Fast forward; life like a movie

Opening credits: Everything I Knew by Busted

Have you seen PS I Love You? If not, skip to the next paragraph…

So – at the start she’s married, her whole married life ahead of her, wrestling with what they’ll do next; by the end she’s moving on from her husband’s tragic death and flirting with a new man. A bit blunt perhaps, but true. Read the book of Ruth in the Bible, similar story except it begins with her husband’s death and ends with her new baby boy (I have aims to emulate this, but without death and hopefully without gleaning in fields and accosting a man in his sleep).

It’s fascinating how a few years can go by in half an hour of reading, or a two hour film. The anguish, the misery, the pain is gone after a couple of hours and life’s back on the road again. I recently read The Silver Linings Playbook, in which Pat thinks of his life as a movie. He annoyingly gives away the end to all the books he reads which I won’t do here, but he is convinced that by the end of his movie there will be a happy ending. This is often the story we’re told. Films stop at a point where the first flush of love, marriage or optimism is overtaking the protagonists. The difficulty and trauma is resolved, or well on the way to sorted, and life moves happily on. We’re left to imagine the rest of the story and fast forward in our minds to what might happen next.

Except life isn’t like that. When your life falls off the rails, it takes day-by-day grit and determination to get on the track again. Two years takes two years to pass, and you have to pick yourself up every single day. It’s relentless, it’s hard and it’s exhausting.

I’m not completely like Pat, for a start I can’t run or benchpress, and I’ve never yet been committed to an institution (depending on how you feel about school or Parliament) but like Pat, imagining life a little like a movie helped me through.

The first reason for this, is that a lot can happen in two years. In 2013 I began counselling, hopeful that at the very least I would grow as a person. And I did. It taught me a lot and I sill think back on it now. In fact, in the winter of 2014 I was in a different job in a different city, all but divorced, actually enjoying single life and living alone. This is no small change for me. In the film of my life, I’d come out the other side and was on the up. The flicker of hope for reconciliation was a thread running through 2013; this was merely the middle hour of the film, but in reality it was a 365 day slog. Who can tell what will happen in two years? Time does pass, however hard it is. PS I Love You was a constant reminder in my head that a lot can and does change in two years. It helped me remember this season wouldn’t last forever, because no season does.

Recovery comes in the end, sometimes in unexpected places. Starting a new job about half an hour into my life movie had many possible outcomes. What I found were two women who were real, honest, merciless at times and always had my back. If one of us walked in and was having a bad day, the others would pick up any slack until that person got back into the teaching swing. We met and mentioned this today, and it almost moved me to tears. It was an invaluable part of my regaining myself. They kept me going at work many a time and every day began with a hug. In true form their first two questions of our catch up today were… ‘Have you got a boyfriend yet?’ and ‘Why not?’ – I said they were real (and it’s why I love them). In that middle hour of the film, gradually you realise that for a few days, you haven’t found it quite as hard as before; you haven’t thought about ‘it’ for a few more hours. It stops consuming every waking thought, and recovery happens, day by day, hour by hour.

But the trouble with life as a movie, is that it’s all too easy to fast forward. I have a tendancy to fast forward to the end of my movie. I am the queen of the five year plan. Six years ago I was about to finish University, get married, work for a few years, buy a house, start a family. The future was rosy. I had it sorted.

Except that’s not how life works out. I hadn’t allowed for other people. I hadn’t allowed for the twists and turns of life, when almost three years ago, my marriage broke down. The twists in the plot mean that if you fast forward, you don’t necessarily end up where you think you will. By now I’d anticipated having a baby, maybe two…I wouldn’t be a teacher anymore, so at least part of it has come true, but I’m not a stay at home mum.

Fast forwarding doesn’t work. While you might be able to call every plot twist in a film, it’s much harder in real life. Hindsight is a wonderful thing to see how time has changed events and you, but living in the future just means you miss today. There’s things I want to happen in my life, that might never transpire; but if I spend all my time anticipating them, how much I might miss. I feel that my life movie is all but over – the audience left to imagine what might come next in my life, because a movie is only ever a snapshot. So I’m going to keep going, enjoying the moments and knowing nothing lasts forever, so enjoy it today.

Closing credits: I’m Still Standing by Elton John; Never Once by Matt Redman

Surviving Separation and Divorce

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