Last night my girls, Ellen, and I watched Thelma and Louise together. And because I’d forgotten how long the movie was, the event lasted into the early hours of the next day, at which point my youngest–who’d been hesitant to even watch it at all for the last scene she’d heard so much about–excitedly chatted to me through my bleary-eyedness, saying that along with Donnie Darko, it was now one of her two favorite movies.
None of them had ever seen it, and Livy asked me in one of the first scenes when Thelma’s husband Daryl was being an asshole to Thelma, “Is that just the way it was back then?” The movie was made in 1991.
No, baby; Daryl’s just a dick.
In the midst of girl power and Thelma and Louise gunning it to their chosen end, Ellen held my left hand still and, as I watched the movie, drew upon my skin the pattern you see in the picture above; somehow, in the warm living room after the hot summer solstice day of 2017, she accessed an internal well of artistry from within a near-meditative state, and–moving henna tube into curves and points–created this freehand design, reaching over while the first section was drying to grab my hand again and add more detail before moving on to make entirely different designs upon her own skin.
When I finally saw the finished product upon my hand, my mouth was open in surprise because I could not formulate a connection to the type of mind that could so effortlessly create such a vision. I couldn’t “get to” where a human being could so confidently embrace hovering over flesh with a tube of dye and still be able to funnel the experience down into a work of art.
Because that’s just not me. I’m never going to be able to zen out and manifest this kind of thing on someone’s arm.
And I used to think that in order to live fearless, I couldn’t say such things to myself. That in order to stand within my own power, I had to self-talk myself with “You can be/do/have anything you set your mind to!”
Which is where I’d cue up the time a few years ago when I snorkeled in Hawaii with my sister, thus supposedly pacifying my panic-inducing fear of the ocean when in reality, my logical mind was saying “good for you!” while my emotional mind was saying “now look what you’ve done! You’re IN the fucking ocean???!” because logical mind only gets you so far then you’re stuck in the open ocean, hyperventilating with your feet dangling in Jaws music.
And I’ll never be able to “you can do it!”/Pep rally myself into–voila—I’m now Renoir, and being no good at something shouldn’t always bring out the self-esteem protection squad.
Because mind over matter is bullshit and invalidates the natural sense we have of who we are and what choices are right for us. And, unless you’re hurting someone else, it’s perfectly okay to let yourself be who you are. It’s perfectly acceptable to say “I’m no good at this,” and not feel like it somehow means you’re giving up on yourself.
At the end of the movie, Livy and I discussed what our favorite parts were.
Livy’s favorite part is when Thelma calls Daryl to see if the police have been asking questions and almost instantaneously hangs up, knowing their phones are tapped and that the police are listening based solely on how uncharacteristically nice Daryl is to her. It’s pretty classic. Even for 1991.
My favorite part is when Thelma, events skewed against her having created a transformation in herself to where she finally feels in control of her own destiny, sits in the passenger seat of their convertible watching the rising of early morning, and says, “I feel awake. Wide awake. I don’t remember ever feeling this awake.
Everything looks different.”
As though for a moment she’d fallen asleep in her life then with sudden implosion of all she knew had suddenly come to rise into every experience she never knew before was even possible.
Then wind whipping her hair, they take off on the road, coursing together as fugitives through the waking world of clarity and emancipation and red rocks.