What Makes a Movie?

Sometimes, something happens and you just know that you’re never going to forget it, or that it’s going to make a wicked story to share, or anything like that.

Sometimes stuff happens and you think you’ll remember it, but you forget.

Sometimes you do your best to forget, and sometimes your brain just picks up a bad memory like it’s a dirty kleenex and drops it into a compartment marked Repressed Memories. Because that shit is not good for anybody.

Growing up, I lived in a small town. It was really ordinary and boring. Except it wasn’t actually ordinary. I definitely felt like it was, but as I got older I noticed that my life wasn’t like anyone else’s.

My friends had mothers who were smiling and warm and loving. They hugged them and talked to them, asked them how their days were. I had a mother who was a timebomb. I never knew which Mom I was going to come home to: the one who screamed and chain-smoked; the one who would furiously clean while muttering about much her kids sucked; the one who spoke instead of giving the silent treatment; or the one who acted “normal,” drinking coffee or reading a book.

Growing up, I believed what I was told: that her behaviour was my fault. That she had never wanted kids, so we were the reason she was unhappy and it was our fault that her life was the way it was. I was raised to believe I was lowly, so I believed it. The concept of self-esteem and self-worth came along and was foreign.

My dad was pretty great while I was growing up. He’d try to calm her down, he’d stick up for us, he’d smile and laugh, he was proud. He was always really proud of the fact that my sister and I had tested really well and the teachers wanted to skip us each ahead a grade. He was proud that we could watch Jeopardy with him and get answers right. He thought we were beautiful, but he only said so when our mother wasn’t around. The one time he told me that I was perfect, after I’d lost a bunch of weight because I was sick and I looked like a skeleton with skin stretched over it and I was really self-conscious because I knew I looked bad, my mother snapped at him, “Don’t tell her that.” Heaven forbid I have a sense of self-worth, right Mumsy?

I never imagined, while growing up, that my fucked up, dark, miserable life would be the basis for a screenplay that would rule my life for a good year. I’ve written and rewritten this fucking thing over and over. I love it and then I hate it. My sister hates the ending. But in reality…the ending is what it is. I didn’t write the screenplay for it to have an obvious happy ending. The happiness is embedded in the final scene. You have to work for it; look for it; dig for it. Because in real life, that’s what I have to do.

I never got to snap my fingers and have everything turn around. I’ve just gotten to slowly reach other levels of surviving.

But regardless, the little compartments in my brain are bursting. The Repressed Memories are fighting to get out, and I’m fighting just as hard to ignore them. The Good Times are so sparse and gossamer, not heavy or thick enough to blanket the bad. Because the Bad Times take up most of the space in my brain and they’ve spent 20+ years governing the democratic republic that is my brain. Pulling them out and lining them up in chronological order was a super fun and enjoyable task. Writing some of that shit pulled me into a dark place that I spent the better part of my early 20s trying to escape. I was forced to remember and forced to put it down in words. But words have always been mine. Even when I have to use them against me, at least they’re mine.

So now I’m done my third rewrite on this screenplay. I wrote the parts that I skipped over and over because I refused to relive them and, for some of it, can’t relive because they’re fuzzy and blurred past comprehension. I’m sure some psychoanalyst could hold my brain in her hands and wring it out like rain, dripping the blackness that’s been hiding in there. But do I want to do that? That would be opening the proverbial can of worms. Like, not even worms. It would be Medusa’s head, times a thousand. Am I strong enough for that?

I could argue for and against that. I’m still here, so obviously resiliency isn’t paltry here. But do I want to drag myself into a well that fills as quickly as metal boots magically grow on my feet? I’d have to be crazy to voluntarily dive in. But…I am pretty fucking crazy.

I’m crazy enough to be 29 and still dreaming of a life far, far from the one I have. I still fantasize about meeting Tina Fey, writing for the screen, waking up and getting to feel the indescribable feeling of living my dream. What does that feel like, to be utterly happy?

It’s sad that it’s foreign.

It’s devastating.

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