“Finding the Positive”
“Perhaps the wisdom lies in engaging the life you have been given as fully and courageously as possible and not letting go until you find the unknown blessing that is in everything.”
Have you seen the movie “Bounce,” starring Ben Affleck and Gwyneth Paltrow? Affleck plays a successful businessman who at the start of the movie is stuck with a large number of other passengers in an airport during a layover. He meets another man, a devoted husband and father of two, who is anxious to get home. Affleck, who is single, is booked on an earlier flight to the same destination as the man and generously offers to trade tickets with him so he can get home to his family sooner. Affleck doesn’t mind hanging out in the airport bar waiting for a later flight. The man gratefully accepts.
As fate would have it, the earlier flight crashes and the husband/father dies. Affleck is both relieved to be alive and horrified that someone has died in his place. He decides to visit the man’s widow, played by Paltrow, to see if he can provide her some kind of help. As the movie unfolds, Affleck helps Paltrow, sometimes without her knowledge, and the two grow closer and closer. Affleck knows that he is going to have to tell her the truth of why he came into her life. When he does, she is horrified and orders him out of her life, crushing both of them and her two boys.
A short time later, Paltrow is having a conversation with her best friend. She finally admits her feelings for Affleck and the dilemma she is facing. The only reason she knows him is because of the plane crash that took the life of her husband and the father of their children. How could anything good come of that? What would it say about her if she allowed herself to move on, especially with Affleck in her life? It is here that her friend gives the line of the movie, saying something to the effect of, “It doesn’t matter if it’s Buddy now or another man a year from now. The only reason you are going to know him is because Greg died.”
I’m not suggesting this is some great movie (it’s not, in my opinion), but it does serve to illustrate the point of the concluding week’s assignment which involved reviewing an experience in your life that caused you pain in order to find the blessing(s) in it. This can be an extremely difficult thing to do, finding the positive in something that might have been tragic for you at the time. And not only that, but to acknowledge that event with gratitude.
Truthfully, I would have given this assignment later in the class had the “Wrestling With the Angel” chapter not appeared in the book when it did. I think it is a tremendously empowering thing to do, to be able to find the positive in a negative situation, but it takes a great deal of maturity and emotional growth. It could mean that we are “okay” with these events, like we want to invite pain and suffering into our lives for the growth it will bring us. That can be such a misguided point of view, reminding me of when my niece died soon after her birth and her parents were told by a well-meaning friend that events like that only happen to people who can handle them. They did not want to hear that. They just wanted their baby back and would have been willing to trade being “so strong” for her being alive.
So while we don’t want pain and suffering, nor do we want to wish it on anyone (at least when in our healthiest states), we may find something about or for ourselves because of it. The two realities can exist simultaneously. Having had something bad happen to us can provide new opportunities. And in the end, we can express gratitude for having had the experience. Doing so can be a powerfully strong experience, one that allows us to grow emotionally and be better parents, partners, and mentors for others in our lives. Taking time in hindsight to find the positive in a past situation can enable us to know it’s there in a present situation, even when we are feeling anger or sadness.
And, yes, Affleck and Paltrow do end up back together at the end of the movie, although it is clear they both will have to be dedicated to it to make the relationship work. Just like in real life.
Link to Book: “My Grandfather’s Blessings”