Safety Is the Deepest Gift of All

Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper got two standing ovations for their performance of “Shallow” at the Academy Awards. One immediately followed the performance, and another occurred as they returned to their seats.

Those standing ovations were well-deserved. The performance was momentous.

It was the intimate, compelling nature of the performance that led some people to theorize that the chemistry displayed by the two was more than an act.

It has been a week since the performance, and my earworm of “Shallow” has not dissipated (it doesn’t help that I finally saw the movie last night…).

Not only was a star born, but the hashtag #BraGa was born.

Safety is the Deepest Gift

I didn’t take away the idea that the two of them are going to be romantically linked in the future. I saw something else.

Ed. Note: I used to have the video of the performance embedded here, but the version I chose is no longer available. You can watch it through this link.

I saw the safety in quietly believing in each other

When Wayne and I were watching the show, I remember thinking “this may be going downhill” when Bradley Cooper’s voice hit a hitch at the 0:57 point. Gaga just stood there, believing in him. A few seconds later, she almost imperceptibly nods at him.

As the world can attest, everything got better from that point on.

It made me think of all the years I sat on the sidelines at a gym mom, watching young gymnasts learn the tiniest of skills that were intended to lead to the big breakthroughs.

As a parent, I was more inclined to push my kids than to give them the time to work through those repetitive practices and difficult times (sorry, kids!). I watched coaches stand by balance beams, seeing gymnasts execute drill after drill, day after day, with relatively impassive looks on their faces. But I also watched them erupt with pride when one of the gymnasts reached that breakthrough or succeeded at a meet. They believed.

Don’t we all need someone in our lives who quietly believes in us, who gives us the imperceptible positive nod instead of asking “why don’t you try this?” or advice such as “you are the one holding your own self back”?

I saw safety in making space for each other

At around the 3:20 mark in the video, as Bradley Cooper walks around the piano to sit down with Lady Gaga, she moves to her right imperceptibly and doesn’t miss a beat in playing the piano or singing.

Obviously there had been plenty of rehearsal for this moment and it wasn’t by chance … Bradley Cooper didn’t just “show up” there at the piano bench. Yet … the image spoke to me. She accommodated him and trusted that she could keep singing and playing, knowing that the two of them were committed to the success of the moment.

Speaking of safety

One of the things I do at SmartBrief is to co-manage the SBLeaders Twitter account. As any enterprising Twitter user knows, there’s nothing like a popular story to give you an opportunity to breathe life into a good post. I wanted to tweet about the post Lessons from Bradley Cooper in empowering people. I had some favorite passages and wanted to include one in a graphic.

Even though much of the piece was about Cooper’s generosity in giving credit where credit was due, there was also a strong thread about how performers, including Dave Chappelle, felt safe as part of the project.

Safety is the Deepest GiftDiscerning the shallow from the deep

Ed. Note: Tallahassee (and specifically our neighborhood) has been under a tornado warning for the past hour and the power is out. I’m running on battery for the computer and hotspot for the phone, so I’m deviating a bit from the plan (which involved lots more meticulous combing of the internet for links related to my points). Here goes a free write about what I think, because I never miss a Sunday posting and I’m not going to let some bad weather keep me from being consistent! I hope it all gels, because this passage is pretty fundamental to my view of things, and I hope it’s a perspective that inspires thought among some of you.

I loved everything about that performance. I wish I had the musical and acting chops (and the general audience-pleasing aesthetic) to do the same. I love performing, and I have such incredible respect for what Cooper and Gaga did up there.

About the chemistry they shared, though, I am more of a long view person about chemistry. There have been people in my life with whom I felt a that magic, and choosing to walk away from the temptation of that intensity was difficult. I have had two different therapists who, when I described some of the history of how I came to be in my marriage, implied that I should have felt something more, something more fiery, something that the “audience” watching us on life’s stage would stand up and applaud. Not that chemistry is overrated, but it’s part of a bigger equation.

The entire job of actors is to make us believe (which Cooper and Gaga most definitely did, if you ask me). Anyone who knows me well knows how firmly I believe that deep friendships between men and women are absolutely a good thing.

Fate will laugh at me if the headlines tomorrow, next month, or next year blare, “Cooper and Gaga confirm they’re a romantic couple.” But I will be surprised.

I think, instead, they embarked on a joint endeavor that involved believing in each other, making space for each other, and trusting the safety that had grown between them.

Then they sang about it.

They are, as the song says, far from the shallow. But … the way they went about it served less as a weight that would eventually pull them both down and more as a pair of life preservers.