It’s Not Supposed to Be like This (Part 1 of 4)
Your willingness to work with whatever is in front of you makes all the difference to your mental health and well-being
By Quentin Steen, Representative
I think it’s fair and accurate to acknowledge that we are most comfortable when we have an inkling of where things are going in our lives—even better when we have a plan.
Unfortunately, this is not always the case because life often gets in the way. As a result, our expectations at times are misguided, and our plans are flawed or include outcomes we cannot control.
The poet Robert Burns understood this reality all too well. In 1876, he published the poem “To a Mouse,” in which he writes,
The best laid schemes o’ Mice an’ Men
Gang aft agley
Translated it means that the best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry.
This is one of the themes explored in the 1998 thought-provoking movie Pleasantville.
The next four Mental Health Moments will explore a few mental health themes from the movie that caught my attention. They’re as poignant today as when I first watched the movie with a cherished companion and a bucket of buttered, dill-pickle seasoned theatre popcorn.
I loved this movie for many reasons. If you haven’t seen it, allow me to share a summary by Rotten Tomatoes:
Impressed by high school student David’s (Tobey Maguire) devotion to a 1950s family TV show, a mysterious television repairman (Don Knotts) provides him with a means to escape into the black-and-white program with his sister, Jennifer (Reese Witherspoon). While David initially takes to the simplistic, corny world of the show, Jennifer sets about jolting the characters with doses of reality that unexpectedly bring a little colour into their drab existence.
At the end of the film, David, one of the main characters, is wrapped up in a vulnerable conversation with his real-life mother as she weeps in the kitchen about the fact that her life hasn’t turned out the way she expected.
David’s mom: When your father was here, I used to think, this was it. This is the way it was always going to be. I had the right house. I had the right car. I had the right life.
David: There is no right house. There is no right car.
David’s mom: God, my face must look like a mess.
David: It looks great.
David’s mom: It’s really sweet of you, but I’m sure it does not look great.
David: Sure it does. Come here.
David’s mom: I’m 40 years old. I mean, it’s not supposed to be like this.
David: It’s not supposed to be anything. Hold still.
David’s mom: How’d you get so smart all of a sudden?
David: I had a good day.
Transformed by his time in Pleasantville, David accesses some inner wisdom to remind his mother that there is no one way that life is supposed to go and that it’s important to embrace its uncertainties.
We might benefit from the wise perspective of David in our current circumstances. Because that’s real life!
Admittedly, I’m no David. But what I know, I know, borne out of my own experiences. And what I do know is that it’s how we work with the uncertainties that life brings that makes all the difference.
Our willingness to surrender to the reality that it’s okay not to know and to work with whatever is in front of us makes all the difference to our mental health and well-being. Because that’s real life, and that’s the way it works!
Sometimes—and I’m referring to the last two years of pandemic life in particular—this can be a daily struggle, amplified by our inability or unwillingness to embrace the uncertainties we face.
In the next Mental Health Moment, I will continue to unpack the notion of it’s okay not to know without the fear of losing ourselves in the process.
Quentin Steen is a certified mental health first aid instructor for the Mental Health Commission of Canada.
Get your BRAIN right and your MIND will follow!
4 Mental Health Resources to Help You
If you or someone you know is struggling with a mental health issue, CLAC has a number of resources and interactive tools available to help you at My Health and Wellness.
Stronger Minds features videos and quick reads from mental health experts, activities to help you gain resilience, and ask-an-expert videos in response to questions.
WellCan offers free well-being resources to help Canadians develop coping strategies and build resilience to help deal with uncertainty, mental health, and substance abuse concerns during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Wellness Together Canada: Mental Health and Substance Use Support provides free online resources, tools, apps, and connections to trained volunteers and qualified mental health professionals.