thanks, jack

I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking I spent a night of unbridled bliss with Jack Nicholson in the mid 70’s, and I want to brag about it now.

Yes and no.

I spent many nights of unbridled bliss with Jack in the 70’s, but no hot tubs, champagne, or Hollywood extras were involved.

Instead, I sat in a chair in a movie theater, next to my best friend. We were in rural Ohio. We ate popcorn and Junior Mints. Jack spent all of his time on the screen in front of us, his body blown up to the size of a semi-truck and his crazy aura even bigger than that.

Those moments took my breath away.

Did I have a crush on him?

Not exactly.

It was more like I wanted to be him.

Watching Jack on screen was like entering an alternate universe, one where a person could be wild and open and unconstrained.

jack attack

It wasn’t like I wanted to do everything he did. Jack had a dark side, and I wasn’t in any hurry to attack my family with an axe or die in a mental hospital.

But there was something about him – the way he moved, the sparkle in his eyes – that spoke to me.

The alternatives for a teenage girl in the Midwest in the 70’s were limited. Farrah Fawcett was the leading female role model.

charlie calling

But when I watched Jack, I knew there was more. I knew I didn’t have to be what the world expected of me.

I could follow the music inside me. I didn’t have to constrict myself according to anyone else’s ideas or opinions.

Several years ago, I had an experience that brought me back to my days with Jack.

It was a Sunday morning and I was the Platform Practitioner at the Center for Spiritual Living Santa Rosa. For those of you who have no idea what that means, it means I got up on stage in front of hundreds of people and said an affirmative prayer.

When I first started praying out loud in front of others, I asked Melissa if it was okay if I moved.

She said, Of course.

But I wasn’t convinced.

The best way for me to pray is to close my eyes and let the Divine take over. Part of being “taken over” seems to involve movement on my part. Particularly my arms and hands. Though I’m not aware of it when it’s happening.

But most of the other Practitioners I’d seen on stage didn’t move like that. I wasn’t sure if it was proper.

And then I thought of Jack.

tell it, jack

Granted, the last place you’d expect to find Jack Nicholson on a Sunday morning would be onstage, praying. But still.

Getting up there and moving around was how the Jack in me wanted to do it. And not just wanted to do it. It was how I was born to do it. And Jack reminded me of that fact.

So I got up there and I let myself pray. And move. And not worry about what other people thought.

Though I did worry, a little.

And then I thought of Jack again.

And I thought of the Divine. Because when I’m praying, that’s the energy behind all of it.

photo: hang_in_there on flickr

photo: hang_in_there on flickr

As a kid in the Midwest, I had no idea what was in store for me.

I didn’t know I’d grow up and let myself fully express my androgynous nature. And my queer sexuality. And my religion-free spirituality.

But I did. And back in the 70’s, watching Jack on the big screen was like a wink from the Divine:

Check it out! You can have fun in this life. You can express who you are, fully and completely. You can sing your own song.

So when I say Jack Nicholson set me free, I mean it.

When I was a kid, sitting in that movie theater, I thought my freedom could be gained by being him.

But I didn’t have to become a cigar-smoking ladies man with a bunch of Academy Award nominations to get free. Jack turned me on to something much, much better.

Myself.

photo: Elizabeth Rowley

photo: Elizabeth Rowley

Who set you free? And why? Share your comments below!

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