Welcome to week three of our Drive In Series where we gain some brilliant emotional insights from film. I love to draw attention to moments that kick us in the back of the knees then sweetly help us back up again and feed us an ice cream. Characters we fall so madly deeply in love with that we feel their anguish in secret locked up places, so that when they suffer we cry inside and afterword there’s a little bit of room to move, and when they get really brave or strong or forgive themselves well so do we, a little bit at a time.
So good ol’ Pat (Bradley Cooper) has been white knuckling through undiagnosed bipolar until one day he walks in to find his beloved wife taking it in the shower from another man whilst Stevie Wonder croons their wedding song in the background My Cherie Amour, lovely as a summer’s day. We don’t see the blood and violence that ensues, but after an 8 month stint at a mental hospital he’s at home with his parents determined to win back his wife with frenetic positivity fettered by episodes of rage, triggered at times by the song. He meets the colourfully crazy widow Tiffany, who agrees to help him get a letter to his wife Nikki who has a restraining order against him if he partners with Tiffany (Jennifer Laurence) for a dance competition.
Well there are sparks between our anti heroes as they sweat it out in hopes of becoming mediocre passable dancers among the elite level participants at the dance off, but we’re not sure whether they will ignite into a gentle flame of love or blow the house up. Pat’s doin’ better as having something to work for and hope for can do for us, and then we hit a place where Tiffany’s losing her mojo. Her brand of unnamed instability includes gasp worthy acts of self destructive promiscuity and one day a gentleman comes a calling. Pat gets his quietly heroic moment when he confronts the caller and not knowing Tiffany has paused around the corner to listen, persuades him to back off with a speech about her. She isn’t the way you think, she is like a bird with a broken wing, she needs to heal, she artistic (oh and the WAY he says it here Friend) there is a squeeze somewhere between the stomach and the heart that makes me yelp and cover my eyes. He takes a stand against the voice that says you are your crazy, the voice of shame and worthlessness and sees instead her beauty and pushes through his own fragility to protect it, and the way he does it, throwing an arm around the horny stranger, escorting him out of the house firmly but without condemnation. Besides you’re not that kind of guy, he says and closes the door. JUST LIKE THAT this man who we were gonna condemn as a sleazeball, borderline rapist creep is NOT THAT GUY. In one fell swoop Pat teaches him something else, something better. She is artistic, the stranger is principled and caring, and PAT himself is protective, compassionate and utterly emotionally —not just regulated —but composed. We are about to go all Promising Young Woman on his ass. Pat, nope, he heals that bastard at least in the lens of our judgment.
This is what I want for us. To get to the place, not just one baffling moment of visitation but the place of residence where we respond to others’ dark places by shining light in them, inveterately. Where our response to a jab, a stab, a hurt is a compassionate one, because that is all that is left within us. Oh don’t worry, I am not there yet. I still need the override button. I still want to defend myself against misjudgement, or tell someone to go fly a kite all the way past the lovely green meadow into the tarry black pit of damnation where they belong when they mistreat my kiddos. But I practice. And practice until it stops hurting as much.
The truth is, we love movie crazy because it’s funny and it’s alive and it breaks the rules that break us down. It’s over in ninety minutes and a tub off buttery popped corn. It’s not spending all of the rent on bubble bath one day and then OD’ing in the tub the next. When Tiffany ‘out crazies’ Pat’s crazy she does it for all of us. Their love story does it for all of us. It takes power away from the song of betrayal and gives it back to the dance of hope.
We are NOT our most painful moments on our worst days when we broke down or apart. We can stop defining ourselves this way and measuring our worth against our inability to sustain infinite pressure.
I think we’re rather like a bird with a healing wing if you ask me.
We need protection, and tender care.
We may even be a little artistic.
This upcoming week practice your dirty dancing moves with Ryan and Emma in Crazy Stupid Love.
I’ll get the blankies, you dim the lights.
— Love Erin
P.S. 2021 I am bringing on the love. I’ll be featured in a podcast all about better loving, from healing your broken heart to intentional dating to creating a relationship that thrives, and I’ll be launching a sister site for all of you relationship and love enthusiasts, with all kinds of insights and offerings. Stay tuned!
P.P.S. One of the kindest things you can do for me is to share my writing. If you enjoyed today’s Monday Musing and know someone else who would please forward it to a friend.