One of the verses of My Way, made famous by Frank Sinatra:
I’ve loved, I’ve laughed and cried
I’ve had my fill, my share of losing
And now, as tears subside, I find it all so amusing
To think I did all that
And may I say, not in a shy way
Oh, no, oh, no, not me, I did it my way
Don’t we all love to have control and do it our way?
I have been learning to write screenplays for fun. It’s a natural follow on from my love of writing. Having found a free online course, which was every bit as amazing as you’d expect for the money, I learnt one new thing. What do you expect for nothing? I thought I did well to learn anything on a free course.
Are you on the edge of your seat yet waiting to hear what I learnt? You’ll need to hang on one second because I need to take you back a step. All fiction stories have protagonists, or as they are often called heroes/heroines. These main characters have to want something for a story to be interesting, but not just want something, they need to be blocked from getting it. Sorry if I have spoilt all your favourite stories.
Think of any fiction story. Let’s take Star Wars as an example, Luke Skywalker wants to fight the Empire, but he has to stay on the farm, the storm troopers kill his family and he joins the rebel alliance. Ok I know it has more twists and turns. That’s because a plot has more to it than I have said. But the basis of all plots is a character wants something and they are blocked from getting it. Now I can tell you the new thing I learnt, drum roll please…
It’s about how a character overcomes the blocking. By the way, the character will be blocked repeatedly. The thing I learnt is to make a story satisfying, the character/hero/heroine needs to overcome the main blockages themselves. In other words not everything that blocks their path can just fall away by chance, nature, or other people’s work. That wasn’t very exciting was it.
In my example it’s the storm troopers who kill Luke’s family and initially free him to start on his path. But most of the blocks he overcomes himself. That feels more satisfying to an audience.
What on earth has this got to do with disability? It seems obvious to me that the thing you lose with disability is control over your environment and to a degree a sense that you cannot control your destiny. Immediate control of your future is definitely impeded by disabilty. How does that relate to movies and fiction? It relates because of the reason we feel satisfaction when a hero/heroine takes control and overcomes the obstacles in their path. It’s because we all want and need to feel a sense of control. So much is out of all of our control. We are limited by our physical strength, our intellect, our background, our finances, so health is just another greater limitation.
Think about your own situation. This will depend very much on where you are and where you are from. Are you bright, strong, healthy? Did you get a reasonable start in life? Do you have a strong mental attitude? These starting points are not in our control, they are how we are born or at least a product of our upbringing. People who are unintelligent, weak, mentally ill, or have a bad start in life didn’t choose that. Then what happened next for you? Was your schooling helpful, do you learn well? Or are you naturally intuitive and have a good business brain? Again these things are not totally our choice, we have more choice about them, we can develop them, we can concentrate at school and try hard or use our gifts. But we don’t completely control them. Then what about now, where are you now? Did your background and start in life translate into a good job and prospects? Were you knocked off track by something?
At any point in the process I have outlined above illness, accident or disease can strike and knock you off track. I was rapidly rising in a company when I was first ill. All my planning and hard work were knocked for six. Control is very much an illusion that is broken the moment a major life event crashes in.
We all like to sing that song “My way.” Which I quoted age the beginning. We sing with gusto because we like that image of controlling our destiny. But the reality is that life is a fragile thing. Illness, accident and even death come out of the blue. Our life can be changed suddenly and completely. The control we thought we had is shown as an illusion. The real reason we so love fiction stories and films is that it’s escapism, life isn’t like that. We know it, we feel it, but we want it to be. Whenever a movie hero overcomes a great obstacle we all shout “yes” whether out loud or in our heart, because they are living the life we want. Overcoming the impossible and taking control of their lives.
In the end I have found that the best way forward is to learn to cope within the limitations. When I was a child I used to love going into the sea on a stormy day. The waves crashing into me were so exciting. But if I tried to stand in their path, they always knocked me off my feet. Then I discovered there were two ways to prevent that. The first was to float on the water, so that I just floated over the waves. The second was to dive into them and through them head first. Life is like a great big stormy sea sometimes. If we try and stand firm against the waves we just get knocked over. But if we lay back and relax into the situation, accepting it, we float over it. Or if we face it head on diving in, we break through it. The way you face the waves of your troubles will depend on what they are and your physical strength. For me in my weakened state floating over the waves is my best course.
My way is to go with the flow. Your way is up to you.