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"When one experiences truth, the madness of finding faults with others disappears" - S.N. Goenka.


Sunday, May 6, 2012

Fame, Power and Flashing Lights

The Washington Hilton gleamed with stardom. The red carpet greeted its guests at the door. It glittered with flashing lights that lit along the walkway. Reporters stood in herd-like clumps. They heavily eyed the main entrance with a hunger that had them biting their lips. Anticipating the next high profile interview, they looked right past Pete and I. Reese Witherspoon sashayed over as the voices behind the cameras called, “Reese, over here!”  Her smile even made the photographers blush. The first reporter to pounce asked the very important question: “What are you wearing this evening?”  Stopping mid-step I couldn’t help but turn my head to hear the answer and stare. Full-length glamour pirouetting with flare, stiletto heels marking the runway, my eyes darting to every corner of the room absorbing the scene as if I were an alien visiting Earth for the first time. Welcome to The White House Correspondents’ Dinner, I thought, a night to forever remember.


“How do I know that guy?” I asked Pete, “Oh shit!” I quickly realized, “That’s Jin, the Korean guy from LOST!” Horrified at my naive outburst Pete shushed me, “Val, you can’t do that!”  Stammering at his reprimanding tone, feeling like one of my daughters who had just been told to use “my inside voice,” I thought, “Well, I guess running into Jin in DC, after watching him save the world in my living room for eight seasons should be taken as completely normal; how ridiculous of me to react!” 

Living in NYC for over ten years actually dulled my excitement for star-gazing. Spotting familiar faces that passed without even a glance in my direction was routine. But there were those rare moments, like sitting next to Sarah Jessica Parker in my OBGYN office, that left me breathless and dizzy. A small number of celebrities played roles that penetrated my heart so deeply a bond was created in my mind that felt real. Art touches our soul. Our spirit rejoices, sometimes so loudly we can’t help but feel affected. Acting is fascinating as a connecting art all its own. We create secret (and sometimes not so secret) relationships with relatable people on the screen, especially those who speak to our hearts and sing to our soul. The brain has a hard time distinguishing between real relationships and imagined ones, causing an unexpected reaction when coming face-to-face with our real-life superheroes.

I tripped over a heroine or two that night at the Washington Hilton. The White House Correspondents’ Dinner was my first real and intimate gathering with many of the famous and powerful. Mingling with high profile celebrities and laughing with Washington elites was hardly a typical night out, even for the wife of popular Pete Dominick. My husband’s career as a Sirius/Xm political personality, a CNN correspondent and a professional stand-up comedian had granted me some exclusive and exciting opportunities, but this topped the list. 


It wasn’t just the George Clooneys or the Steven Spielbergs that had me buzzing with giddiness. Jostling elbows with politicians, journalists, authors, economists, was both humbling and empowering. These were the most influential people in the country making daily decisions with global implications and now here we were casually drinking wine while discussing our favorite iPhone apps.

While eating risotto and shrimp and awaiting the President’s comedy performance, I eyed the First Lady with a ferocious curiosity that had my heart soaring. Noticing a subtle smile on her face as if she just had an intimate thought she’d be too embarrassed to share. What settled on her mind and captured her emotion at that moment?  How alluring she was. Graced with an indescribable softness, so delicate and gentle, but bound to a role that required fierce tenacity, intensity and conviction. I envied her thick layer of self-assurance that sheltered her and her family from the sneering opinions of the many who oppose her. As she engaged her neighbor, Jimmy Kimmel, in conversation my mind began daydreaming about her life. Did she get up every morning with her kids, sending Sasha and Malia off to school with a kiss and a brown paper lunch bag?  Did she help solve math problems for homework after discussing foreign policy with her husband over a mesclun salad for lunch?  How “normal” was a White House day living her life as the First Lady?

My blissful thoughts were interrupted with the first round of speeches. Once the President took the mic the laughter ensued, applause broke, and standing ovations took over. Jimmy Kimmel then stepped to the podium - his confidence reassuring, his jokes telling. Amongst a slew of hilarity, his most impactful line was this - “Everything that’s wrong with America is here in this room.”

With power comes an enormous amount of responsibility. Celebrities, journalists, columnists, the media - all have potential to influence the masses while politicians change destinies with a lobbyist and a vote on a bill. How easy is it to passively sit back and to pass blame onto the decision makers? How simple it is to watch it and become victims to their power? What if instead we courageously stood in our own? We have an inner podium and a microphone – why not stand-up and listen to our own voice with the same trust and confidence we offer others?

At times I wonder if owning our inner power is too much of a responsibility to claim. The fear of failing, of facing our faults and our weaknesses can paralyze us. We doubt our willingness to step into uncharted territory, no matter how grand and brilliant. This place, miles away from the familiarity of our fears, insecurities and inadequacies, is where our power resides.

"Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented and fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small doesn't serve the world. There's nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It's not just in some of us; it's in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others." MarianneWilliamson:  A Return to Love

When we move past our “deepest fear” we are able to live passionately. We discover an unstoppable magic that favors inspiration over practicality. Then it is easier to understand how ancient Egyptians carried brick-by-brick in the middle of a hot desert to raise pyramids, or how parents work two or three jobs to secure the health and happiness of their children. Tapping that universal Love brings an inner strength that takes us beyond any limitation our mind creates.

When we move away from love and stoke ego, desire and greed we make the dangerous transition from passion to lust. This is hazardous and reckless wanting. We push Love aside to make room for needless, superficial, and selfish gain. History is replete with people in powerful positions abusing their role to fill the emptiness they themselves create. How can we trust others to live from a place of love and passion, to make massive critical decisions and change lives for the better if we don’t first trust ourselves to do the same? 

The red carpet is here for all of us, not just celebrities, policy makers, or media personalities. Flashing lights and rolling cameras aren’t there to validate our self-worth and site our talents. We have an innerlight that shines - brilliant, grand and powerful, but only if we have the courage to notice it and the faith to live it.

Let’s step onto gleaming paths that materialize beneath our feet, moving with love and prowess, discovering a unified self that soars on the wings of a heaven-sent wind. 

9 comments:

alexandra said...

Beautiful, Valerie. I hear you loud and clear. :)

melanie said...

it takes a special person to realize behind the all the temporary glamour lies the possibility to achieve something far greater than each of us could do individually. well put.

Linda B. said...

Val, the excitement you felt at this event is palpable, and thanks for reminding us that each of us has the potential to step into our own inner "limelight." Beautiful!

Vari Stunatu said...

“Everything that’s wrong with America is here in this room.”

That says it all. Now, allow me to raise this psycho-social question, albeit a gross change of subject (sorry about that).

Something like 1% to 3% of the population are sociopaths (a personality disorder). Narcissists (narcissistic personality disorder) are estimated to be somewhere in that ballpark, as well.

Do you think the rates of narcissism and sociopathy are higher in that room than that of the general public?

My gut tells me "YES!"

Sociopaths often rise to the highest levels of corporations and politics - and that scares the living crap out of me!!

Jim said...

I love how you drew such inspiration from an event so full of people that pretend for a living. You and Kimmel found the truth.

Anonymous said...

Hi Valerie,
The quote you attributed to Marianne Williamson was actually stated by one Nelson Mandela. She may have referenced it, but it's all him. I have it hanging on my wall here at work.
Love you,
CJ

YogaVal said...

Thanks for all the comments thus far - I appreciate the insight, perspective, and feedback.

CJ: Nelson Mandela - sounds like something he would say :) I've heard the quote practically a thousand times, read it in her book, and have never heard anyone say it was Nelson Mandela's original. So, of course, I looked it up immediately and this is what Wikiquote.org had to say about it:

The famous passage from Marianne Williamson's book is often erroneously attributed to the inaugural address of Nelson Mandela. About the misattribution Williamson said, "Several years ago, this paragraph from A Return to Love began popping up everywhere, attributed to Nelson Mandela's 1994 inaugural address. As honored as I would be had President Mandela quoted my words, indeed he did not. I have no idea where that story came from, but I am gratified that the paragraph has come to mean so much to so many people."

Vari Stunatu: Your perspective is interesting, and also a bit dark. Very presumptuous of you to take such liberties and make an incredibly sweeping generalization. While I do agree that SOME at the event may be plagued with narcissism, an even smaller percent labeled as sociopath, but the majority most certainly are not. On the contrary, many appear to be profoundly grounded, connected, well-meaning individuals who have the deepest intent to better themselves and the world. People like Bob Rice, Arianna Huffington, Sandra Fluke,,,,and many, many others - i can send you a list of influential names that have personally affected me, if you'd like. The event, in itself is significant. A fundraiser for the education of Journalism - if you're interested in learning specifics visit: http://www.whca.net/history.htm.

Jim: How quick we are to judge what others do, when we rarely take a look at ourselves, and turn our focus inward. Who can say with certainty that everyone on that guest list pretends for a living? And to expand on a deeper level, don't we ALL pretend for a living? How many of us live our Truth? Step into our deepest self and recognize who we really are? What we really feel? Do we live from a genuine place of authenticity, recognizing within ourselves the dark and the light and everything in between? When we do is when we stop pointing fingers at those who don't. Thanks for the comment it sparked an interesting conversation.

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Your Dude said...

nice to see this ( We push Love aside to make room for needless, superficial, and selfish gain. History is replete with people in powerful positions abusing their role to fill the emptiness they themselves create. )

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