As I wrote earlier tonight, Maria and I were excited to be going to Williamstown to see Spencer Tracy in the movie “Inherit The Wind,” she was taking me out as a gift because the movie was so important to me when I was young. Maria is a sweet and loving human being, she was very excited to be going to this movie with me, she even figured out the popcorn and ginger cookie we would be eating.
She wanted to see the movie on a big screen with me in a dark theater, she had been talking about it for weeks. It was as thoughtful a gift as anyone could give me, Inherit The Wind is as timely today as it was when I first saw it more than a half-century ago.
We are still inheriting the wind every single day. All along the movie, I must have bored Maria talking about the film, about Clarence Darrow, about my trips all over the Northeast to see it again and again, about how it shaped my views of justice and reason and freedom. Before the movie, we took a walk, Maria bought a dress on sale for $20, I got some toys for Robin, and then we went to a Thai restaurant and we both talked about the movie and the issues it raised, and how timely they remain.
it was a sweet time, we were both filled with anticipation about the movie.
Then we walked over to the theater and Maria discovered she got the date wrong. The movie was shown last night, and there were no plans to show it again. Maria was so disappointed. Me too. I got out the phone, called up my Google Map, searched for yoghurt places still open and found one in Bennington, about 20 minutes way from where we were sitting.
We had to rush to get there in time, we needed a win.
We got there just before it closed at 7 p.m., we talked on the way and at the yoghurt place about disappointment, and how we each handled it. We talked to the very nice young man at the counter about life in the Trump era.
When we walked into the empty lobby and the lonely cashier seemed puzzled to see us, we both just knew. She had planned this as a special gift for me, to bring me back to something that was so important to me. She just read the calendar wrong.
I got onto Amazon with my phone and found the movie for sale as a DVD and ordered it for Thursday. We will watch the movie at home, not in a darkened theater with a big screen but on our living room couch. I said I would rub her feet and buy her cookies.
But by the time we got to the yoghurt, she had rebounded and we were kidding each other about brooding.
In my six decades of life, I have learned a lot about disappointment and how to deal with it. Those are important lessons.
Most people seem stunned at the way life works, we sometimes expect life to be perfect. I think I know better. I like being older, I actually know something about life, despite my life-long efforts to avoid learning about it.
I was in therapy for nearly 30 years, and am just beginning to understand myself and accept myself. When I became a writer, I had a system for dealing with rejection and it’s cousin, disappointment. I could brood for two days when a lesser magazine piece was rejected, a week for a major magazine piece, and 10 days for a book rejection. There were lots of both.
I gave myself a day for a bad review, and an hour for an empty reading, and there were many.
There is much rejection and disappointment built into the creative life, and I learned to either handle it or go and do something else. But I will not speak poorly of my life.
I am a writer, I was born one and will die as one. In some ways, I have found peace because i have always been dissatisfied and unhappy. But my moments of despair and anguish have turned out be gifts, not tragedies, renewals, not losses, new beginnings, not endings. From the movie to yoghurt with crushed peanuts in 17 minutes, that’s how it works. Turns out they had decided to stay open an extra hour, because it was warm.
Maria and I decided to give our disappointment tonight about 15 minutes, but it didn’t last quite that long, we were laughing at one another about screwing dates up in less than ten minutes.
We had a lovely walk in Williamstown, we talked easily for a couple of hours, I got some fun things for Robin, including “chew beads,” and we discovered a good yoghurt place we will revisit.
I am as grateful to Maria for thinking of this loving thing as I would have been for seeing it, which we will do on Thursday. Not much to be disappointed about.
I am grateful to be reminded of this movie and the very powerful impact it had on me when I first saw it as a teenager. Clarence Darrow was my hero for many years, and he still is my hero in many ways. He always fought for the things I believe in, and he inspired to never forget the afflicted in my life or work, and to try and fight for them.
As I wrote before, I have come to see who I am in recent years. I am a man who simply accepts life, the reality of it, not the fantasies and yearnings about it. I accept who I am, not who I wish I was or who others wished I was. My life at long last is grounded in in the search for truth, grace, mercy and the realization of the “new” life, a life of rebirth and renewal.
My life grows in this way, in mystery entwined with paradox and contradiction, centered on the always creative search to be a good person at peace with himself and with love in his life. I am getting there.
It is not required or accepted that everyone like me or accept me, it is essential that I like and accept me. I am learning how to let life alone.
Disappointment is as natural to life as is death and suffering, if I can’t handle it, how can I live my life? I am not surprised by death or disappointment or suffering any longer, I don’t rail about it and dwell on it. It is part of being alive.
Maria and I have encountered countless large disappointments in our lives, and we know better than to waste too much time on the small ones, like hitting a movie on the wrong night. Still, it is more painful to lose a gift for someone else than for yourself. I respect that her sadness was real, she was entitled to it.
The intention is just as good as the gift for me. Life is a magical carousel for me, it just keeps coming round and round, and sometimes it moves so quickly it makes you dizzy, and sometimes, moving up and down on a beautiful wooden horse, you are climbing to the top of the world.
Thursday night, the gift will come to pass. We will see Inherit the Wind together in our own home, with our own dogs and popcorn and cookie. I will see what it still means to me.
I’ll even turn the lights out so the room will be dark.