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"A Star is Born"-Why everyone's story matters.

Updated: Nov 18, 2018

Who sees inside from outside? Who finds hundreds of mysteries even where minds are deranged? See through his eyes what he sees. Who then is looking out from his eyes?

Since my in laws are in town, instead of our usual Friday night Netflix binge and 9:00pm bedtime, we treated ourselves out to the movie "A Star is Born", with Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga. It is a remake of the 1930’s film where a musician struggles with drugs and alcohol and falls in love with a young singer. Seems generic enough, but it was good. Really good. And I cried A LOT (like the ugly, walk out of the theater with your head down, kind of cry).

But it brings up a point I often ruminate on, and well, I ruminated again (possibly through tears), when I got home and bear with me as I ruminate a 3rd time. Each and every one of our stories matters. Although sometimes the challenging chapters are long and dreary, if we wait it out, if we listen and pay attention to our stories, to the stories around us, we will be able to see a person first without placing a fixed label on them. If we stick around long enough, we may even get to rejoice in their triumphs, even if they are far and few between.

I fear there is a movement full of self help advice that encourages only focusing on people who are "successful". Often, we unintentionally give up on those who are "negative, unsuccessful, always complaining, or that we have nothing to gain from in return", disregarding the person behind the label we have given them. I get it though, we need to protect ourselves and our happiness, and boundaries are needed, (and obviously, it is something completely different when any kind of abuse is involved ie. emotional/physical etc) but does someone's "bad chapter" immediately warrant an "unfollow"? Do we close that friendship completely, or stop putting in effort into the relationship? How long do we wait out someone's bad chapter? Each answer is so personal and I'm not even really sure there are black and white answers.

The beautiful thing about movies, and similarly books, is that you get to see the character’s story from their perspective, not our own. They get to tell us who they are, instead of us telling them and placing a label as we tend to do in our everyday lives.

Without giving the story completely away, in the movie, “A Star is Born”, we witness 2 people build a relationship as they take the time to slowly go through the chapters of each other’s life. We get to see Bradley Cooper’s life as musician, whos success was born out of pain. We empathize with the conflict he endures from a traumatic childhood and subsequent internal grief with addiction to drugs and alcohol and rejoice in his triumphs with his love for Lady Gaga's character, a musician made a star because one person took the time to see her, from the inside. We get to be apart of their struggles, all the cracks and bruises that have left scars, and of course, we get to celebrate their successes. Whether that success appears small to most, like a day of sobriety from drugs and alcohol or on a larger scale, like a record deal. We can rejoice with them because we spent the time in the theater getting to know their story. We witness how many times they fall trying to get to a happier place and can appreciate the struggles they endure. Although we, of course, do not have to tolerate a persons poor behavior towards another, we witness these 2 characters take the good with the bad, knowing there is a person first and foremost behind the layers that we often miss when we first meet a person or get tired of their faults. It takes time to get through these layers, time we often do not have in a life full of “too busy”.

Often, we meet someone in the middle of a struggle, in the middle of one chapter of their story and stick a label on them-addict, lazy, bully. Some chapters are longer then others- years, maybe decades. But it is still only a single chapter. What if our first encounter with Bradley Cooper’s character was seeing him disheveled, intoxicated and passed out in a bush like we witness in the movie, without knowing anything else other then what we see in front of us. Would we still empathize and feel deeply for him, rooting for his success? Or would we walk passed and go on to feel pity and judge him?

See a person first. As hard as it may be, I try to see a person first.

This is something I am (too) desperately trying to instill in my children. To see a person before a label, to listen to someone’s whole story, and to be present in the moment regardless of how brief the encounter may be.

My son received a book 4 years ago for his 2nd birthday-"The fantastic flying Books of Morris Lessmore". It’s a beautiful book that I often regift and although the story takes a lot of explaining with young kids, it is time well spent introducing the concept that “everyone's story matters”.

Because of this book we started talking about doing our best to not place a fixed label on people. To see a person before a bully; a person before a mean girl; {a person before a disease, before a sinner, before an addict, the labels can go on and on} . We can label their actions as being mean, bullying, and talk about how they felt because of those actions, but we try as hard as it may be to not label the person.

My son came home upset after his first day of taking the school bus as an older girl was mean to him. We talked about it and then the next day he went on to, naturally, label her, stating that, "the mean girl wasn't on the bus today", and the third time he excitingly informed me that, "the mean girl was really nice to me". Of course, we chatted each time about how how it made him feel, how he can stand up for himself etc, but I also proceeded to ask him if she is still the "mean girl" now that she has been nice? This clicked for him as he gave a half smile in an aha moment. My son is no angel and he has bad days like the rest of us. I often remind him of how upsetting it would be if I kept referring to him as the "tantrum boy", the mean boy" or the "yeller" after his bad days. He didn't like that. In any case, I think he is slowly starting to get the picture (as am I).

Our communities are build up of thousands of stories, each and every one different from the next. We are all made up of many chapters, and although I re ind myself and my kids that we hold people accountable for their inappropriate actions, we need to see a person and try to hear and respect their story, as different as it might be from ours. Sometimes if we can stick around for long enough, we can see the tribulations AND the triumphs and have the privilege of being apart of their next chapter.

In her tiny pocket book that sits at my bedside table, Pema Chodran quotes “there isn’t going to be some precious future time when all the loose ends will be tied up”. Our stories all have loose ends, and sometimes those loose ends get all tangled up and it takes time to get through and straighten them out again. But all our stories matter, regardless of how many loose ends we have, we just need to take the time to {read/hear/listen/untangle} them.

Go see the movie, it was good.

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