I saw ‘Blue Valentine, starring Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams last night with a group of friends. It’s the sort of film that makes me think ‘I hope my kids haven’t seen this,’ then I think ‘I don’t think my mum would want me to see this’ and then I decide it’s actually the type of film that I really like. I like these films because even though it bears little resemblance to my life it does portray life in a way that is raw, real and unscripted (or seemingly so).
We discussed this at length after the film over dinner but first we shared snippets of the year that has just passed. Sometimes with girlfriends a year can slide by without really getting together. This is the reality of life. Yet girlfriends have a unique way of folding back the layers to show what is beneath the surface. Sometimes there are literal wounds that have been covered by silk and lace creating the illusion that all is wonderful. This is the dilemma of ageing and we share our concerns and offer advice and places to go for scans and consultations.
Sometimes the wounds are emotional; fears for our children, thoughts about marriage and the direction of our careers. It’s the stuff of our hearts that begins to seep after champagne, Thai food or desserts with tea and coffee, late into the evening. For me this is life, rich and raw and wonderful.
Sometimes my heart is so wounded I don’t want to socialize, I worry that I will seep too much and overflow like the dam that the little Dutch boy could not stop with his finger.
The truth is that this week has been a good week for me (which is a result of a good week for Sam actually) and it is getting easier to brave the social interactions that my personality craves. As I sit amongst friends I discover common interests such as this pretty blog of the birthday girl (the reason we are together) and this website of another friend who I haven’t seen in so long. I hear that my friend has been into a detention centre and dressed girls for a formal and my heart is stirred to participate in getting more dresses for next year’s dance – so that all the girls can have options of what to wear. Maybe you have a dress to donate?
As we reflected on the film, the bits that went over my head (I’m slow sometimes) and we pieced it together: what we thought might happen next, or why what happened did happen, as we examined the characters; their flaws and the things we loved, we all decided that life is made up of moments. Some of these moments are so intensely beautiful they take your breath away.
For me, my favourite scene was when Dean (Ryan Gosling) was working as a removalist. He moved an old man Walter into a retirement home but rather than just delivering the furniture and all the paraphernalia he actually spent the day preparing the room. He hung fairy lights in the window, he put a wedding portrait on the dresser, he displayed a collection of matchboxes on the wall, he hung American flag bunting – it was the most touching moment to watch him gather the pieces of this old man’s life and create a montage of beauty. In doing so he placed value on this man and celebrated all the seemingly insignificant moments. He created order where there was previously just a jumbled mess of discarded pieces.
I’ve been thinking about this sort of thing a lot these last two weeks. I’ve been swimming in the sea pool and feeling a little bit lost without the rope that marks the boundary for my lane and the line at the bottom of the water that directs my path. With every sidewards turn for breath; I take in more than just oxygen. I take in the beauty of the rock wall and the chains along the boardwalk silhouetted against the blue summer sky. I listen to the voices of children who splash along the edges but I must find focus because without that rope to guide me I quickly find myself swimming diagonally from lane 8 to lane 2. Then there’s the woman walking in the white hat who doesn’t get out of my way though I am sure she saw me coming before I saw her.
At the end of each lap I cast an eye over to the direction of the wall and wish that I had seen the person who was previously swimming there hop out so that I can claim that spot. I want the wall. I want the direction it provides so that I can swim without distraction, the way I do in the Olympic pool. But life is like the sea pool mostly. Sometimes there is not a whole lot of direction or vision or purpose. Sometimes in the agony of dealing with all the things we fear (what lurks beneath in the seaweed?) we do what it says in Proverbs 29:28 – we cast off restraint. We begin to think our life doesn’t matter, that it is just an insignificant dot on a page that nobody else can see.
Returning from the pool the other day I walked in to hear my son hammering, redecorating his room. I’m pretty relaxed about the kids redecorating. Sometimes it’s a nightmare of black chalkboard paint, badly prepared architraves and spills on the carpet but mostly they do a good job. In the end when everything is tidy and neat, we stand back and admire their handwork. Jack’s wall is an ever-changing dialogue of vintage finds, quotes and posters.
Watching Ryan Gosling, I smiled and whispered to my friend that Jack would like that room! I smiled thinking of the little boats my son has made from torn up penguins, the rows of champagne chairs he’s made from lids and wire that he has foraged from my parties and the collage of chalkboard messages written by friends. The other day he was mounting old timber boxes for shelves to display more collections.
Emma’s room depicts her goals to travel; maps and postcards from Paris and India intermingled with invitations to 21st’s, engagement parties and such. Sam’s room is a collection of simple images, clocks and shelves of books – this too evolves as time passes.
Time passes doesn’t it! Ever so quickly and sometimes it looks like everything may just fall apart in a moment. This is why I hold on to the knowledge that in spite of my many insecurities and all of my brokenness it is God who hung the stars. They look like dots on a midnight page to me, awe inspiring but fragile from my vantage point. Yet they hang in perfect balance and like the things that may seem insignificant to anybody else – my deals, your deals – are hugely significant to God.
I like the words of Don Miller, ‘There is something beautiful about a billion stars held steady by a God who knows what He is doing. They hang there, the stars, like notes on a page of music, free-form verse, silent mysteries swirling in the blue like jazz.’ And every time I relinquish control to Him, he brings all the order and compassion, significance and wonder, hope and direction, dreams and vision to my little life. Because of this I step into 2011 with wonderful goals knowing He will ordain my steps.
The mind of man plans his way,
But the LORD directs his steps.
Tell me about you? What is your blue – deeply wonderful or a little sad today?