Up, Down, Amazing and Grateful
The state of your life is nothing more than a reflection of your state of mind. ~ Wayne Dyer
My daughter’s fourteenth birthday was a day full of assumptions, both hers and mine. She didn’t know her best friends were throwing a surprise birthday party later in the week, and her sadness at not receiving presents or cards from them, on the morning of her birthday, seeped through her gratitude for everything else. I stayed quietly positive and cheerful throughout the day, assuming she would rather have the eventual surprise than the truth.
We went to the cinema in the afternoon, and as she couldn’t make up her mind which film she’d like to see, my husband bought tickets for the new Disney Pixar film, Up, which had received great reviews. One look at the poster – a house flying through the air suspended by balloons – had her assuming the film would be “babyish.”
We settled into our seats, the lights dimmed, the adverts blared across the screen in the darkness, and soon we were surrounded by the sounds and smells of popcorn, hotdogs and nachos.
I loved the first five minutes of the film. The music was poignant and moving, and through a sequence of short scenes and vignettes, we saw the quiet, quirky child grow old and grumpy as, one by one, he shelved the dreams of his youth.
Thud. My seat jarred forward as it was kicked from behind. I turned to see a boy of seven or eight sitting next to a stony-faced man, a weary washed-out looking mum and a gum-chewing sister.
I decided not to say anything. The simple act of turning around is usually enough.
The film surprised me; in turns bizarre and surreal, touching and funny, it was strangely mesmerizing. The two main characters, a lonely, overweight boy full of childhood exuberance, and an irascible, heartbroken widower, became unlikely companions on a road trip. The difference in their ages gave the film great breadth of scope and depth, while the themes of disappointment and frustration, stubbornness and letting go, redemption and hope were woven throughout with compassion and wit.
Disney films enchant me. The colours are glorious and they evoke memories of watching them with my saucer-eyed kids. A quick glance to the side showed my husband laughing with my son and my daughter giggling, devouring every detail.
Thud…thud. I fought the urge to turn round, scared that a negative reaction from the boy or his parents might embarrass my daughter and spoil her birthday film.
I took a deep breath, knowing the wriggling kicks were a distraction I had to overcome. My kids have always been very settled and courteous in cinemas, but as I’ve got older, it seems like fewer children can sit still for the length of a film without eating, wriggling or talking.
The sounds of laughter, music and talking dogs filled the warm darkness of the cinema. Glorious multicoloured balloons, bright plumage and jungle scenes filled the screen, and I tried my best to simply let go and fill my heart with compassion.
The credits rolled and we were the only two families who stayed to watch till the end.
As the lights went up, from behind me came a “Wow! That was amazing!” The mum and dad said nothing. “Dad, that was the best thing I’ve ever seen!” “Don’t be stupid,” said the dad. “It was the best film I’ve ever seen, Dad. It was amazing!”
His joy was contagious and I turned to smile at his mum, expecting to see her happy at the pleasure they’d so obviously brought him. She looked sad and distant as the man put on his coat in silence, and the older girl pulled her mobile phone from her pocket.
I left the cinema curious about who they were and what was going on in their lives. I wondered how long the boy’s delight in films would last and I was glad I hadn’t said or done anything to ruin, what for him, was the most amazing film ever.
A few days later, my daughter came home to a room full of bright banners, balloons and birthday party food, all bought and prepared by her best friends. The cries of “Surprise!!” brought her hands to her face in shocked delight, then sudden awareness as she looked at me with tears and comprehension in her eyes. The long, tear-filled hug she gave me was full of gratitude and appreciation for my part in the surprise, which I’d known about for weeks. Laughing and giggling with her friends, she blew out the candles on her cake and made a wish for the second time that week; I could see that all of her sadness from the previous days had disappeared.
Surrounded by friends, good food and the determination to celebrate, it’s so much easier to feel grateful. As we all prepare for the coming season of gratitude and goodwill, blessings and bounty, I’d like to take this chance to thank you. I wish I could convey in words how much pleasure it gives me to belong to this community, to know you’ve taken the time to read my words.
I can’t offer you food, or tokens of peace and friendship, but I wanted to let you know that I’ll be thinking of you on Thanksgiving Day and giving thanks for the Internet, for the coaching we share and for the wonderful universe whose plan brought us together. I’m not American, but I shamelessly adopt rituals and celebrations from all over the world, special days that make smiles brighter and hearts warmer, days that bring people together in shared gratitude for life, love and blessings, wherever we live, whoever we are. Thank you. My life is better because of you.