Sunday, December 13, 2009

Up, Down, On Pain

Have you seen the movie "Up" - you know, the animated one with the old guy and the house and balloons and the little fat kid?

I rented it last night. Oh my lord, it made me bawl. I'm not sure that that was the intended effect on the moviegoing public, seeing as it's a Disney movie, and all, and I'm sure it is supposed to be a comedy. But still, there was bawling in my house. The kind of crying that is so loud and involved that you have to snort hard to get gasps of breath in your body inbetween wails. The kind of crying that makes your cat look up in alarm at the terrible racket you are making.

You see, at the beginning there's a little montage of the history of how the old crotchety guy got to be the old crotchety guy. It's lovely really, but includes a tiny scene where him and his wife suffer what appears to be the loss of a pregnancy and then never have kids. Presumably because they can't. And of course, to an infertile, this cuts like a knife wound, so it started me off with the sobbing. Of course, they make the best of things, and have a lovely relationship which is shown over the years, but which to my eyes was always tinged with the sadness of what never was. And yet they never get to go off and have the adventures they dreamed of, because there's always some emergency or other to pay for. And then the wife dies. And the man loses his last link to happiness, but has to carry on in his lonely life. And that had me wailing even harder.

It got me thinking of course, if they HAD been able to have children, would we have NOT expected them to still dream of having adventures? Is having children enough of an adventure that it leads to a satisfying life? I think the general answer is yes - it is an adventure into how you can live with your heart walking around outside of your body, in having your heart opened up so wide, with learning about responsibility and caring and having to be there and having to be responsive to that little being even when every fiber of your being is worn out, worn down and just plain bored of just one more repetition of "the wheels on the bus" or whatever. But those of us that do not have children, we seem to be expected to go out and find that grand adventure, that BIG life that is allegedly denied to those with children, to find meaning elsewhere. And if we don't do that, are we failures to be pitied? I suppose we are. I suppose I was pitying the old guy in the cartoon. I suppose that's what I was meant to do. And then we are supposed to cry again at the happy, yet poignant, ending montage. Which I did too. Of course there's a happy ending. It's Disney. And WE have to hope for a happy ending too.

And yet, there's a story there about loss here. And yes, redemption. There is so much love and loss, and pain in the world, that anything that shows it breaks my heart open anew these days. Any death of a child, of a spouse, of a sibling, of a parent, of any loved one, is terrible. Any infertility, especially if it involves a permanent loss - of a pregnancy, of a hope, of a dream, of a link to a genetic child, is terrible. But what gets me is the people who are left behind, who have to soldier on. Who have to continue living their life because it's not their time to die too. What a terrible fate. We who are left behind have to wallow in the grief even while we're secretly waiting for our own improbable Disney-like happy ending, for redemption, for a fat, obnoxious, annoying kid to knock on our door and change our lives.

And yet, I have seen my own pain and how it has changed me. Inside. Without a kid coming along and doing it for me. And would I change that for all the world? That realization that I can change my viewpoint about things and see the good in the bad? Actually, of course I would. I'm not yet so evolved that I cherish all of my pain, that I wouldn't gladly have changed it for success - but I CAN see that it has been in some ways beneficial. That it IS changing my life for the better, and that I can cherish parts of it, parts of my journey. And I am thankful that I can see that much. So why can't I see that pain for others could be good too, in the end? I suppose it's because we all just want to spare everyone from the depths of despair. We see pain in others, yes, even in a Disney cartoon, and are reminded of our own torment. And that hurts.

Nobody wants to go through the depths, the dark night of the soul, and yet the depths is precisely where the rebirth of a new hope, a new life, a new light can take place. It's a scary, horrible place, and not everyone has that new hope experience of course, but I wish, I wish, that those that ARE in pain, that have to go through it, can get something good out of it. I wish that we all could fully live in this wonderful adventure of life. Fully live. Even if we have to suffer through pain and loss and disappointment while we're doing it. I wish we could fully take to heart the words of the wise people who have been there before us and come out the other side. I wish we could all find the joy in pain.

On pain

And a woman spoke, saying, Tell us of Pain.
And he said:
Your pain is the breaking of the shell that encloses your understanding.
Even as the stone of the fruit must break, that its heart may stand in the sun, so must you know pain.
And could you keep your heart in wonder at the daily miracles of your life, your pain would not seem less wondrous than your joy;
And you would accept the seasons of your heart, even as you have always accepted the seasons that pass over your field.
And you would watch with serenity though the winters of your grief.

Much of your pain is self-chosen.
It is the bitter potion by which the physician within you heals your sick self.
Therefore trust the physician, and drink his remedy in silence and tranquility;
For his hand, though heavy and hard, is guided by the tender hand of the Unseen,
And the cup he brings, though it burns your lips, has been fashioned of the clay which the Potter has moistened with his own sacred tears.

From The Prophet, by Kahlil Gibran


Anonymous said...

AMAZING post! We saw UP a few weeks ago but you so eloquently put into words what we were thinking.
Hope things are well with you. I know we havent spoken in a while but I was just on the forum as I got a PM and saw one from you a while ago. I hope you are well, and taking care of yourself.

Rach said...

What a truly heartfelt post and one that I 100% agree with.

We saw UP at the movies and I was blubbering most of the way through it, DH looked at me and just shook his head but admitted afterwards that he too felt sad watching it.

I will admit to feeling like I need to do something to fill the void not having children has left in my life, I need to create that big adventure or have that great career because when people ask if you have children and you say no, they expect you to say you fill that void with something spectacular!!

Once again an absolutely great post!


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Anonymous said...

Hmmm....I just saw Up and I did not take it to mean having kids is a substitute for an adventure. I think the woman - had she had kids - would have still have dreamed of going to Paradise Falls. However, the lack of kids meant the old man had no connection to the world when his wife died. On the other hand, they seem to have had a much more loving relationship because it was just the two of them. At least, that's what I get from the movie.
- Rae

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Me said...

I actually found the ending to be sad too. I mean he ultimately found happiness by being a pseudo-parent... I have read lots of recaps of this movie on other IFers blogs and no one has ever mentioned that they found the ending sad except me. Is there something wrong with me that I saw the ending in this light?

Anonymous said...

Hmmmm..... I did not find the ending to be sad. What would have been sad is the man sitting alone at Paradise Falls. What good could have arrived from that?

The old man from birth was quite introverted. He lived through his wife. With her gone, he had nobody. I'm glad he was able to reach out and build a network of friends and non-biological family members.