This is an old post, but this needs to be on my blog. Because of reasons.
We saw Celeste and Jesse Forever last week, before we caught a late flight back to the Midwest and I cried and cried and ached for how true it was and how terrible that truth is.
If we’re being honest, I maybe cried less at the loved story and more because I recognized in Celeste the most dangerous parts of me. The parts I’ve turned down to low, but that still crouch and flicker and stand ready to rage at all the wrong moments. The parts I’ve subdued but which my better angels have not learned how to beat, how to drive out.
Afterward, we walked back down Sunset in the dark, hearing the approaching clatter of skateboarders and stepping out of the way just in time. You were calculating the traffic to the airport and worrying about shuttles while I was walking a step too slowly and thinking This is a Movie to Own.
By which I mean: This is the only sort of movie I am moved to buy — one to watch over and over and lament and love and be devastated and warned by.
Maybe it meant this much just to me. And maybe I am only writing about it now because today has been a hard, heavy work day and I’m feeling extra tender and sad.
But I just want to lie on a bed, head in your lap and cry fat, ploppy hot tears while you play with my hair. And I’ll explain to you how tiring it is to be a person who must be Right.
How it feels to be naturally at a grace-deficit and to have to mine for it, to frantically hunt for it and patch it on and pray it holds.
How I will spend my whole life trying to soften myself. You know when you lie in yoga and they say, “Feel yourself release. Let go of everything in your head. Feel your shoulders fall back. Relax your arms. Soften your fingers. Feel your legs let go. Your stomach. Your knees. Your thighs. Soften, relax, release, let go. Let go. Let go.”
This is my living monologue. This is too much of my whole life, turned in, turned out. The judgment and frustration and anger and demands I restrain from everyone I encounter, from myself. How often I work to not tsunami everyone I know and love with the crush: “Why can’t you all be what I think you should? Why can’t you do it like I would?”
You know what killed me? What made me flinch with recognition? The very beat after Celeste casts herself in a confessed, broken rumple at Jesse’s feet — lamenting and repenting for her damned need to be Right above anything else — she rallies and screams “Why couldn’t you change for me!?”
We know. You know? We know this relentless, dictatorial, score keeping, possessing need to be Right is Wrong. We know it is crushing to the people we love and work with and live below and meet in line at the coffee shop or in boats in Bali. We know it has broken you — or if not yet you, the line of contenders that came before you. And we must change. We try to change. We change. But it’s immutable as the compulsion to drunkenness, humming along just below the sweet soft skin. Just waiting for enough slack in the line to charge and demand: Why couldn’t you be more (for me)?
I know I am a hard person to work with.
I strive not to be. I thank and praise and ask nicely and support and coordinate and share or bypass credit and want so much to be loved as a team player because I love my teammates. I am also, regularly, insufficiently holding back my frustration at the world’s indifference to the list of mantra’s that gongs in my head all day and won’t be silenced until I nag:
Why isn’t it done yet?
Why are we so slow?
Why didn’t you do it better?
Why didn’t you do it my way?
Why didn’t you ask me how it should be done when I clearly have the most experience?
I know it’s ugly. And as much as I spray over it with the other half of me that is kind and good and appreciative and supportive, the smell of my disappointment and control cannot be obscured. I know that. I am better than I used to be and yet still 50% more exacting and demanding and tiring than most of the good people I work with. Part of me wants to change. And part of me selfRIGHTeously can’t without knowing exactly who will keep watch if I set it all down.
This isn’t even a movie about work, really. Worse. It’s a movie about what being this brittle Right thing does to our marriages. It’s about divorce. (And if you have been divorced, let me warn you how this will take any latent pain and add water to it like pancake mix and you will fatten and fluff with contorting old remorse and guilt and mourning until you can barely move. And by that I mean the largest possible compliment to the screenwriters who have found a way to tap and run out of us every sadness I thought had hardened into amber. Kudos)
It’s about being so radically blinded by the conviction that we deserve Better, that we can’t even see Good anymore, you know? It’s so good. It’s just really so good.
I cried too long at this movie. Because I have been there and I don’t ever want to go back. I sat and watched Celeste and Jesse and afterward, I wanted to call Rashida Jones and say “You got it so right. How did you know?” But my throat is too thick and rubbery for words. I can’t even say it all to Chris. All I can do is just say This is Too Much. I relate too well. Congratulations.
It’s so tenuous, you know? It takes a movie like this or a book that stops me and crushes me into convicted pulp to remember how f-ing prone we are to ruin the things we love. And that terrifies me.
Do you know how easy it is to ruin the people we love?
Obviously, I have no small and simple way to say this movie gutted me. I wish I had coherent words for it. An articulate review. But all I have is the ability to stand with my hands holding my own wet heavy heart and stomach and liver and nod at it and say:
You’re right. I almost forgot, but you’re so right.
Thank you. I’ll work harder.