The Bliss Blog



Woke up from a ‘what is going on in MY psyche?’ dream. In it, I  was on a ship that was taking on water and sinking, although not like the Titanic which capsized after impact with an iceberg, in one fell swoop but over a period of time that felt like weeks. The people on board hailed from all over the world cloaked in colorful garments. I knew some and others were strangers. We couldn’t get off the floating village even if we wanted to. They all seemed not to want to.  Some had even set up shop in a marketplace space and were selling their wares to anyone who would purchase them. It felt like ‘business as usual’.  I was doing my taking care of others thang that I usually do in my daily life. I found myself reassuring people that we wouldn’t drown and at some points in the dream I was bailing water. I didn’t notice anyone else with buckets in hand, so it felt like I was all alone in my endeavor to keep us afloat.

I kept hearing the song White Flag by Dido as the soundscape throughout which made me chuckle.

“I will go down with this ship
And I won’t put my hands up and surrender
There will be no white flag above my door”

As I walked throughout the various levels and rooms of the ship, I saw two couples get married (someone else did the honors) and watched healing take place in a family I know. The father had died a few years ago and he had been abusive to them. In the dream, they were all sitting on a long sofa and he expressed sorrow for his actions and asked for their forgiveness and told them how much he appreciated them. Clearly, he had done some soul-searching and was ready to make amends for his actions.

In another part of the dream, I was running on top of the water and singing about being loved. It felt reassuring that I didn’t sink beneath the surface into the frigid depths. There was a sense of trust that God had my back.

One question that kept coming to me, was that if we were not out at sea, how come no one came to rescue us? No one could answer why. I got the feeling that we needed to save ourselves. The irony was that no else seemed to notice a problem with our circumstances but for me.

Some post dream thoughts:  When I was speaking about it with a colleague today, the intuitive therapist that she is, she pointed out that I was walking on water in the manner of Jesus, as a way of putting my faith in Spirit.  I volleyed back with the reminder that I was not only walking on water but rather, dancing and running.

I was clear that this dream was telling me that I sometimes feel as if I am in over my head, have a fear of collapsing under the weight of expectations, feel awash in emotion, and as if I have to work miracles. It seems to be a reflection of the state of the world, this sense of the importance of pulling together to rescue ourselves from peril.


Like many people I know, I waited with bated breath for the much anticipated blockbuster film A Wrinkle In Time, based on the classic 1962 novel by Madeleine L’Engle. I was introduced to it in junior high school and it has become one of my all-time favorite books, the pages of which I have turned countless times over the years. With the juxtaposition of love and fear, good and evil, self-worth and self -loathing, power and powerlessness, the source material had plenty going for it that fed my mind.

Ava DuVernay‘s film stars Oprah Winfrey, Mindy Kaling, and Reese Witherspoon as Mrs. Which, Mrs. Who, and Mrs. Whatsit, who are the celestial tour guides for Meg (Storm Reid), Charles Wallace (Deric McCabe) and Calvin (Levi Miller) as they venture to parts unknown to find and rescue Meg and Charles Wallace’s scientist father Dr. Alex Murry (Chris Pine)  who had, four years earlier, ‘tessered’ across time and space and was held captive on a dark planet called Camazotz. Even the name has a sinister sense about it, as viewers will witness. Gugu Mbatha-Raw plays their mother, Dr. Kate Murry. The comic relief in the movie was the gender-bending role of The Happy Medium, who in the book was a woman and is portrayed on screen by Zach Galifianakis, sporting a man bun. I got a kick out of his zen master meets yogi meets life coach persona.

The visually appealing scenery had a Wizard of Oz feel to it, with its rich, vivid colors jumping off the screen and otherworldly imagery in which flowers were communicators that informed the travelers where Dr. Murray had journeyed, and time bends to allow people to pass through waves of energy.

As the central character, Meg feels like a misfit. Her curly, wiry hair  and big glasses make her stand out from her peers who are stereotypical mean girls who bully her, her stellar mind (although she doesn’t view herself that way) has her seeming like an alien to the others, her anger at the ways in which people gossip about her dad’s whereabouts, splash over into her interactions at school and get her in trouble with the administration. The prodigious Charles Wallace is both her baby brother and her wise protector. Calvin is a love interest, who is able to fit into the ‘normal’ mode she so desperately seeks to fit into, but he carries a secret that is revealed later in the film. The “Mrs.” as they are referred to collectively, spout wisdom; some in quotes, rendered by Mrs. Who, some in sarcasm, from Mrs. Whatsit and some in self-help jargon as one might expect from Mrs. Which (sometimes hovering in larger than life form, by glittery Oprah). Their costumes are gossamer lovely and they change them throughout the film.

Although the plot remains the same, some major changes have taken place. The character of Charles Wallace was the Murry’s biological child and in the film, he was adopted (the rationale was that it added to the diversity of the cast),  the twin brothers Sandy and Dennys were completely removed, as was Aunt Beast (a character who nurtured Meg back to health after a particularly bumpy landing when time traveling.) Much of the dialog was cut and the cultural references were updated. The sameness of the denizens of Camazotz was highlighted by the Stepford Wives looking mothers who called their rhythmically ball bouncing children in for dinner. The idea of mind control, in service to dark forces, was eerie, as was the dystopic, totalitarian presentation that frighteningly echoes present-day events.

DuVernay’s vision of a multi-cultural/multi-racial cast is beautifully played out on screen. By the end of the film, love prevails and Meg finds not only her father but her bearings and place in the world.




Unable to perceive the shape of you,
I find you all around me:
Your presence fills my eyes,
With your love;
You’ve humbled my heart,
For you are everywhere.

-Hakim Sanai

This is the poem shared as an offering to adoration at the end of the much-heralded film The Shape of Water.  Directed by Guillermo del Toro, what begins the seemingly impossible love story between a human woman and an amphibian man/deity are the musings of a closeted Gay artist, Giles, played by the effusive Richard Jenkins. He attempts to describe his best friend, the romantic female lead Elisa, rendered with beguiling charm by  Sally Hawkins. All are out of their element in many ways and as the otherworldly in- the -midst- of the darkness of Cold War era movie unfolds, they bond in a language spoken and silent. Elisa is mute and bears scars on her neck that may indicate the reason. She communicates via sign language that both Giles and her friend and co-worker Zelda, played by the talented Octavia Spencer (she embodied one aspect of God in The Shack) understand and translate for others when need be.

Elisa and Zelda are employed as janitorial staff at a government facility. Cleaning toilets and scrubbing floors on the overnight shift, they are called into the lab where a being referred to as ‘the asset,’ has been sequestered after being captured by the cartoon character villain named Strickland, played with evil believability by Michael Shannon. A dead giveaway is when he walks into the men’s room as the two women are cleaning, washes his hands before, unzips and urinates in front of them, but doesn’t wash afterward and justifies it.

“A man washes his hands before or after tending to his needs. It tells you a lot about a man. He does it both times – points to a weakness in character.”

His adversarial relationship with the Amphibian Man is one that had me cringing since he seemed to derive pleasure from torturing him with a cattle prod. Doug Jones played the man in the rubber suit resembling The Creature From the Black Lagoon. I heard an interview with him on NPR during which he described the ordeal of suiting up each day and that there was a front flap to the costume, through which he could relieve himself, but not a back flap, so he was unable to eat while taking a break from shooting. 

A.M.  got his revenge by biting off two of Strickland’s fingers which left a bloody mess for Elisa to clean up as she retrieves the digits and hands them back to him in a paper bag. He has them sewn back on but neglects their care and they end up necrotic which was the perfect symbolism for his rotting heart and soul. Popping pain pills throughout the film does nothing to improve his temperament.  Interesting to observe that his family who had “Daddy’s home!” excitement when he walked through the door of their suburban home, had no clue that it was paid for with the brutality toward and blood of another. 

In the era of #metoo, this nefarious character evidenced that he liked his women silent; in a disturbing scene with his wife and another with Elisa who gets her own sign language revenge that had me laughing as she spelled out her response to his attempted intimidation.

The love story at the core of the movie begins as curiosity between the two seeming misfits. It is woven with a sensuous ribbon and building trust. Only in her mind and by her own hand, at the onset of the film,  Elisa’s sexual pleasure is enlivened when communing with him. Her body is portrayed as if a work of art. Female sexuality is celebrated and the elements of water and eggs are generously sprinkled throughout as symbols of such. The themes of love, overcoming a sense of ‘otherness’, an appreciation of diversity, racism, good vs. evil, miracles, spirituality, healing, determinations, showing up, standing up and speaking out shape the scenes. 

It was nominated for 13 Academy Awards and walked away with four: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Original Music Score and Best Production Design. 

After a few days of weather wildness, I ventured out and went to the Planet Fitness for a much-needed workout. Afterward, I headed over to a store to peruse and purchase workout clothes. Found some cute stuff as a reward for my commitment to fitness. Overheard a the checkout line a conversation that had me smiling. A mom said to her crying toddler, “Use your manner words.” The little girl dried her tears and asked for what she wanted in a calm way. I gave them a thumbs up and said, “Good job, mom, and kiddo.” I wish adults would use their manner words to ask for what they want.

As a therapist, speaker/facilitator, who works with clients of all ages, and a mindfulness teacher for 4-6-year-olds, those words are pure gold, waiting to be harvested.  When a child cries, we may automatically assume a temper tantrum a-brewing. So many (sadly and inappropriately) were told that if they didn’t stop crying, they would be given something to cry about. As a result, they may have shut down their emotions. Perhaps the little one is overtired, hungry, or in pain of some kind. Their attention span may have been stretched to the max.  Nothing justifies threats to safety. I have twice intervened in the past few years when the parent didn’t use their manner words. I didn’t go all social worker on them since if this is how they were in public, I could only imagine how they treated the child in private. What I did was relate to the parent and comment that it seemed they were having a rough time. To the child, I would smile and attempt to distract him or her. Both times, it worked and the yelling and crying ceased. My hope is that the parent became more aware of their interactions with their kiddo and the impact their words and actions would have on future behavior and sense of self. I’m not advocating public meltdowns either initiated by tiny humans or tiny humans in adult bodies.

In the larger world, consider how people make requests that seem more like demands. “I want..” “You have to…” “You ought to..” “You need to..” “You’ve got to…or else. It shows up every day. How do you respond when you hear those words? When I see counseling clients who are on both ends of the asking/being asked spectrum, I reframe by asking them to rephrase. “How about if you…” “Would you be willing to..” “Would you please…” and “I would like/love if you would…”

Manners don’t have an expiration date or age. I grew up being taught to respect my elders AND they respected me. None of this ‘children should be seen and not heard,’ stuff. When kiddos are left out of the respect loop they are more likely to either withdraw or lash out. Manner words include, please and thank you, go on ahead of me, may I?

How will you use your manner words today?