We reacted right away when Columbine happened, spinning every stray hair of a rumor into a tapestry of explanation. A crisis like that draws us in, makes us nearer to the now. It rattles us where we are usually numb. It reorients our world for a time. We stare down humanity, searching every eye to find either a brother or a monster. People are a mix of those things, but we want an either/or. A definitive separator feels good, draws a clear line between monsters and humans.
Sadness is such a difficult part of ourselves. Life, it often seems, would be better without it. But that’s not exactly true. I kind of like my sadness, as long as it’s balanced. When things go wrong, I’d rather just be quiet with it than to feel nothing at all. It can feel good to hurt, or to at least bring the hurt up to the surface enough to get it out through tears, words or hugs. Life itself is incredibly tough, and that’s why we need sadness to get us through. If we ignore it too much, the world takes on a dishonest veneer, and we feel a bit dishonest ourselves. We need to just talk, listen and rest sometimes. Sometimes we just need to say, simple as it is, “Yeah, it’s sad.” Pete Docter’s Pixar animated film Inside Out examines this importance of sadness in a way that’s never been done before on screen, maybe never been done before at all.
When I get home from work I have a smile on that I don’t mean. My 3-year-old can’t tell the difference. He thinks I go to a fun place all day. I don’t want my kids to think my life is bad, to pity their father. I don’t want my kids to fear life.
Cheryl Strayed, like many, found in an opiate a temporary patch for life’s wretched emotional churning. Thankfully, she didn’t dance with it long enough to become physically or psychologically addicted. Instead, she sought out a different cure: solitude and physical pain on the Pacific Crest Trail. 17 years later, she published a memoir about that experience brimming with insights about memory, love, and wrestling with the self.
Olive Kitteridge is one of best examples of the “difficult” person in modern literature, and she’s been expertly channeled for the screen by Frances McDormand.