Every time I hear, “Heard it Through the Grapevine”, “You Make Me Feel”, “I Second That Emotion”, or “Joy to the World”, I’m immediately transported back to the raggedy rust orange futon, where I’d watch The Big Chill over and over, in the den of my childhood home. It is one of my all time favorite movies, though I hadn’t watched it since my twenties… until tonight.
What I’d forgotten was the reason why, watching it as a teen, I loved it so much. I’ve been a storyteller since I was young, and this was a story of enduring friendship. I was growing up in the eighties; high school would end, I’d soon be too old for sleep-away camp, but the friends I loved so deeply… well, the movie gave me hope that we’d be friends forever. It’s amazing what 32 years can do to your perspective on a movie.
The Big Chill is about seven former college friends, who reunite for a weekend. What brings them together is the suicide of one of their friends. They still love each other, but everything has changed; divorce, affairs, biological clocks ticking, feeling like failures, unfulfilled dreams, life not living up to expectations, expectations not living up to life. Many had been out of touch, one so much so, that he ended his life and no one knew why.
As the scenes unfolded tonight I was shocked at how this “old” movie, now mirrored the lives of my friends and myself. Of course there were some obvious differences. Meg was trying to collect home addresses so they could stay in touch via letters. Today, we are all so busy building glorious lives for ourselves on Facebook, so all of our “friends” can see how great we are.
I have old friends, men and women, whom I love deeply. We are not always in touch but when we are, we are honest. “His wife left him blindsided, for his friend”, “She lost her husband to cancer and is now rebuilding her life with her kids”, “He has incredible success, his dream job, but never sees his friends, barely sees his wife and kids”, “She gave up her dream and wonders what could have been,” “He’s in recovery, he hasn’t had a drink but weed doesn’t count”, “She waited so long to have a baby, that even with IVF, who knows if she can, or how long she can put herself through the disappointment of it not working,” and me, well…
I write books, screenplays and blogs to try and figure my life out. I couldn’t pick one of The Big Chill characters to identify with because I’m a little of each. The Sam in me doesn’t understand why my friends admire my accomplishments because in my eyes, I haven’t created ‘great’ change. The Sarah in me, is still the ‘good girl’ who everyone looks to for help, when deep down, I need help and I don’t even know with what. The Michael in me, can’t settle for one job, I have to keep it interesting with lots of juggling balls in the air, yet none of them have hit it out of the park. The Nick in me, he’s the hardest one to face, he’s who I am when I go to sleep at night alone and wake up in the morning the same way. The Meg in me, remains ever hopeful and loyal to the people I love, even when they hurt and disappoint me. The Harold in me, will always see the silver lining, be an irrational optimist and do anything for those I love.
It would seem that my friends and I are sad, betrayed, hurt, angry, disappointed people, who are not where we thought we’d be at this point in our lives. No… this certainly wasn’t where we thought we’d be 32 years ago when The Big Chill was released.
But we’re not. Much like at the end of the movie when we see Sam, Sarah, Michael, Nick, Meg and Harold, still in their reality, yet changed. Hope, passion, and love have been reignited. It’s clear, they’ll always have each other.
That’s what I see in The Big Chill now… that life is harder than I expected it would be, but people have been having the same problems and mid-life crises for decades. My friends and I just didn’t see it coming. We saw what we wanted to see in that film and believed it until it burned us out. And now, we can be happy in the knowing that life is going to give us what we get, it’s how we look at it and how we support each other that matters.
Everyday I am grateful for all I’ve accomplished, for my health, for my family and friends, for my creative faucet that never shuts off, for the gratitude list that could honestly fill pages and pages… and… everyday I have moments of doubt, loneliness, questions of what might have been if I took other paths, fear, confusion, answers I want now but won’t be accessible until another 32 years have gone by and I am looking back… but tonight, this movie reminded me, that these moments are life.
So, if you’re going through something hard… something that hurts… doubting your decisions, beating yourself up for not being where you believe you should be, remember to also have moments of hope… laughter… acknowledgment of how special you are… think about who loves you… focus on what you’re grateful for… what good you do because you’re you. And most of all, when the credits roll over a montage of life’s moments… be sure you’re smiling in most of them, because the biggest takeaway I got from re-watching The Big Chill, is we can choose joy, we can make choices that will make ourselves and the people we love feel good… and if we do that more … if we do that A LOT… life is going to be pretty great from now on.
What’s a movie that you’ve recently seen or revisited that made you think differently? Tell me about it in the comments below.
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