Friday, January 5, 2007

In pursuit.

My sister-in-law took me to a movie tonight. "The Pursuit of Happyness." Advice? Not the feel-good flick to go to if you're already feeling a little shaky in the solar plexus. I mean, you know from the commercials that the happy ending's a-comin', but the thing takes you on a hell of a wild chase for it -- and, as Paige pointed out, about two hours of heartwrenching to about 30 seconds of happy. Not a wise emotional expenditure in the name of entertainment, if you ask me.

But then, I can be overly susceptible -- to film, to music, to 32 ounces of free late-night caffeine, to life.


On the drive downtown, Paige was telling me about the little household drama she'd just had, putting the kids to bed. They were excited about going swimming at the Y tomorrow. But Emma was emphatic that they leave baby Ryan with Nana. Paige said, Oh, no, we'll bring him with us. Emma seemed resigned; but later, Paige could hear her crying in bed -- and knew she was meant to hear.

She went in and sat on the bed and let Emma talk. (I'd assumed it was because Miz Em didn't want to share the spotlight, but I was 180 degrees wrong.) She'd worked it up to the worst-case scenario: Paige would drop the baby, or forget him, and he couldn't swim, and so he would drown. She was beside herself in tears, able to calm down only when Paige managed to point out that maybe there could be a very different outcome: That she had taught Emma to swim, and Chip, and hadn't dropped either of them even once, and that it would be Ryan's first time in the pool and maybe, instead of drowning, he'd have a wonderful time and love the water as much as she does.

I see so much of my young self in my niece. We both overthink a situation; we both keep our emotions closer to the surface than the people around us. It is instructive to watch the possibility of a different outcome, of having a parent who might be able to explain rationally to her, and help her to calm herself down, instead of screaming at her that life is not a soap opera and she'd *better* stop crying.

Miz K talked me down off a similar ledge today, but I can't seem to hold on to her wise words, can't even hear my own over a panic-pounding heart. I'm so quick to go to the worst-case scenario. I too often can't see the joy of the water, only the possibility of drowning.


Walking back to the car after the movie, we came upon a young thing crying, her truck pulled only halfway out of P Street traffic, asking if she could borrow our phone. I let her. She couldn't get an answer and didn't know what to do. It sounded as if her battery had died. She was shivering in those tank tops college girls will wear, coatless and probably drunk, in the dead of winter, so I draped my coat around her, had her put the truck in neutral and shoved her into a parking space. Then we drove her down to Chatterbox, where I mediated between her and a friend who apparently was the truck's owner -- also drunk, also crying, something about being kicked out of her house that morning. We all agreed we'd had a damn shitty day, I talked them down, told them all they needed was a sober friend with jumper cables, and left them to their own devices.

I just wanted so much to be able to help someone else today. I'm not sure I did ... but the little episode, like the film, was a good reminder that a situation can be as big, or as manageable, as one chooses to make it.

And so I keep practicing on managing myself.


Anonymous said...

You are so amazing. Seriously. To go as far as mediating between two strangers? I'd never do it.

Oh, and I thought that movie was great. Yes, their lives were pretty crappy up until the end. But it made me think of just how possible it is to accomplish something if you really, really try. And about how life isn't always going to be crappy all that time.

But it made me wonder. Is life really just about pursuing happiness? A constant game? What becomes of the losers? I so don't want to lose.


LincolnWriter said...

Well, I wasn't mediating so much as trying to bring some coherence to the forefront. ... and felt pretty safe with two 90-pound college girls, rather than trying to break up a beer-bellied barfight or something.

No losers in this game, I think ... just those who either haven't won yet, or haven't yet realized they have.

... and my snowman is shrinking every day. Would it were so easy as to stand in the sun and become a shadow of my former self!

Anonymous said...

My sister and I took my mom to see that movie yesterday for her birthday. It was a stressful watch but overall I really enjoyed it.

Beck, things are happening in my life, sooner than I expected. It's scary, exciting and sad all at the same time.

~ N.