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­­­How Jack Nicholson Set Me Free

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.


photo: Elizabeth Rowley

photo: Elizabeth Rowley

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

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18 Responses to ­­­How Jack Nicholson Set Me Free

  1. Karen July 16, 2013 at 7:22 am #

    I don’t know that there was a particular person on stage, screen, or real life who set me free. It’s been a gradual process of caring less about what others think and more about how I feel. And if what others think of me seems to conflict with my feeling good, they’re getting less and less air time these days.

    My biggest helper in the process has been the perspective of Abraham-Hicks. I love how they make it clear that we’re looking for alignment with our Inner Being far more than we’re looking for others’ approval, and we’ll never get all their approval anyhow because they all want/expect different things from us.

    But if I chose one famous real-life person as inspiration, it would be Ricky Nelson’s singing “Garden Party” — “…you can’t please everyone so you got to please yourself.”

    I love your example of Jack Nicholson and how we can think of someone whose roles we admire and receive inspiration and confidence from their personae. I’d be inspired by him, too, except he’s a Laker’s fan and I’m a Heat fan and never the twain shall meet. Not gonna happen. :)

    • Z Egloff July 18, 2013 at 1:03 pm #

      Hi Karen,

      Other people’s approval is such a tricky thing, isn’t it? I’m writing a post about it now, as a matter of fact. It’s one of those lose-lose propositions. Never a good thing.

      I love that line from “Garden Party.” Yes! I heard that the song was about Ricky Nelson being booed off the stage at Madison Square Garden because the audience didn’t like his new versions of his older songs. What a powerful way to deal with the experience – write an awesome song about it!

      As for your Laker/Heat dilemma, I totally understand. You gotta do what you gotta do! :)


  2. River July 16, 2013 at 9:47 am #

    The person who set me free was Debbie Martin of Dallas Texas. If you ever get to the Dallas Center, you might see her singing on a Sunday morning. My dream of singing as a song leader in front of the church wasn’t even a dim thought until I met her. She taught something called Free Your Voice. In that workshop, I learned that I could imagine the Divine (whom I call Sarayu which is a river in India) could stand there with me; her arms wrapped around me and BE the River, the Divine flow. At first, it was worse than horrid. I would imagine Sarayu being there with me. Eventually I relaxed and enjoyed myself. It works!

    Now, I am barely passable as a singer but I can BE the joy that the singing brings me. No one is going to sign me to a contract but everyone sees the love and joy! That is what matters!

    • Z Egloff July 18, 2013 at 12:59 pm #

      Hi River,

      Another beautiful story. I love the image of Sarayu’s arms wrapped around you. That’s some powerful comfort. It’s wonderful to hear how she supported you in simply BEing yourself in all places, including in song.

      When I first started venturing into the territory of creative expression, I found so much respect for people who got up in front of others and expressed themselves creatively. I found that I didn’t care so much about how “good” they were, whatever that means, but how fully they embodied themselves and their own creativity. That’s what’s inspiring to me. Still is. Thank you for being one of those people! :)


  3. Jo Lauer July 16, 2013 at 12:39 pm #

    I have to admit, I peeked. Loved your waving arms and pacing, swaying style. It reminded me of a preacher in a Southern Baptist church I once visited in Florida…he was so filled with Spirit, alive and on fire, it didn’t really even matter what he was saying, we were taking it in! Don’t ever lose your style Z.

    • Z Egloff July 18, 2013 at 12:55 pm #

      Hi Jo,

      You peeked! I was about to say something about when you pray on platform, but I still keep forgetting that you’re not a practitioner. You still have that vibe! 😉

      I have no idea how I got a Southern Baptist vibe – maybe a past life. Thank you for peeking, and thank you for your support.


  4. Tanya July 17, 2013 at 12:31 pm #

    I love this posting. It makes me laugh and smile for a number of reasons; and feel very happy that you were able to find your inner Jack.

    When I was a kid, one of the things that I really liked about you was that you also had that devilishly fun glint in your eye, that was different from others in the Woods Hole crowd. In fact, I remember being happy to see you because you were not like all the other stuck up, stuffy, judgmental adults there (in my juvenile eye). It’s fantastic that you have set yourself free. Congratulations!

    • Z Egloff July 18, 2013 at 12:54 pm #

      Hi Tanya,

      It’s always great to hear from you.

      It’s funny, because I remember you and your sisters from those days as well. I remember that you all were a breath of fresh air. You always felt so real, and so fun. It was easy for me to be myself around you because you were all so relaxed and accepting. I’m glad that we all had each other to hang out with. And I’m grateful to still be connected to you today, through the magic of cyberspace. :)


  5. Whitefire July 17, 2013 at 2:48 pm #


    I admire your moves, you freedom to be yourself. Your freedom sings to me – deep deep resonance within. I have yet to be that alive self, certainly not on stage.

    Keep being my example until I do, OK?

    PS: Rev. Deborah Johnson moves, too!

    • Z Egloff July 17, 2013 at 4:18 pm #

      Hi Whitefire,

      Thanks for your comments. Okay, I’ll keep doing it – just for you!! :)


      PS Thanks for the reminder about Deborah Johnson!

  6. Robin Kinkley July 18, 2013 at 7:55 am #

    Golly Z,
    I’d love to have heard you, seen you. That’s some deep down praying!

    • Z Egloff July 18, 2013 at 12:51 pm #

      Hi Robin,

      I like that: deep down praying! I’ll remember that the next time I’m feeling self-conscious. :)


  7. Angelica Jayne Taggart July 18, 2013 at 4:30 pm #

    Good for you Z … I love moving around – my arms just seem to go where they will both when I speak and do Treatments —

    plus a lot of it I do with my eyes closed! (not just during the Treatment)
    I used to think that was weird, until I say Michael Beckwith speaking … a lot of the time his eyes are closed as well :)

    Blessings, Angelica

    • Z Egloff July 19, 2013 at 11:31 am #

      Hi Angelica!

      Awesome. I love hearing from other people who move when they pray. And if Michael Beckwith does it, then it must be good! 😉

      It’s interesting to me that you say that you close your eyes at other times too, not just during treatment. I’m finding that I do this more and more as well. Thank you for sharing what works for/through/as you! :)


  8. Jane Beach July 19, 2013 at 6:55 am #

    Jack would be proud of you! I’m proud of you! You are one inspiring woman!

    • Z Egloff July 19, 2013 at 11:32 am #

      Hi Jane!

      Thank you! Your inspiration inspires me. As do you. :)


  9. squirrel July 23, 2013 at 9:50 am #

    Z! :) in a lot of ways, you and Melissa set me free. I feel like the primary reason I feel comfortable on stage is because I’ve watched the two you and you make it ok to be me. You guys rock. Love ya!

    • Z Egloff July 25, 2013 at 9:59 am #

      Hey Squirrel,

      I love it. You’re a natural up there, so I’m glad that you’re allowing your awesome self to shine. Yay! Ain’t nothing better. :)


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