Every Brilliant Thing

In this life we are given beautiful, brilliant things. We are given them without ever asking for them. We also forget that they are there. We forget because we are moving to fast or because there isn’t enough time in a day. We forget because life makes us stressed or sad. We forget because we go into our heads or because we fall off the bandwagon. Every Brilliant Thing made me remember, it made me laugh and it made me cry (which let’s be honest here, isn’t hard but still).

For those of you who don’t know me well, I love documentaries and docu-series. The real life implications, to see others going through something I have been through or something I can’t imagine going through, gives me hope – it allows me to remember that I am not alone, we are not alone. Every one feels the same emotions, just some people feel them at different intensities than others. Some people act on those feelings and others bottle them up only to have them explode later. As human beings we are not equipped to deal with all of our emotions alone, which is hard to admit, but we can’t. We need a support system and we need to talk, words are our outlet to the world and they need to be used. I know that it isn’t easy and it will never be easy, it is scary to need people and it is scary to admit to what you are feeling. I have been there and still have trouble getting out what I am feeling. It is a work in progress, which is steps forward in the right direction.

It all started with a little boy realizing something is wrong when his mother doesn’t come to pick him up after school. He knows this is an odd thing, his father never picks him up. Now, how it happened and how the boy wants to remember it happening are very different things. At 7 you are fascinated with how things came to be and why they are the way they are. This is how he remembers his mothers first attempt at ending her life. This is where the list began.

As children our minds are still pliable, they take in so much information from their surroundings that it is easy to forget that even the smallest of your actions can impact them. However, children can also rebound from emotional distress, somewhat, faster than their adult counter-parts. This doesn’t mean it is okay to have them watch violent television at a young age or corrupt their minds with fighting, it just means that there are ways in which our mind develops that allows us to be okay in the end. This also doesn’t mean that there is a timeline where the things that happened to us as children just go away. Even if you can’t remember something, it doesn’t mean it didn’t happen, your little mind just blocked out the hurt and replaced it with something happier or a version of the truth that allows you to be okay with it.

“Gloriously funny and exceptionally warm.”

“Heart-wrenching and hilarious. One of the funniest plays you will ever see.”

There is no better way to describe watching this play. It hits you in places that you never expected from the beginning right through to the end. The statistic alone at the beginning gives you a sense of how impactful suicide really is, how many people take their own lives. Even though the statistic is for the United States, it is not hard to find out for the rest of the world. But this is not the reason why this play had an impact on me, it was the way in which Jonny Donahoe narrated the character, he is infectious. It is how he felt the pain, how he lived through the words. How the list became something more than a list, it became a lifeline.

1. Ice cream

2. water fights

3. Staying up past your bedtime and being allowed to watch TV

4. The colour yellow

5. Things with stripes

6. Rollercoasters

7. People falling over

This list is something we all need, our own variations and maybe some overlap. A list, that in no particular order, slowly reveals the brilliant things about life. The things that make us happy, that give us joy. Things that are not superficial and need money to accomplish. Brilliant every day things. A list that doesn’t have to start because you need to save someone but a list that gives you meaning, a list that makes you smile. A list you can bring out every now and again when you are feeling down to bring you back up. A list that is a glimmer of hope, a list that is a reminder. I know that I will be starting my own list, I will add to it every chance I get. I can only hope that I get as far. Because there are so many things worth living for, there really is.

Death. What was your first experience with it? Can you remember it in full Technicolor? Because I can. It may not have been from suicide but that too has touched my life, that will be for another time. I was 10, I had a superhero in my Grandfather. He had been sick for a long time but he was getting better, or so I thought. I remember that day perfectly. I was cranky when I woke up, I didn’t want to go to school – I had a weird feeling in my stomach. But I was told that I had too. I never said goodbye that morning. At school, I kept looking at the clock, waiting for the day to be over with. That feeling never went away. At first recess, walking down the stairs I fell back into the wall. Clutching my left shoulder from a pain so incredible that I called out. Lunch came, I didn’t eat. I stayed inside for recess to clean. That was when I got called down to the office. The one person who never came to get me from school was there, odd, and I knew something was wrong. When I realized where we were headed, I knew. Tears came before I even got out of the car. I lost the only man in my life that was ever like a father to me. The only man who gave the colour blue a whole new meaning. The only man that always had a smile on his face. My first love, my superhero. This was also when the sadness started. This is when death became more than a word.

“[…] who was older than me and a central part of my existence, and I held him as he died. […] and I thought about the smell of him in my room, […] all the things that we could throw away now. And as I held him, he changed. He became heavier or lighter. I don’t know which, but different. And that was my experience of death, a loved one becoming an object and being taken away forever.”

This play brought that all rushing back. It brought feelings that I bottled over the years and gave them a way to escape. I didn’t cower away and push them back down. I just sat there and allowed the tears to fall and the laughter that came afterwards out. It was okay, I was okay. I am okay. I may still get sad, I may still have those heartwrenching feelings but I am okay. I made it through the worst and here I am, 17 years later, with other (just as painful) deaths too. I can look at my grandpa’s photo with a smile on my face, the pain is still there – it will always be there. But I don’t need to cry at his memory, I can smile and laugh because he was real. He was every brilliant thing to me. He always will be. He will never leave my heart or my side. He is always here.

Not a lot of people can get past traumatic events in their lives. Not many people can make the connection that bad things have to happen in order to make room for the good things. There is always something next in this life for us, it is just making those steps to see them. No matter how long it takes you, everyone is different, you can get there. You just have to find your hope, you have to reach out, you just have to. Depression is real and it is not something to be ashamed of. You have to embrace the bad and hold on tighter to the good. Sometimes hope, a helping hand, and love is all we need. Sometimes we need more and that is okay too. Everyone is different but everyone feels.

“If you live a long life and get to the end of it without once feeling depressed, you probably haven’t been paying attention.”

Every Brilliant Thing is moving, it is heartwarming and heart-wrenching. It will make you laugh, it will make you cry. But I can promise you this, you will be left with such an overwhelming feeling in the pit of your stomach when you are finished. A feeling that you may have felt before or maybe you haven’t, but a feeling, nonetheless. If it inspires you to create your very own list, great. If it inspires you to brighten someone’s day, great. If it just inspires you, great. Every Brilliant Thing is on my list and I hope it can be on yours too.

The first seven things on my list and in no particular order:

  1. Watching the sunset with colours of pink and orange and blue
  2. Hearing your laughter again on videotapes
  3. Opening grandpa’s shave kit and smelling his aftershave
  4. Dancing around the house like no one’s watching
  5. Waffles
  6. The smell of old books
  7. Seeing the lightbulb go off in children’s eyes when they finally understand something you are trying to teach them
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