|Caught between the moon and Parma City
||[Jan. 13th, 2004|12:11 pm]
I have always hated the movie Arthur II with a vitriolic, acid loathing.
Even though I've never actually seen it.
Judging from its poor showing at the box office, the rest of America felt the same way that I did: betrayed. Arthur was a wonderful fairytale story about a petulant drunkard, rich and spoiled but under the thumb of his domineering mother, who meets and falls in love with a woman not of Mother's choosing. He abandons his arranged marriage and finally stands up for himself, and he drives away to live happily ever after, saved from the emasculating matron by True Love. He had discovered what was making him miserable, had found the core of his problems, and now things were going to be right. Everyone left the theatre smiling.
A couple years later, Arthur II hit the theatres. Instead of straightening up, becoming a man, and living happily ever after, Arthur was still a drunk, had run through his fortune, and was back for more madcap adventures. The public was singularly unimpressed, and not just because the followup movie was a poorly made attempt to cash in on past success. The memory of the first movie was permanently tarnished, tattered by the revelation that Arthur had been completely incapable of holding it together. He hadn't been a frog prince, awaiting the loving kiss of a princess who saw through the evil curse and believed in him. He was, after all, just one more drunk. Our disappointment was deep, and we turned our back on the very memory of the affable drunkard/hero.
And yet, I have come to believe now that Dudley Moore might have made the movie for more reasons than just a badly-executed milking of the cash cow. Moore himself was a man with addiction issues, who understood far better than his audience that the epiphinal moment is not the end of the journey, only the beginning. Arthur - and Moore - still had a lot of pain to work through, but the audience didn't want to see that.
We have come to believe in our happily-ever-afters, and to think that naming a problem and solving that problem should be the same thing. I have poor self-esteem because my father rejected me. I overeat because of my mother's continual beratement. I drink because my parents were too controlling. I beat my wife because my dad beat my mom and I never learned any coping skills. I am depressed/neurotic/angry because I was mistreated. When the epiphany comes, the moment of realization, we are supposed to veer away from our destructive path, set our feet to the mountain and climb, unimpeded by the baggage of the past.
Real life isn't that easy. Real life is filled with huge complications, and the history of habit and familiarity, and the difficulty of living day-to-day without the crutches that used to prop one up. The best of intentions can be sorely taxed by the dailiness of life. It's cold, I'm tired, I think I'm coming down with something - I guess I can skip working out just this once. It's a special day/hard day/happy day - I can indulge myself in this little goody. One drink won't hurt me. She really made me mad, so yeah I hit her just this once....
I could send just one e-mail, say just one thing, and it would be all right. Except it wouldn't, just like all these other things aren't all right. It doesn't matter how well I can justify it, there are rules, there are lines, and they are not to be crossed. A recovering Psycho-holic needs to stay within her limitations. It's not always easy, but I consider it a very good sign that when I find myself tempted I am now talking myself out of the temptation instead of finding ways to justify giving in to it. My former pattern was to find the excuse to run an end-around. I am now able to look at my actions in the cold light of day and say, that is not acceptable and no amount of lying to yourself will change that. That's a big change for me.
Alcoholics Anonymous has Twelve Steps, but admitting that one has a problem is only Step One. It's a crucial step without which nothing else can go forward, but the moment of realization is only the start. It's a bit like Yule. We celebrate the turning of the planet back toward light, but the long cold of winter is still before us and must be faced, day after day, each day logically progressing toward warmth and light but the individual days varying - some calm and pleasant, some stormy and bitter. The temperature climb is never smooth or incrimental or terribly predictable. So, too, the climb toward being a better person is fraught with challenges, bumps, moments of backsliding. But every success, every temptation not indulged, is one more step toward good habits, one more self-affirming moment of faith in my ability to be as strong and good and kind as I want to be, both to others and to myself. Every time I do not cross boundaries, I strengthen my belief that I can both respect them and demand that they be respected.
The days are growing longer, and the sun is higher in the sky.