I’ve been caught up in a whirlpool of reading, my mind a swirling current of thoughts from enlightening, challenging, inspiring books I’ve read lately: Glennon Doyle’s Untamed, Ibram X. Kendi’s How to be an Antiracist, and Ijeoma Oluo’s So you want to talk about race, all must-reads in my opinion. I’m hoping to write a blog about all that soon, but my thoughts are too churned up to find the clarity to be articulate right now.
In the meantime, I’ve been finding calmer waters in watching and rewatching (and rewatching a few more times!) episodes of Schitt’s Creek, my latest television addiction. You may remember my blog about The Witcher, my previous TV preoccupation. Before that, it was Game of Thrones. Unlike most shows, a select few like these contain moments, scenes, episodes that I have felt compelled to watch too many times to admit.
I’ve been analyzing this tendency I have to obsess about particular character arcs, wondering if I perhaps have some variation of OCD that has not yet made it into the latest DSM as a clinical diagnosis. Symptoms include repeated viewing of fictional beings discovering who they are, fanatical contemplation of their growth and development into who they’re meant to be. May also be associated with the addictive allure of witnessing that first moment when two characters connect, their journey toward love—how it happens, what shifts in them when they truly see this person in front of them and allow that other to genuinely see them. I watch for the moment when the falling in love begins.
I’ve always been enthralled by the human experience, and have been people-watching my whole life—making up stories about the family playing near us on the beach, wondering about the group sitting at the next table in a restaurant. I like to talk about people in a way that often sounds like gossip (and sometimes, regrettably, it is) but is primarily intended as an exercise in figuring out their story, how they intertwine, where they’ve been and where they’re going.
I will admit to some degree of voyeuristic titillation, particularly when watching beautiful people like Henry Cavill or Dan Levy or Kit Harrington and Emilia Clark. This can start to feel creepy and problematic, so thank goodness I recently stumbled upon an explanation that makes me seem less pathological, which is nice.
This alternate (and more appealing) theory comes courtesy of Lisa Cron from her book Story Genius, in which she uses brain science to instruct writers on crafting a riveting story. She explains that stories aren’t about escaping reality, they are about making meaning of reality. Stories have existed since the beginning of humankind, serving as a way for us to understand the world around us. Neuroscience shows that our brains react to stories as if those things are actually happening to us (okay, see, it’s not just me!). They resonate with us because we use protagonists’ struggles as templates for navigating our own life experiences. We are looking for insight on how to handle the unexpected, how to make sense of our own inner struggles, how to balance our desires with the fear that holds us back.
I become enthralled in particular stories and characters because I am trying to figure something out, even if I can’t quite put my finger on what that something is. I watch people and speculate about their lives for the same reason. I am a therapist and a writer to help myself and others make sense of this crazy world we face every day.
Lisa Cron quotes Joan Didion as saying, “I write entirely to find out what I’m thinking, what I’m looking at, what I see, and what it means. What I want and what I fear.”
I’m pretty sure this is entirely what I live for. And if that means it’s necessary to watch David and Patrick fall in love over and over and over again, I’m okay with that.