I somehow managed to cut the umbilical cord which binds me to my computer last night and spent some quality time on the sofa. I watched a film. A slow-moving, thought-provoking film with not a car chase nor exchange of gunfire in sight, which means that I watched it on my own, with only a box of tissues for company. Mr Frog’s reaction to ‘Dirty Pretty Things’ which we watched at my insistence at the weekend: ‘Mais rien se passe dans ton film!’ The last hour was set to a backing track of his gentle snoring. So this time he was banished altogether.
‘My Life Without Me’, (‘Ma Vie Sans Moi’ in French) stars Sarah Polley, who bears an uncanny ressemblence to Julianne Moore. It made me think a lot, shed a few tears, and threw my life sharply back into perspective.
Since the beginning of the year, for reasons which are still rather opaque to me, there has been an undercurrent of panic running through my life. From time to time something triggers a full scale attack of ‘can’t get my breath-tummy doing somersaults-everything going fast-pure adrenaline rush’. My concentration has been shot to pieces, my work has suffered and my eating habits have been rather erratic. I can identify some of the things that have been bothering me, but thinking rationally doesn’t really help. The panic feels like a physical thing, out of my control, and telling myself sternly to pull myself together won’t make a blind bit of difference. I’m an emotional yoyo. Mr Frog never knows quite what to expect.
The first time this happened to me, I was eighteen years old. I was on A-Level study leave when my first boyfriend/love/person I knew ‘carnally’ broke up with me. The shock sent me into a tailspin. I was a mess, but I didn’t have time to be, I had work to do, exams to pass that would decide which university I would go to. A nice doctor/family friend prescribed me with some ‘beta blockers’ and everything slowed down to a normal speed. My powers of concentration returned. Everything came good in the end, I got my grades and it was really no more than a temporary glitch in the grand scheme of things. But it’s no coincidence that my classic exam anxiety dream involves discovering that my A-levels are due to start the following day but I am unable to find my revision notes.
‘My Life Without Me’ showed a few weeks in the life of a young mother, Anne, who lives in a trailer in her mother’s back garden with her husband and two young daughters. She learns that she has an untreatable form of cancer and only a month or two left to live. Anne is not the sort of person to waste time raging about how unfair life has been to her, or to wallow in self-pity. Instead she makes a list of ‘Things to Do Before I Die’ in a garish pink notepad. And sticks to it. Without telling anyone. She records a message for each of her daughters for every single birthday until they turn eighteen, while sitting in her car on a break from her job as a night cleaner. She visits her father in prison. She tries to find a suitable woman who might become a companion to her husband and a mother to her children – because she knows that life will have to go on without her. She lives every single instant with a new intensity. It’s a film about life, as the title suggests, not about death.
The Anne character has a ‘pure soul’, she is totally unselfish, un self-absorbed. Everything I am not. I carry around inside of me a negative list: things I want but can’t have, things I’m discontented about, things I want to change about Mr Frog, his job, my job, our life together. All the while I am guilty of not making the most of the life I am actually living.
Time for some changes around here.