Before I Fall

Maybe you can afford to wait. Maybe for you there’s a tomorrow. Maybe for you there’s one thousand tomorrows, or three thousand, or ten, so much time you can bathe in it, roll around it, let it slide like coins through you fingers. So much time you can waste it.
But for some of us there’s only today. And the truth is, you never really know
.”
~ Lauren Oliver, Before I Fall

A couple of days ago, my son (16) and I watched the film “Before I fall” based on the book with the same name.

On the surface, it looks like a teenager, chick flick version of Groundhog Day, the 1993 film with Bill Murray and Andie MacDowell…

But the more I watched it, the more it spoke to me in a very different, layered way…

The more I watched (and strangely in me, I had the need to re-watch this movie in spite of my son’s complaints), the more I saw the layers…the pervasive loneliness in privileged places, the amount of stuff people put up with (or do against their own nature) in order to feel they belong and are loved and accepted, the thousand ways they/we disconnect and hurt ourselves and others just to be cool or busy or follow society or the group of the day’s expectations… the way we ignore the sacredness in a child’s little hand, her innocence and true love, the rain falling on trees, the thousand colours of the sky, the ever changing shapes of the clouds, a day in the lake, slowing down in our lives, the smile and beauty of a friend, the creativity and care in someone who looks or acts different, the true value from someone we choose to judge, take fro granted or ignore…

The thousand ways we are mean to ourselves, each other and this planet…

“So many things become beautiful when you really look.”
~ Lauren Oliver, Before I Fall

The movie tells the story of Samantha’s last day before she is killed in a car accident. The car accident is caused by the suicide attempt of one of her classmates, Juliet, who has endured the bullying from Samantha’s group of friends for years…Samantha, who used to have a great heart and loved nature and climbing trees, was not a popular girl as a child. But she chose to “belong” (as did her friends) which meant she needed to follow the rules, this society’s rules about being “cool” and “popular”…

After her accident, Samantha relives the final day again and again, going through all the stages of grief: denial and isolation, anger, bargaining, depression and finally, acceptance.

Through this process, she learns to see the world, others and herself in a different way, even the connection of Juliet’s suicide attempt (and possible death) to her own death…she finally makes a choice, and that choice “be who you are” from her old friend’s room,  saves her…

Who are we, really?  Are we this reckless species that doesn’t care about the world and other species? That is so competitive and selfish that chooses to see and do only what’s beneficial to themselves in the short term? Are we ignorants and idiots who don’t know better than sleepwalking to our own demise? To destroy and irreversibly pollute and damage our own house and source of food, air, water, life? Are we so mean and oppressive that we can’t see how much we hurt each other even by omission, by not speaking up and stepping up to make a difference to another human being? Another being?

Or are we the caring and sacred species that sees the sacredness in each being and element of this universe? Those who have been stewards and companions of the land and other beings for centuries? Those whose creativity, caring and consciousness can create amazing visions and work hard to make them true no matter the sacrifices and fears we face?

Are we able to overcome this blip, this crossroads, this detour and choose to re-live our lives in a more meaningful way?

These (both the movie and the book) can be seen as the superficial re-birth or wake-up of a privileged North American teenage girl…but I see much more here: how we all change and betray what we are to feel more accepted and connected, without noticing that through that journey, we actually disconnect: from who we are, from each other and from this wonderful planet and all its marvelous life.

We think we are the only ones who feel pain, frustration, anger, awkwardness, detachment…and we act and react accordingly, by withdrawing and stinging before we are abandoned and stung ourselves…until we start being courageous and honest and allowing others come forward. Starhawk shares the story of a Circle in her book “Dreaming the dark” when at the first “checking” everyone shared good feelings and visions, because that’s what we have been told and think others expect from us…being hurt and in pain, angry and overwhelmed or frustrated is a “bad” thing, caring so much that we hurt inside is not “cool”. In the second and deeper checking, however, one of the participants felt angry and disappointed: “I felt coerced to say something nice because everyone was seeing flowers and shinny stuff, but I was in pain and seeing blood and bones!”…This was enough for others to start sharing: “Are you kidding me? I felt compelled to share flowers and shiny things because everyone was sharing them!”…How much we suffer inside, thinking we are alone, just to “please” what we think others expect from us…

It s only when we recognize our pain for the world that we can get into action and change what we don’t like…

In my last stay at OUR Ecovillage, where I spent 17 life-changing days as a TA for Starhawk’s PDC/EAT, I experienced a lot of disconnection and dis-empowerment. It was a strange feeling, because I was expecting the opposite, I was, after all “among my tribe”, surrounded by caring like-minded people, living in community and in deep connection with the land. Instead of faking or rejecting them, I decided to accept and dig into these feelings…were they coming from the fact that I was dissolving into the landscape, serving others in simple ways so they could enjoy the course and not in the spotlight or given a chance to shine and show my skills? Or was that my perception? Was because the rituals and processes brought into light my deepest fears and old pains or because I was afraid to be judged and eventually risk rejection?

I came back with a decision in my heart, a longing to dedicate myself to community circles, deep healing and nature connection, and a plan to make this happen. This process of living in community showed me how each thing we do (or don’t) matters; how much we can impact others (and be impacted by them) and how much Mother Nature can take and offer…my daily routines involved a trip to the pond and the sacred hill, a gratitude and my own way of meditation…I went from being completely exhausted of being human (and among humans) and asking the pond to take me into its soothing waters,  to embracing the call of the Boddisatwas…

My beloved pond at OUR Ecovillage, my heart’s home

There’s only one certainty in this world: we will all fall…we will all decay and die and become part (once more) of the eternal cycle of transformation, giving into to other elements and life as they gave into us…this blip we have, this blip as human beings is all we have now: this day, this time, this body, this land we stand…

 

What will be do with it? Will we become who we are?

One of the exercises opening the morning circle before Earth Activist class

I think of all the thousands of billions of steps and missteps and chances and coincidences that have brought me here. Brought you here, and it feels like the biggest miracle in the world.”
~ Lauren Oliver, Before I Fall

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