…And so began my quest to purge my emotions and hopefully arrive in a place where I feel more whole, forgiving, and accepting of myself, my limitations, and my dilemma with my girl… My purging journey lasted an entire day and, at times, I felt as though it was both a distraction for my intolerable emotions and also a release valve for them (more so, the latter). Movies help me draw out poisons one at a time so that each can be validated and eased to a manageable level.
First I yearned for something that would validate my elaborate inner world of vivid colors and intense feelings. I needed a sort of film that would acknowledge the beautiful complexities of all the contradictory emotions that I was simultaneously experiencing: Awe and terror, peace and fear, love and hate, fascination and disgust. To start my purge, I turned to Baz Luhrmann -a master of deep emotion and beautiful explosions of color. I reached for Moulin Rouge, which, over the years, had gotten buried because I grew to find it sappy and over-emotional. Now was a time when I was feeling highly emotional, however, so Moulin Rouge, felt like the right place for me to start my quest to master my feelings. I started watching at the end of the film -when the “evil Duke” forced Satin to convince Christian that she didn’t love him and that he should leave her forever. I fantasized that this was what was merely happening with in my own life. My girl didn’t really want to go off to see about being with another man -she just had too because he was in a position of power over her. This of course, is by no means the truth in reality (she is going off to see him because her heart is telling her that she needs to)… but in the stages of grief one usually starts with denial. Putting myself in Christian’s shoes helped me bleed the start of an intense array of feelings -at this early point in my purge it didn’t matter if the feelings I was experiencing were founded in truth. As I observed Christian’s feelings unfold on screen, I allowed myself to feel them as well: devastation, doubt, confusion, disbelief, desolation. By the end of the movie, in the moment when it was revealed that Satin had, in fact, been lying to Christian for the sake of saving him from being killed by the Duke -my feelings diverged from the characters’ on screen. Satin had, in fact, truly loved Christian all along. This differed from my situation and the realization of that reality gave way to my own pain, fear, sadness that contrasted, rather than paralleled, what was happening on the screen. In some strange way I convinced myself that my story somehow seemed more tragic than the one in the movie since my girl didn’t already love me enough to not need to go and see what she might have with another man. I cried. … Then the ending of the movie came when Satin died from illness, and, although Satin and Christian’s love had been rectified, Christian is left alone -avenged in his love, yes, yet, forever disconnected from being able to share it with his lover. This idea prompted me to imagined how I would feel if my girl chose the man from her past over me. I felt great sadness and pain from that idea. I was acquiring mastery over the difficult feelings that might come when/if my girl does, in fact, decide that she cannot be with me anymore. Through the Moulin Rouge I was able to safely explore some very difficult possibilities. Crying made me feel better. My tears turned into a beautiful gratefulness and an appreciation for the realization that I could care so deeply and so greatly for someone and something in my life.
Next I felt an impulse to watch another one of Bhaz Luhrman’s tragedies: Romeo + Juliet. I began the film at the part where Mercutio and Benvolio were being playful and rowdy on the beach. The playfulness gave me distance and rest from the intense feelings that I had just been experiencing from watching the end of Moulin Rouge. I knew, however, that soon the movie would dissolve into a scene dealing with the rejection of love which eventually would give way to intense uncontrolled anger. I sympathized with Romeo when he attempted to pacify a rage-filled Tybalt. Romeo’s love for Juliet was so great that he initially refused to fight Tybalt despite being relentlessly instigated. This “doing the ‘right thing’ for love” felt similar to my decision to support my girl even though I don’t want her to go to see the man from her past. When Mercutio, hot with anger and ready for a fight, stepped into the fray, the tipping point for Romeo was soon reached. Tybalt killed Mercutio who was trying to avenge Romeo’s honor. Mercutio’s murder triggered Romeo into an uncontrolled rage: Romeo ran to his car -his friends tried to stop him, but he was too empowered by his intense anger. In his car Romeo chased and ultimately crashed into a fleeing Tybalt -spilling him out of his car. In a frenzy, Romeo ran to Tybalt, who, upon managing to stumble out of his wrecked car, somehow clumsily recovered and drew his gun toward Romeo. “Either thou, or I, or both must go with him!!!” Screamed Romeo, impassioned and desperate -grabbing Tybalt’s gun and holding it to his own head. Tybalt, in shock of Romeo’s passion and recklessness, froze. In that brief moment of hesitation, Romeo gave into his lusting vengeful impulses, negating forethought: He grabbed Tybalt’s gun and shot him with it with the rage and pain of his heart. … There was a pause. In a slowed moment wherein Romeo tragically realized the gravity of his action, Romeo looked to the sky and yelled “I am fortune’s fool!”
Anger is the second stage of grieving. Watching Romeo give in to his intense feelings of anger helped me to safely explore and vent my feelings of anger towards myself (for feeling like somehow I am “not good enough”), my girl (for feeling like she doesn’t value my love enough to want to stay with me), the man from my girl’s past (for the threat that he poses), and the universe (for forcing me to face the possibility that my heart may get broken). The movies that I was choosing, one by one, were allowing me to separate my huge mess of tangled emotions to work through everything at a manageable level.
Next I watched the ending of Revolutionary Road -a very dark and depressing movie. :::SPOILER WARNING::: I started watching from my favorite scene when April returns from the forest after having a terrible terrible fight with Frank, her husband: Before returning to the inside of her home, April took a moment to lean against a tree and light a cigarette. The camera slowly pans around her face until we see her look up. The audience finds that she has changed. Where once there was hope and passion in her eyes, now there resided nothing more than a dark emptiness. April is completely numb and already dead. This is one of the most brilliant and powerful moments in acting that I have ever seen in cinema. The look on April’s face conveys so much without the need of even a single word of dialogue. You see the culmination of her depression and her dark resolution to find a way out -a way out that ultimately resulted in her death. Watching April on the screen allowed me to explore another dimension of feeling that I was experiencing: desolation, hopelessness, numbness, loneliness, and depression (the next stage of grief). I continued to watch events unfold, until ultimately, Frank is given the shocking news at the hospital that April has died from a self-afflicted act. Frank was utterly ruined and completely devastated. He gasped for air and faltered, weak in the knees -unable to take in the calamity and tragedy of his fate and the scope of what sort of dreadful part he must have played in it all. This was a feeling that I imagine I will experience if I find out that my girl is choosing to leave me. With Frank, I was able to practice what I fear I may have to one day face if things don’t work out with me and my girl. Revolutionary Road helped me to safely experience the sensation of having my heart get broken.
Watching all of these very intense and depressing movies helped to keep me distracted from my left brain’s tendency to run around in circles in it’s seemingly futile attempts to encapsulate and understand my feelings. Instead of rationalizing away my troubles -I used my right brain to wade through them -one by one, in a manageable fashion. To end my purging for the day, I decided to go by myself to a theater to watch Inception for the second time -except this time I would watch it on the ginormous IMAX screen. (What better way to fully and forcefully engage my right brain, eh?). Inception helped me to feel better in several ways: 1) It gave me some perspective on the scope of my problem: Inception deals with the question “what is reality?” It proposes the idea that perhaps all that we see and comprehend is not the whole picture of what is actually happening. Certainly there may be layers of existence occurring outside of our direct consciousness. I’m not totally sure why or how, but that notion gives me an odd comfort. It allots me distance from my fears and pains and it reminds me that life exists outside of my limited means of experiencing it. Therefore, just because I may feel like any given situation is the end of the world -it likely is, in fact, not. 2) There was a scene that I found particularly comforting: Near the end of Inception :::SPOILER WARNING::: Cobb is forced to dive deep into his own subconscious “limbo” where he has to face his memory of his dead wife, Mal. Throughout the film Cobb was unable to let go of the memory of Mal -and as a result she made several appearances that confounded or complicated his missions in the dream world. He suffered because he was too afraid and in pain to move on from his guilt about having accidentally murdered Mal. At the end, however, Cobb found redemption when he realized that the image of Mal that he held on to so tightly was nothing more than mere conception of her -one which was no where near as precious as the real infinitly more complex real Mal. In that moment he accepted that the real Mal was dead and that he needed to let go of his conception of her in order to move on. “I love you, but I’m going to have to let you go now” he told her. Even in the face of fear, Cobb found acceptance of himself and he found the courage to let go and move on. This idea moved me to tears. If I am going to survive the potential loss of my girl, I am going to have to accept that I did everything that I could (in my limited capacity as a human being) to share my love and myself with her. If that is not enough for her than we simply were not meant to be. Yes, losing my girl would hurt very much -but at least I will have peace knowing that I gave my all. … This is the final stage of grief: acceptance.
I am so eternally thankful for movies and the internal adventures and challenges that they allot me. Movies help me to see and understand myself. The remind me how -even (and perhaps especially) in my moments of greatest despair- life and the world are beautiful. Having bled and sorted my emotions I was now ready to return to my girl and face whatever reality would be awaiting… (to be continued)