A few nights ago, in a moment of unvarnished realism, I found myself voicing aloud a thought that had occurred suddenly, and quite unsolicited. “I think the best years of my life are behind me; the years of excitement and adventure, and my believing otherwise is a valiant, but probably misguided, cheerleading effort on my part”.
The person I was talking to, who knows me as a sunny and curious soul, couldn’t quite fathom what to say. I then steered the conversation back onto more mundane tracks, as if nothing of importance had been said. But the thought stayed with me, quite unsure what brought it on.
There could be many reasons why I feel this way: like sofagirl, maybe I need a mental break from life in general; maybe I have been spending too much time with older people, thus dampening my usual enthusiasm to see what is around the next bend – it appears it’s illness and diminished capacities; it could be that my life, or myself, have become predictable; or the unexpected doesn’t carry exciting connotations any longer; or, then again, it’s my hormones to which I attribute all manners of mood changes.
I have always loved early mornings, Mondays and firsts of the month because they are so heavy with promises: another day unfolding filled with who knows what kind of bounty. That I even felt this way for my entire life is a testament to how lucky I have been: not immune from sorrows or traumas, I was nonetheless able to live my life any which way it pleased me, not bound by constrictions imposed by family, society or just bad circumstances.
Other than getting older, nothing has changed to suggest that tomorrow shouldn’t be a better or more interesting or more intriguing day than today. Just my sorry ass attitude.
My mother never allowed me to wallow in self-pity: depending on the severity of the predicament, I was given between one to five days to feel sorry for myself, and I only merited the five days pass when my husband and I split up for a couple of years. After the allotted time was up, she would administer a metaphorical kick in the butt: “dry the crocodile tears and get moving”. She still does that and, all in all, her spartan method has served me rather well.
This week, unwilling to voice my pitiful thoughts to my mother (allotted time for dark thoughts: one hour), the kick in the butt arrived courtesy of Gabourey Sidibe, the charming actress of “Precious” and “The Big C”, among others.
During a speech she gave at Ms Foundation Gala, Ms. Sidibe talked about how irked she gets when asked “How are you so confident?”, the question implying that being overweight should engender a more subdued behavior on her part.
Her speech was centered on the recounting of a school party for which Gabourey baked some horrible cookies nobody ate. As a matter of fact, she wasn’t much liked by the rest of the class, who perceived her as a know-it-all and an asshole. But that party became a defining moment in the life of a girl who was acutely aware of her shortcomings:
“So, okay, we’re back in fifth grade, and I just had been rejected by 28 kids in a row. And I was sitting alone at my desk, with an empty Ziplock bag, crumbs in my lap, and I was at this great party that I had waited for all week. I waited all week for this party that I wasn’t invited to. And for some reason I got up, I sat on my desk, and I partied my ass off. I laughed loudly when something funny happened. And when Miss Lowe put on music, I was one of the first ones to get up and dance. I joined the limbo, and ate chips, and drank soda, and I enjoyed myself, even though no one wanted me there. You know why? I told you — I was an asshole! I wanted that party! And what I want trumps what 28 people want me to do, especially when what they want me to do is leave. I had a great time. I did. And if I somehow ruined my classmates’ good time, then that’s on them. “How are you so confident?” “I’m an asshole!” Okay? It’s my good time, and my good life, despite what you think of me. I live my life, because I dare. I dare to show up when everyone else might hide their faces and hide their bodies in shame. I show up because I’m an asshole, and I want to have a good time. And my mother and my father love me. They wanted the best life for me, and they didn’t know how to verbalize it. And I get it. I really do. They were better parents to me than they had themselves. I’m grateful to them, and to my fifth grade class, because if they hadn’t made me cry, I wouldn’t be able to cry on cue now. [Dabs tears] If I hadn’t been told I was garbage, I wouldn’t have learned how to show people I’m talented. And if everyone had always laughed at my jokes, I wouldn’t have figured out how to be so funny. If they hadn’t told me I was ugly, I never would have searched for my beauty. And if they hadn’t tried to break me down, I wouldn’t know that I’m unbreakable.”
Gabourey Sidibe made a choice – maybe not consciously at the time – to be happy, and to live her life the way she wanted, whatever the outside pressures or expectations. It’s not always easy but, in the absence of physical or mental illness, it is a choice I can keep on making until I die. No excuses.
To read Gabourey Sidibe’s entire speech, click here. Well worth it. (Again, thanks to Bonnie for sending us this).