Emotional Intelligence

Last night I saw the Diane Keaton movie, Darling Companion, which will open April 20th.  

It’s a dog lover’s movie. And that’s not me. The movie is also a valentine to the older, sensitive male, played by Richard Jenkins.

Kevin Kline plays a know-it-all doctor who lacks the Jenkins character’s smooth ease with people. (Jenkins is, also, according to Dianne Wiest’s character, a “generous lover.” I love Wiest’s and Jenkins’ sexy-ness!)

At one point, Kline is chastised for his lack of emotional intelligence. And I think emotional intelligence is underrated.

My daughters and I are still reaping the rewards of a girl empowerment weekend, where we were able to talk freely about our feelings. We learned how to navigate conflict — an awesome learning experience through the Girls Leadership Institute.

A February opinion piece in the New York Times, Building Self-Control, the American Way by Sandra Aamodt and Sam Wang, offered this: “programs to enhance social and emotional development accelerate school achievement.”

So emotional intelligence helps with school intelligence. I don’t think we can underestimate the importance of helping our kids handle their emotions — it’s just smart to be aware of and articulate our feelings well.

In the Times article, the authors prescribe imaginative play, aerobic exercise, and studying language as tools to help children succeed emotionally and intellectually.

As for ageing adults, like Kevin Kline’s character, how do they (we) become more emotionally intelligent? In Darling Companion, the advice was to:

  • value our pets more than our cell phones;
  • define ourselves in ways beyond our work;
  • get lost in nature;
  • and be open to prophetic wisdom from people we consider marginal or flaky.
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Cherry Orchard

Turturro lets the stuffing out of the chair. (photo by Richard Termine for the New York Times.)

My husband’s translation of ‘Cherry Orchard’ was so naturalistic. A few minutes into John Turturro’s opening scene, I squeezed Chris’s arm and whispered, “So good. Genius.”

Chris (John Christopher Jones) did a brilliant job of situating the audience right there with the family at the grand Russian estate as it falls into disrepair and bankruptcy, sold to the local boor — or is he a self-made man? — played by Turturro.

An actor at the cast party told me it was the only of Chekhov’s place that the author considered a comedy. (Actors can be so smart — like real artists, not just empty-headed celebs!)

Chris worked hard of this translation, obsessed by it for months. He spent a lot time sitting in front of the computer. I know how hard it is to write.  It is mostly about keeping your seat in the chair.

I have seen Chris in a number of Chekhov plays. From those plays, I can see what life was like back in the day before people realized you should work out to lift your spirits. Or perhaps, people, try some anti-depressants?

In Chekhov’s plays my heart always breaks for the way the characters ridicule the intellectual, the perpetual student. Ugh.

This production is not depressing. I loved the party scene where the family, led by Dianne Wiest, and the guests wait to hear about the fate of the estate. The party goers’ spirits were as light as the stuffing from the chair that flew around the stage when Turturro ripped open the furniture.

For some reason, I always imagine the cherry orchard bathed in late afternoon light, like in the Van Gogh painting of the olive orchard. The cherry orchard never appears on stage yet it is a character in the play, once great and now parceled away — like so many nations, families and nature itself. 

On the cab ride home from the opening night party, I read Chris the The New York Times Review of ‘Cherry Orchard’ off of my smart phone, hitting bumps and speeding up Third Avenue. It was a triumph for Chris.