Sunday, January 22, 2012

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close

So I have eagerly been awaiting the release of the film, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, since I learned it was being filmed early last year. The movie is adapted from Jonathan Safran Foer's book about an 8 year old boy who loses his father in 911.  It is probably one of my all time favorite contemporary books. It truly is a shining star amongst new age literature, not only is it an artistic masterpiece, but it is able to transcend the page and truly speak to the soul. I can remember exactly where I was and what I was doing when I first read it, and that hasn't happened for me since the Great Gatsby in my high school literature class.

It was last year in early December, I was interviewing for residency and one of my best friends recommended that I pick up this book for my travels. She is a literary aficionado, who knows me well, thus I trusted her opinion. Let's just say, she is yet to steer me wrong. I couldn't put the book down. Doused with imagery, the book is complex and spoke multitudes to me. I was actually on a plane flight to Portland, OR for my interview when I finished the book. It was late, as I had taken a red eye flight,  I stayed up the entire flight reading it with tears streaming down my face.  A stewardess, who noted my tears, came up to me and asked if she could help me in any way, I just smiled and said through my sniffles and tears "It's just a really good book."

The premise of the book resides around a little boy whose father dies in the world trade center on 911. The boy to some may be odd, but his bond with his father is not misunderstood.  The boy stumbles upon a key in his father's closet after the "worst day,"which he feels is a sign from his father, as if he is  trying to tell him something. The rest of the book revolves around this boy's adventure to find the lock to this key. It is a beautiful portrayal of grief, loss, and the things we do to try to understand it all.

As I sat in the movie theater tonight I couldn't help but love every morsel of this film. From the cast, to the imagery, to the screen play. It was magnificent. The photo above is one of my favorite scenes in the entire film. Immersed in imagery it is a powerful moment in the film about stopping. As the film unfolded I couldn't help but be moved to tears while sitting in the theater. Perhaps, the movie has hit home more than I thought it would over the last year. You see the entire movie revolves around Oskar, the main character, trying to make sense of why his father was killed.  Yet he concludes it doesn't make sense. And I agree. I will never understand why the sky is blue instead of green, why bad things happen to good people, why tragedy strikes, why boys will break your heart,  why my timing is always off,  or why people suffer.

I know what it is like to ask yourself these questions over and over again. Contemplating if you did something wrong, wondering what you had done to deserve this sort of loss.  You try to hold on to anything, whether it is a search for a lock to a key, or just something that will bring you closer to the person you lost.  Yet, at the end of your search, you learn that you are not alone. That everyone is searching for answers, and sometimes there are no good explanations.

Through his pain and paralyzing grief, Oskar, found his strength. The same is true for us. Real life is full of joy, sorrow, and confusion. None of us are exempt. Yet, once you have lived through the unthinkable you learn how strong you truly are, the burden you can bare. You realize that life is precious, and can be altered in a minute or a mere phone call. Yet, without ruining the end of the book, I will say the  take home message of this movie is that life is worth the accumulation of all the joy, grief, mystery, and laughter this world has to offer, it's about being moved to tears, laughing until you cry, and loving someone with all your heart and hoping that someday you will be able make sense of it all.

So pretty please do yourself a favor, and go see this movie.--- You won't be disappointed.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Refusing to Settle

I think sometimes in life we all need a little reminder. I received mine on New Year's Eve this year. I think that we all have expectations of what we think is going to happen when you move somewhere new. Perhaps I thought Portland would be a sea of endless liberal, handsome, artistic men and I would finally find someone special. Unfortunately, my love life has been quite the opposite.  My love life this past year resembles more of a comedy routine than a love story.  If I could tell you the stories of my life, you wouldn't believe it. The stories are hilarious, jaw dropping, and I would have you laughing until you were crying.

Thus, in my mind New Years was supposed to be this magical night for me, a new start. I tend to have a good time wherever I go, but perhaps my friend could sense my disappointment for the evening. We were laughing and chatting when she opened a beer for herself. The cap of her beer of choice always has a little message on the underside of the cap, kind of like a Dove chocolate. She read the bottle cap and looked at me and said, " This is for you." She placed it in my hand.  As I uncurled my fingers that surrounded the bottle cap, I just kept reading the words on the cap over and over in my head, "to refusing to settle."

While she will never know the extent of what she did for me that night, I realized how right she was.  Not only did it pertain to my love life, but everyday life.  I feel we all are prone to settling.  The truth is that with the real things that matter in life, you deserve the best and settling should never be an option. I think we all know those people who are perpetually in relationships because they cannot fathom being alone. They constantly jump boyfriend to boyfriend to settle for the next best thing. I have gone to their weddings, bought the gifts, smiled and wondered to myself are they happy? Will their love last? I feel that in our society there is this palpable pressure to follow the crowd, to do what everyone else is doing, because no one wants to be left out.

Maybe I too was prone to settling this year,  just wanting someone to want me, to think I was special, despite how un-Mr. Wonderful they were. Yet what I have learned this year is that life is too short to settle, whether it is love, your job,  or your goals of life. There is no reason I should of hobbled home after a marathon because he forgot to pick me up, or entertain my date's ex- girlfriend who happened to show up at dinner, but for some reason in my mind I had decided this was ok. The truth is both you and I deserve more.

We deserve the best this world has to offer, and it starts with us. It begins with you and me believing we deserve great things. It begins with you and me refusing to settle for mediocrity. It begins with you and  me pushing ourselves one more mile, because we can. It begins with us.  My hope for you this year is that you settle for more. Prove to yourself that you are worth it.  Know in your heart that you have something to give to this world. Because what you will discover is how wonderful you truly are.