Things I did last week while I was not blogging like I promised for #BlogMeFebruary: Read two books. Saw a movie. Spent time in the sun. Did not work out. News-ed it up after the 8.0 quake in the Solomon Islands. Hosted a meetup. Ate four donuts. Rallied up four teams of two for our 40 Hour Famine TV commercial shoot. Flat hunted. Ate yum cha. Hung out with our youth ambassadors. Put together a report. Worked every day.
C’est la mon vie.
So here I am, meant to be writing on relationships tonight. But for the past 45 minutes I’ve been trying to think about relationships which has me really thinking about this:
I read two books in the last week both fiction, and both partly narrated by inordinary people. Inordinary like one was a mental illness patient and another an abusive husband. No, I don’t spend my evenings filling my brain with crazy… the first book is Silver Linings Playbook and the other a Nicholas Sparks novel. (Mindless reading is my luxury and therapy.)
In both books, I was fascinated by the narrator’s love for someone else — mental illness guy still in love with his ex-wife and abusive husband obsessively in love with his wife — and how real and stable they still believed their relationships to be with their wives despite four years in psychiatric rehab and three years of physical abuse. I don’t typically have conversations with someone who has a mental illness, nor do I have regular (or ever) conversations with abusive husbands, but I want to give the authors credibility in their characters so I’m believing the writing is somewhat representative of the real thought-process of people who exhibit similar characteristics.
When I do that — mentally accept that what I’m reading could be true in real-life situations — I tend to sympathise with the characters a whole lot more. It’s strange to be sitting in my bed next to my adoring husband as he snores, reading from Kindle at 2:00 am, sort of sympathising with the abusive husband in my book. I still want him to be caught, want her to get away, want to get to the next page and read the police have come. But I’m interested in his thought process along the way: how easily he groups together his love for his wife and his desire to hit her in one line of thought. His logic: Because she never thinks about anyone but herself. Because he loves her. And because … (the clincher) the Bible says so. (Note here the character uses the Bible to reaffirm his anger stemmed from his self-convincing thoughts that she is cheating on him, because why else would she leave him).
The Bible is the best possible excuse for all things (good and bad) and so I was unsurprised when “because the Bible says so” showed up in my other book as well. In Silver Linings Playbook the main character is convinced his life, like a good movie, is meant to end happily in a silver lining provided by God. He spends the entire book fixing himself for the one (imaginary) moment in time in the future when his wife will see him and how much he has changed for her. His life out of the psychiatric centre is hardly clear (with little memory about beating the man his wife was sleeping with to a bloody pulp), just balancing on a single belief — that he will live happily every after with his wife because God and the Bible believe “a wife is married to her husband as long as he lives.”
What strikes me as the most interesting thing about both of these books and their narrators is that they think things and feel things, and more importantly, strongly believe in things that are real and true to them. It’s the concept that whatever you think is real is real to you, and what’s real to you makes sense to you. In fact, it makes the most sense to you.
Also that these two narrators think things that, I don’t believe, are far removed from anything you or I would think. Do you love someone? Would you do anything to show them you loved them? Would you go to great limits to get back the person you love? Is God and the Bible a shaper in your beliefs? Is your faith supported by the ideal that good people deserve good things, and bad people deserve bad things? If you answered yes to any of those (so can I), you are just like the narrators I’ve read about (too).
(Hang with me here) So the abusive husband lives in his mind’s reality that his wife deserves to be beat. He operates the same way you or I do, but with a very, very different belief, with a different reality. In this case, it’s a reality that is supported by violence and madness, obsessiveness and danger. In the other book, the mental illness patient lives in a cloudy reality that if he just works hard enough, God will reward him and he’ll see his wife again. His reality is held up by popsicle sticks of hope and love and a refusal to accept everyone else’s reality that she’s not coming back.
Likely you have never experienced this exact situation (I haven’t). But I’d bet you have experienced something like this on much, much smaller scales (like me). Break-up with your first love, betrayal by someone you care about, anger for someone else’s actions, friendship in the most unlikely places, lessons in love and life, discovering your fears. And like the narrators, we’ve sought solutions or life paths based on our reality.
I think that must be the nugget I’ve walked away from both of these books. That our reality is largely constructed of our past experiences, and our past experiences composed of the interactions and encounters we have with others. Like our reality is a donut with a custardy filling made of relationships. And we will go to extraordinary lengths to hold onto the relationships we care about most.
This, all from two fictional books. Can you imagine what sort of philosophical insights I had after reading Hunger Games? And Fifty Shades of Grey? Save those for another day.
*This post has been added to LaTrina’s #BlogMeFebruary week two: Relationships.