Are you like me on Tuesday nights at 9:59? Are you staring at the television and saying, “WHAT does THAT mean?” Do you go to bed thinking about what This Is Us just revealed?
Watching This Is Us is like building a jigsaw puzzle – except there is no box with a picture and you only have access to a few pieces at a time.
The show is wonderfully written and acted. It is touching and maddening. You will cry and wonder why you watch it and wait impatiently for next Tuesday. Basically, it functions a lot like life.
I had the privilege of attending a Wellspring* event last week. It was an intense and enlightening experience that opened doors I did not know existed and offered provocative takeaways. And I thought about This Is Us.
Our lives are a lot like This Is Us. We do not have a picture of the finished product until, well, we are finished here.
No one gives us all the outside pieces or all the pieces that look like sky or a house or train...or a career or our children or significant relationships.
In my mind, I see the writers of This Is Us standing at a huge chalkboard. There is a configuration that resembles an ancestry chart or a mathematical explanation of how passenger jets can fly. There are notes about what viewers already know and when that was revealed and what else is connected and when will viewers see that and where it all leads.
Every show makes a few connections and inspires more questions.
Okay, there’s the dog, but how…? Wait, Kevin’s love is Sophie, whom we have never seen? No, we did see her early on, but didn’t make any connection. Why is Rebecca with Miguel?
There is continuity of emotions but not events. Just because this week’s show left on in one place does not mean next week’s show will start with that. There is a pattern, but it is not linear or always visible.
There is one question slowly being answered, but that process has uncovered details we didn’t even know we needed.
Just like life.
One of my takeaways from Wellspring is that we can be guided by emotional thinking or rational thinking. No surprise there, right?
Folks who think rationally often believe it is the better way to process information and solve problems because emotional thinkers are swayed by feelings, which cannot be trusted. True that.
Here is the Yabbit…rational thinkers count on their conclusions being driven by beliefs that are true. But that is not always the case.
We use language that is categorically untrue. I know, I know…few people actually believe that the sun “rises and sets” or Jesus was born on December 25th or crossing your eyes will eventually become a permanent condition.
But there are beliefs each of us trust that are false. Those beliefs have caused hatred that we aim at other people, and hatred we aim at ourselves.
There are beliefs we learned because our parents believed them. We will never be anything but poor. No one in our family is smart enough for college. Girls don’t play with trucks and boys don’t play with dolls.
Beliefs might come from a word put on us. You are too fat/too skinny/stupid/always late/too talkative/ too shy.
Beliefs might come out of fear or hurt or tragedy. Or they can come out of the way our parents treated each other, the pattern of their marriage or divorce, the way they treated us.
Even if I never name my beliefs, they affect every relationship I have. I look at someone’s behavior and something embedded in my brain says, “When Mom did that, it meant ___, so it must mean ___ now.”
“Dad said ___ and did ___ and I thought he loved me, but then he left.”
Are these thoughts in the front of my brain? No. Of course not.
Do they affect my behavior? Yes. A lot.
I remember being a kid and learning the fine art of cleaning my room by pushing everything under the bed. Every Saturday when Mom said, “Look how tidy your room is!” I thought she did not know my secret. Then, one day, I needed something that was under the bed and she had the nerve to make me pull all the stuff out and go through the pile by myself!
Decades later, I am still fastidious about putting items in their designated place. I learned that hiding things might look good temporarily, but it isn’t a solution.
Well, I learned that about stuff.
Not always about feelings or beliefs.
There is another important way our beliefs cloud our judgment.
We played football and baseball in a yard that was so big. Until we grew up.
Circus peanuts and wax saucers with juice inside were so good. Until we grew up.
Sleeping outside on a sleeping bag and giggling half the night was fun. Until we grew up.
It would be crazy to go back and look at that yard and decide it must have been bigger years ago. Grab a bag of circus peanuts and a sleeping bag and sleep outside tonight, then tell me tomorrow that it was exactly like you remembered.
Of course, it will not be. You have grown up. Your perspective has changed. Some of your beliefs have changed. And some haven’t.
The Wellspring retreat was a high-level overview of unpacking and examining what lifts my heart and blocks my heart.
No one likes to unpack a suitcase. It is even worse than packing because the anticipation of fun is gone.
But you can’t just not unpack. Even if you are travelling again soon, you don’t want the same stinky clothes.
Unpacking thoughts and beliefs is even less fun. You might cry. You might find beliefs that are tangled with hurts and fears. You might find things that are stinky. You might find the hurts you have in life today are more tied to a fear from decades ago than they are to the person you are holding responsible. You might find triggers you didn’t know existed.
UGH. Can’t I just leave it in there and buy a new suitcase?
You can also live by stories that are not true and find new friends or a new significant other every time you are met with confrontation.
This is not to suggest a life filled with deep and constant introspection and contemplation. Not at all.
You see, life realy is a lot like This Is Us. Every day I get different, random pieces. I am not sure where they fit and I do not have the final picture. Some days I laugh, some days I cry.
But if I am willing to unpack the suitcase so I have clean clothes and necessary accessories, the journey can be fulfilling and covered with love for me and the people traveling with me.
When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. 12 For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known. (1 Corinthians 13:11-12)
Beth Painter is, among many other things, a writer, photographer, and motivational speaker. You can follow her on Facebook on the “Think Big focus small” page. Beth is available to speak to your group about how to make your dreams and desires come to life!