When I was struggling to recover from my eating disorder (and depression, and anxiety, and low self-esteem, and codependency) I was pretty preoccupied.
I also thought I pretty much had the worst life in the world.
I couldn’t imagine anyone who might be suffering more than me.
I was sure that wasn’t possible.
But then I started to get better. And stronger. And suddenly I had more energy to look around me and notice that I wasn’t the only one with a pretty full plate.
In fact, my plate looked rather light and digestible next to some of the piled-high plates other people were carrying around.
But I had to get to a certain baseline point of health and safety myself before I could spare the time or effort to see it wasn’t just me against the world.
It was me and everyone else against….well, ourselves, I guess.
Not too long ago, a friend and I decided we needed a spontaneous afternoon out. We met up at a favorite local theater and bought tickets to watch a movie called “A Man Named Ove.”
We didn’t know it was based on an international best-selling book, or that it had migrated all the way from Sweden to appear, in subtitles of course, on our big Texas screen.
What we did know in short order was that it was a wonderful film. That is, it was wonderful if you like the kind of films that squish you right in that uncomfortable mid-point between laughing and crying….for two straight hours.
Watching “A Man Called Ove” was like that. Here is this grumpy old man who is coping with growing old in all the many ways growing old can happen. He has only ever really relied on one person at a time – ever – and suddenly none of those people is available to him.
His response is to get grumpy…and then grumpier. And then even grumpier.
Enter a few happy “accidents,” some incredibly kind neighbors, a mea culpa or two, and this man finds the strength to cope with his own hard times in the only way we ever really do – by witnessing the courage of others and using it to kindle our own.
It reminded me very much of how I stopped being grumpy all the time – and I mean ALL the time – and started to try on a different approach to life instead. I started to realize I wasn’t all that grumpy, or bad, or selfish, or mean, or unhinged, after all. I slowly began to find things to like about myself – reasons to want to stick around and be me for a little longer.
Watching Ove do this was like watching myself get born. There is this one incredible line in the film where one of the characters says to Ove,
Either we die – or we choose to live.
In the moment I heard those words, I realized that was it in a nutshell. That was our choice – that is our choice. That was my choice, and I chose to live.
Every day, I am still choosing to live, and films like “A Man Called Ove” mentor me when I need a little extra reassurance that the additional daily work my choice requires is always worth it.
Today’s Takeaway: Have you seen “A Man Called Ove?” If so, what did you think? Did you have a favorite scene? What do you remember best about the film? If you haven’t seen this film, is there another film that helped you really feel connected to your own life story in a new and deeper way? What scene in that film made the most impact on you?