You already know what kind of films I like, but those are not the films that the Angel watches. To paraphrase something I read somewhere, if our cultural interests met at a party, they would not get along, would probably get into some sort of violent exchange. She likes love stories, of the rom-com genre, with or without the com. It’s the rom that stirs her. There was a time when her tastes would have been a dealbreaker, thankfully that time has past. Nick Hornby said maybe it doesn’t matter what you like, but what you are like, and that’s absolutely true.
Anyway, she’s quite sick lately, and yesterday we watched a movie called Best Of Me, based on a Nicholas Sparks novel. I didn’t really like it, but I like her very very much, so we watched it and cried together at the end.
This post is a little uncomfortable to write. You see, for most of my life, I have subscribed to the idea that great art comes from heartbreak. That nothing worthwhile comes from happiness or satisfaction. Blood On The Tracks, the Smiths, heartbreak, loss, painful revelation; those things are deep and heavy, authentic and honest. Losing My Religion was awesome, Shiny Happy People sucked.
In my line of work, I mostly deal with steaming heaps of relationship wreckage. I walk alongside and hold hands with broken hearts and spirits, that’s what I do and if I could compartmentalize or not invest so much of me, it wouldn’t hurt so much. But I can’t. I am a carrier, so every now and again, I fall apart out loud. (I recognize that’s not the most macho thing to say, maybe I’m not the most macho man. Whatever.) I see emotions, I feel energy every time I want into a room. You don’t have to tell me, I know. And that is who I am, and I’d have it no other way – I walk in & stay.
And I also often pretend that I am not deliriously happy, joyful, grateful and content in my home. These dumb tapes in my head that tell me those are shallow and superficial, there since junior high, squeal and hiss. But those tapes/beliefs are hopelessly defective. I talk, write, think so much about presence, not missing anything, living honest lives. That usually means the lows, because of our tendency to hide them, shoving them in the closets of our public Insta-image, lying that “everything is fine, great, couldn’t be better.” But it works both ways. To only give voice to the painful bass notes is equally disingenuous and leaves no room for the melody.
I looked at my wife through red, watery eyes and felt 2 distinct realities. A, I love this Angel as we are, and will for the rest of my life. We are full and totally recognize the blessings we have inexplicably been given. And 2, so many do not. So many live lives of sadness, emptiness, and meaninglessness. I have been in both spaces, probably more often in the second. But neither is superficial, neither is more valid or genuine than the other. Why would I not easily give voice to everything, ups, downs, celebrations, tears, Pulp Fiction AND Best of Me?
Great art comes from truth, and truth is found everywhere, if we only have eyes to see and the courage to be vulnerable in what we see and experience. Lives of presence and weight require 2 hands (to hold seemingly conflicting emotions/realities) and soft hearts that work exactly the way they’re designed. We rise and fall, dance and crumble, laugh and wail, honestly, without judgment or outdated, misguided valuations, and we do this all together.
And I suppose Shiny Happy People isn’t that bad.