December 31, 2013
“Do. Or do not. There is no try.”
I don’t do New Years Resolutions.
Instead, I choose a theme for the upcoming year. Big ideas: all-encompassing, pervasive, unavoidable, compelling, simple. An earthly orbit ago, I declared 2013 the Year of Honesty.
Much of what propels my life into the weird and crazy (and the fun, different, exciting and terrifying) is this instantaneous but nagging feeling of “What if I regret – for the rest of my days, for all of eternity, FOREVER. – not doing or saying ___________________?” This feeling can come in times as monumental as going after my childhood dream of playing college basketball or as minuscule as retracing my steps a half a block to take a photo of that really cool piece of street art I just walked past. These scenarios have differing impacts on my life, obviously. But in those moments, the pull is just the same: it is an exacting kick to the ass to DO, to take action. And do I must.
My theme this year was inspired in part, without apology or embarrassment, by the rom-com Love Actually. If you haven’t seen Love Actually, I would recommend that you do so – not for critical acclaim or spectacular acting or interesting cinematography. But rather, for the way the story and its characters comment on and confront a very real and very human condition: an aversion to truth-telling. This is truth-telling on the “I have loved you all my life but I can’t say anything because you’re marrying my best friend” level, the “I want to build a life with you but my previous marriage just crumbled into pieces” level, the “I am in love with you but I am scared shitless to let anyone into my complicated life” level, the “I’m not happy in my marriage but I am too afraid to let go” level, the “I really like you but I just met you” level, the “I am falling in love with you but my job status makes our potential relationship awkward” level, the “You have been my dearest and most loyal companion but I have invested my life in the world of sex, drugs and rock-n-roll” level, the “I am totally in love with the coolest girl in school but I am afraid she doesn’t even know my name” level.
This young boy, Sam, is talking to his father, Daniel. The two recently lost their mother/wife. Sam has been acting morose and Daniel sits him down to talk. Sam admits to Daniel that it is not simply his mother that is keeping him in a gloomy state: he is in love and has been since before his mother’s passing.
Daniel: [laughing] Oh, well, okay… right. Well, I mean, I’m a little relieved.
Daniel: Well, because I thought it would be something worse.
Sam: [incredulous] Worse than the total agony of being in love?
Daniel: Oh. No, you’re right. Yeah, total agony.
The total agony of being in love. Total. Agony. We have all been there, under the weight, consuming and heavy. But the agony comes not from love: the agony comes from being in love and not doing anything about it. On the “I am in love with you but I am scared shitless to let anyone into my complicated life” level, the weight does not come from the “I am in love with you” bit. That bit is the most magical feeling in this life. The weight, the consuming heaviness, comes from what follows the “but” – the statement that we use as a means to excuse our fear of rejection, as a means of self-preservation. The question that begs to be asked next is“Preservation for what?” For what are we preserving our fragile egos? For whom do we hold onto our pride? At what point do we get to cash in on all of those times we ‘played it cool’ and maintained our guard for the sake of avoiding feeling vulnerable? I don’t know, maybe Saint Peter gives us more tickets to use in the heavenly version of Dave and Busters. And in the meantime, is the suffering, the total agony of withholding our truth – in its whole, pure, honest form – worth it?
We hold onto our wildest dreams, our fears and failures, our deepest pains, our kinkiest fantasies, our real passions, our dissatisfaction, our nerdy hobbies and grossest habits, our most embarrassing vices, our biggest loves. We hold onto it all. But for what purpose, what ends? That is what I wanted to confront with my theme this year. I wanted to confront it within myself and within my relationships and within the life I am creating for myself.
In matters of love, I got my heart broken, twice over. And found forgiveness, patience and lasting love. In the awkwardness of transition, I left myself open to creativity and serendipity. And found a job that challenges and inspires me. I wrote a eulogy to someone who is still alive and expressed my appreciation for the people who continue to influence my life even though they have passed on. And found myself saying things people needed to hear. I returned to my home and hometown to see if the place that raised me could provide stimulation and opportunity for me as I started a new phase in my life. And found that in giving back, I could finally let go.
I made a promise to myself to be honest and knew I would at times fall short. But in the process, I got closer to that elusive something that makes us come alive and feel alive. Truth-telling. At the highest and deepest and most raw levels. It is scary shit. But I have to try, I am compelled to try. A wise little creature once said, “Do. Or do not. There is no try.” Sorry, Yoda – there is try. And sometimes, the try is all you’ve got.
Daniel: Tell her that you love her.
Sam: No way! Anyway, they fly tonight.
Daniel: Even better! Sam, you’ve got nothin’ to lose, and you’ll always regret it if you don’t! I never told your mom enough. I should have told her everyday because she was perfect everyday. You’ve seen the films, kiddo. It ain’t over ’til its over.
Sam: Okay, Dad. Let’s do it. Let’s go get the shit kicked out of us by love.