Last night Val and I rented Manchester by the Sea. Let me first clarify things by saying, I know and understand the issues around Casey Affleck and his treatment of women and that I wanted to watch the movie from the viewpoint of what I could learn as a person and a writer. It delivered well on both fronts.
Affleck plays a janitor whose brother dies of Congestive Heart Failure. The remainder of the movie reveals the ghosts from his own past as he faces his brother’s death and the care required for his teenage nephew.
You spend the movie rooting for Affleck to have a change of heart, that he’ll embrace the kid and stand in as his father. In the end, he can only do what he knows. He runs back to Boston and lets his nephew be adopted by family friends, even though he finds an apartment with an extra room incase the kid wants to visit on the weekend.
In their emotional final dinner together, Affleck tells the kid:
“I can’t beat it.”
When we face down grief and trauma, our response is often the same.
To avoid the pain we jump around. We think about the past or the future to avoid the present. We do whatever we can to not live in the moment. We check out.
Our smartphones become our pacifiers.
There are conversations floating in the air begging for our engagement and the effort is just to hard. We’re emotionally and physically spent.
We just can’t beat it.
I’ve recently taken small steps to combat this. Every morning, before leaving for work, I pray with Carter if he’s the only one awake. If everyone is up, we all pray together. It is a moment he looks forward to now.
I carry an index card in my wallet with three statements on it:
Find Joy Every Day/ No More Wall/ I am My Own Husband and Father
I’d been missing out on the joy around me, living behind an emotional wall, and feeling like I could only measure my worth as a father against those men I knew around me.
Everything, I realized, was wrong.
Joy is there, if you take a moment to see it. The Wall can come down if you take the emotional effort to work through it.
You can be the mother, father, husband or wife you want to be regardless of anything in the past or present. You can take a positive effort to shape the future and create your own identity.
You can create You.
This isn’t easy but it is part of my new journey. I hope you’ll join me and I know, one day at a time, things can change for all of us.