Fidel Castro and other world leaders. An interactive exhibit, you can punch the faces.
Listening to the story reminded me again of Wanda's mindfulness nature. If you've read any of Wanda's stories, you know she can get emotional. In her first book, she was so "rootin' and snortin' mad" she had to travel around the globe to keep the sun from setting on her anger. In Wanda's coloring book, there's a page "I am fully emotional" ~ to declare the values of feeling all our feelings.
But the foundation of Wanda is the rainbow that lives in her heart. This rainbow is the result of life's struggles mixing with her own light ~ a powerful force for love. We all can have this :)
There is plenty to be angry (frustrated, jealous, disappointed, sad) about. Wanda teaches self-care is the first responder to any problem. It's the foundation of self-love. When we get triggered, it helps to:
1) Notice it. Our emotions are our radar, warning us something is up!
2) Nurture it. As Thich teaches, imagine holding yourself in this emotional place as you would hold a baby or puppy or kitten.
3) Breathe. Just be present to your feelings. Keep breathing. Keep holding yourself - your suffering self.
4) When desired, you can hold Wanda too. She loves to help you calm down and feel better.
5) Rest. It's hard to rest when we are triggered and in despair. But it's vital.
6) Inspired action. This kind of action is (virtually always) better than reactionary action. I'm sure there are select cases where acting immediately is needed. But I think it's more rare than we realize.
7) Find the rainbow in your heart - the power of transforming pain into something full of light that you can share to help others.
The Cuban artist, Antuane Rodriquez, says punching someone in the face is healing. "It's healthy for your body... because listening to the news is stressful, and it demands psychic release." Hmm. I'm not so sure... Maybe you could explore this for yourself.
The next time you become angry, try this: think of why you are upset, then go hit a pillow. Hit it a few times. How do you feel in your body and mind?
Then, pause. Take a deep breathe and try taking a walk (if you're really jazzed) or sitting with a Wanda plushie. If you don't have a Wanda, you can sit holding that pillow you just hit. Let your breath deepen and become slower. Just sit for a moment or two.
Which feels better?
"Love is the only force capable of transforming an enemy into a friend," says Martin Luther King. And, self-love is the only force capable of transforming our own despair into something that feels better and more hopeful. Wanda and I want you to feel the amazing being you are.
I have a dream that you will love yourself so much you can transform any darkness into light and share that light and love with all life!
Photo: Our mindfulness friend Joanne Spataro is a writer and consultant for Look It's Joanne. She has a new column for Bankable by Forbes and is a recent contributor to the NYT. Check out her piece https://www.nytimes.com/2017/12/16/opinion/sunday/the-risks-of-traveling-while-queer.html