Monday, September 21, 2009

Scars and the Real World

Kevin and I finally watched yesterday a movie that we'd been wanting to see for ages now . . . "Lars and the Real Girl." Any time a more quirky, independent movie comes out, you can bet we'll want to see it. We love movies that are quirky, darker, and unique (yes, and even downright weird). And not just for the sake of being different, but because those are the types of movies that we relate to more -- the types of movies that more accurately reflect who the two of us are as human beings. Neither of us fit terribly well into the mainstream. We're like the two random trout that swim upstream, in a school easing down.

I have always felt like an outsider, sometimes, even in my own family. I have never really felt like I fully belonged anywhere. I have a close family; I have friends; I have acquaintences. But in every group that I find myself, I feel as though there is some part of me that is hidden. I think that part of the reason for this is because I AM different. Everyone in this world is unique and has been made to be a special individual. I don't mean to diminish that. But there are some people that are so completely different that they cannot function within the "norm" at all. I'm not THAT far out there. I can certainly function. But I usually do end up going against the "norm" and doing my own thing.

My favorite quote of all time, from the moment that I heard it, is from a beautiful transcendentalist spirit, Henry David Thoreau:

"If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music which he hears, however measured or far away."

If a single quote can sum up the whole of me, then this is the one. It's meaning has given me great comfort and hope through many times of feeling lost, feeling like a loser, and feeling stupid. I honestly feel as though God speaks to me through this . . . laying his gentle hands upon my shoulders, telling me that it's okay. Telling me that I'm okay just the way I am, that I don't need to be like anyone else to be good enough. Telling me that someday the very ways in which I feel like an outcast will be the ways in which my purpose will come to fruition.

It's hard to feel okay in a world of supermodels, rocket scientists, charismatic businessmen, and beloved comedians, when you don't feel beautiful enough, smart enough, outgoing enough, or funny enough -- when you feel like a mistake. A blemish of brown on a perfect canvas of white.

The other reason that I often feel like an outsider is that I make myself one. I tell myself that I don't belong, for one reason or another. And the root that all reasons are grown from is that I feel like I'm not good enough. And I waste no time in making sure that I remember this every day.
But the thing is . . . I think everyone feels like this, at least in some way, or at some time. We all feel like we don't belong and worry whether or not if what we are, the raw, bare, naked selves we always try to hide, is good enough. How sad for us all to wander along feeling the same loneliness, never connecting under the vulnerability that we all share. I suppose it's too scary to be the first one to open up and let someone in to know that you're not always "strong" or always "happy." It's hard for me to be that vulnerable too. I don't want to look stupid or weak. But the rare times that I have bared my soul to someone, I cannot describe just how liberating and comforting it is! When you show a person all of yourself, no pretenses, no masks, no filters, they respond better than we tend to imagine.

The truest connections that I have made in my life so far are the ones in which I allowed myself to be more vulnerable and shared the "uglier" parts or stories. It's so easy to get discouraged with people and with the world. There are people that would use your weaknesses to hurt or take advantage of you. But these people are outnumbered by the people that would nuture and accept your weaknesses. I get so disillusioned sometimes with the cruelty, arrogance, and selfishness of society. I sometimes let myself believe that most people operate more through these traits than through goodness.

Yesterday I was reminded of just how kind and compassionate people can be . . . and are. "Lars and the Real Girl," on the surface, is a about a deeply introverted young man that purchases a lifesize female doll and acts as if she is a real woman -- a companion. The story follows his reclusive life, showing how his belief in his doll companion opens him up to finding connections with townspeople and his family. On a deeper level the movie is about the brokenness in us all, as well as the goodness, compassion, and strength. The doll acts as a conduit of connections, revealing how every human soul is interconnected on some deep level.

Lars grew up without a mother, and found little affection or comfort from his father, who was overcome with his own grieving. This led Lars to experience human touch as pain. Some people thought that Lars was strange. Some thought he was just a recluse. And when he began dragging around a lifesize doll as a girlfriend some wondered if he had some form of mental illness. This is when something beautiful and touching begins to happen . . . his family, friends, coworkers, and church congregation begin to play along. They act as if his doll is real, talking with her, driving her to "work" and volunteer functions. They take photographs with her and give her a haircut. And little by little this eases Lars into more social interactions than he has ever permitted. He begins to open up and allow people into his world for the first time.

As Lars's psychologist explains, he created all of this as his way of working out what had been going on inside of him. A person will only change when they are ready. And Lars was finally ready.

This film was incredibly moving. It was one of the most caring, hopeful, and "pure" stories I have ever seen. When I say pure, I'm not speaking of whether or not it had violence, cursing, etc. I am speaking of a certain naturalness that it holds. It is not trying to be any certain thing. It's not trying to excite like an action adventure, scare like a horror, evoke hilarity like a comedy, or evoke uber-sentimentality like a drama or romance. It just is what it is. And already I hold it near and dear to my heart, as a special reminder to see the good in people. To give them a chance to bloom by giving them what love and kindness I can, no matter if I think they're strange or aloof. Those are probably the ones that need a brush with kindness the most.

As the people in the movie continued to pretend in the doll's realness along with Lars, they were fulfilled themselves and found things that were missing for them in their own lives. Somehow the doll was able to heal the loneliness and scars of all the characters. She helped them find each other, truly find each other, and realize the bonds that were always there, ready for them to experience.

We all have brokenness, loneliness, and scars. We have all been wounded by circumstances and people. We have all felt like an outsider, looking in to a world of "best friends." We have all felt as though we are not good enough for anything or anyone. And sometimes we have allowed these feelings to dictate how we have lived in this world. The trick is to remember that we are not the only one. We need to remember that people may be able to understand us better than we assume. There is goodness in this world. There are good people. There are people that will go out of their way to offer compassion. And no matter whether or not you feel as though you deserve it, you do. Your brokenness can heal. God works with many mediums . . . often his favorite paintbrush is an unlikely friendship. He only needs for us to open up ourselves to be art transformed.

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