October 15, 2020
One of my favorite movies is Stranger than Fiction, a movie that stars Will Ferrell playing the rare serious character. It came out in 2006, and is currently on Netflix if you'd like to watch. Without giving away any major plot points, it's about a man whose life is being narrated by a struggling writer. He's a man who's obsessed with logic, the order of things, and numbers. And when he starts hearing this author narrate his life, he thinks he has schizophrenia, but instead he goes on a journey of realizing his life is a story. And while he is alive, he better make it a good story. So he starts following passions that he's always pushed to the back burner, trying hobbies he's only dreamed about, and truly living his life.
One thing I've realized during this pandemic is that I've totally forgotten about "living life." That's a vague phrase people say that is used to the point of cliche. But I've always interpreted it as prioritizing what gives your life meaning and pursuing what makes you happy. Things like trying that hobby you've always been interested in but you've always been too busy for, taking that trip even though it means using some of your savings. Spending time with people who matter to you instead of working. Often it means putting aside tasks that don't really, truly matter in the grand scheme of things. Often it means choosing something for its meaning, and not for its pragmatism.
But in this time of pandemic, we've mostly been focused on survival, not thriving. We're just trying to get through this week, or this year. We're so overstimulated that there isn't much room in our head for dreaming. We feel like we can't do anything frivolous right now because there is too much at stake. We certainly can't travel nearly as easily. Perhaps all of this anxiety in the world makes it feel impossible to put ourselves in a good mood to really live life. And let me tell you, it's exhausting.
One of my favorite quotes ever comes at the end of the movie (and no it doesn't give anything away): "Sometimes, when we lose ourselves in fear and despair, in routine and constancy, in hopelessness and tragedy, we can thank God for Bavarian sugar cookies. And, fortunately, when there aren't any cookies, we can still find reassurance in a familiar hand on our skin, or a kind and loving gesture, or subtle encouragement, or a loving embrace, or an offer of comfort, not to mention hospital gurneys and nose plugs, an uneaten Danish, soft-spoken secrets, and Fender Stratocasters, and maybe the occasional piece of fiction. And we must remember that all these things, the nuances, the anomalies, the subtleties, which we assume only accessorize our days, are effective for a much larger and nobler cause. They are here to save our lives."
Perhaps "living life" these days doesn't mean our biggest items on our bucket list, but focusing on those small, seemingly mundane things. Taking joy in the tiny details that we might not notice, but in fact, save our sanity. Maybe it's the smile of a spouse or the laugh of your child, the comfort of making and serving a familiar family recipe, the yellow leaves against the blue sky outside the window, the comforting presence of a pet, the cool fall air, reading our favorite book, getting a laugh out of our favorite movie, or laughing with a friend. We have to remember to notice those little things that save our lives, those tiny things that make our life story what it is. We may not be able to do everything we want to, but we can still live life and enjoy the little things, the nuances, anomalies, the subtleties that are here to save our lives.