In 2000 I remember going to the cinema with my brother in law to see the film “Cast Away”. Great film even now, for those who haven’t seen it. It was on TV last night and it all came rushing back to me.
It was a profoundly moving film for me, because it is all about decisions, crossroads, and helplessness. If you intend to watch the movie, then spoiler alert, because I want to unpack some of things that happened in the film and how relevant they were for me at that time.
The main character (Tom Hanks) ends up marooned on a small tropical island after a disastrous plane crash. He is not just alone on the island – he is also trapped. The waves and breakers conspire against him to stop him from leaving, as they are just too powerful to get past. He tries, fails, and hurts himself quite badly in the process. He watches the patterns of the tide over the months, and even though there are some times that are less impossible than others, he despairs that even then he still can’t get off the island.
After 4 years, fortune smiles upon him and a piece of bent metal washes up on the shore with which he successfully creates a sail for his makeshift raft. At the appointed time, when the waves are the least boisterous, he finally sails over the breakers and to eventual freedom.
This is so much more to the film than this, but I want to focus on the helplessness he felt in the face of something he could not overcome – the breakers and the tide.
The year 2000 was a very difficult year for me – financially, personally and emotionally. I felt trapped by a whole of range of things that appeared beyond my control. I was going through an early mid life crisis, and felt I had all but exhausted myself in trying to break through my obstacles. If there’s anything that I can lay claim to, it’s that I’m not a quitter, and I had tried my best, but to no avail. I was wrestling an alligator, and the alligator was winning with ease.
When I watched the film and saw his dilemma, I became emotional. I related so well to the situation, but of course, from a completely different viewpoint. The breakers were my problems. And try as I might, I could not get past them.
When the moment came that his craft rose through and above the waves, tears traced their way down my cheeks. How I wished I could get off my island, past my daunting waves and move forward.
My story has a happy and not so happy ending. I made some momentous decisions that year that altered my life for the better. Big decisions that changed my vocation, my income, and my perspective on life. But not all my obstacles were overcome. I have to say the deepest issues, internal ones, ones that I personally wrestled with, are still with me today. I can say their roar has been dulled, and that I have developed ‘work-arounds’ to cope with how they limit me, and I have grown stronger in some measure as well, but I do still ache to move on past them.
The fact is not everything has a fairy tale ending. Tom Hanks found his piece of metal that he used (ingenuity and decisiveness there by the way) to win his freedom, but it wasn’t smooth sailing after that. He had major heartache and some big decisions ahead of him.
I took some bold and scary steps and definitely moved on. My life is infinitely better now than it was back then, truly. But I suppose if I was to use an illustration, it would be that I once was paralysed from the waist down, and now I walk with a limp. (I think actually, that most of us do, but the gait is different for each of us).
So all the emotions of that film came rushing back to me last night, and I wept again. I still haven’t given up on those stubborn problems, but I have come to accept that if I never overcome them, at least I have learnt to enjoy life in spite of them. And there is something warm and fuzzy about tears -they bring their own kind of life. Sadness is curiously a part of being whole too.
And that’s all for now.