Ch 21 The One About "As Good As It Gets"
One of my all-time favorite comedies is the 1997 film, As Good As It Gets, starring Jack Nicholson, Helen Hunt, and Greg Kinnear. There’s a scene where obsessive-compulsive, emotionally unavailable and neurotic novelist Melvin Udall (Nicholson), asks his gay neighbor, Simon (Kinnear), for advice on what to do with his feelings for Carol (Hunt), the waitress on whom he has a desperate crush. Disappointed by Simon’s efforts to pep him up, “…and you people are supposed to be sensitive and sharp?”
Melvin complains that Carol has “evicted me from my life!”
Kinnear’s coy reply? “Did you like it that much?”
I love the irony of Melvin’s response as he takes a sip of bottled water then yells, “I’m drowning here, and you’re describing the water!” (Here’s the Clip).
Despite all the elements working against Melvin (his OCD, his brash nature, his emotional isolation, his prejudice and his utter and complete disregard for other people’s right to exist apart from their usefulness to him), Melvin begrudgingly makes one decision after another that he thinks goes against his nature, but in reality, allows him to step fully, painfully, and beautifully, into it.
Like Melvin, I’ve been so caught up in who I’m not, where I’m not and what is not for me since my move to Japan that I haven’t seen clearly who I am, where I am, and what I want.
The last eight months in Japan have been excruciatingly painful and personally annoying.
The best way for you to know what I’ve been feeling? Imagine that a splinter has slid so far beneath one of your nails you can’t get to it without removing the bed of your nail first. And then once you’ve removed that sucker, imagine the discomfort of growing an entirely new nail where the old use to be. Cringing yet?
Welcome to my process. Except multiply that one splinter by eight or more--at least one for each month of life in the land of the rising sun.
Recently, I’ve had to dig deep to get at four of them, and I've felt the pain because of something really good in my life--something I told God I really wanted--no--needed: An opportunity to get back into a stable and corporate work environment after nearly six years away.
With the chance to pursue what I thought I wanted, I discovered some pretty nasty splinters lying just beneath the surface of my skin: Fear of the future, fear of losing my husband, fear of disappointing others, and the fear of not being enough…ever.
In the next few posts, I want to have a discussion about what that looked like for me because I know I’m not alone in some of these fears. And while our splinters will all look different on the surface, I have a feeling many of the root causes of our pain may be the same.
Midway through, As Good As It Gets, a dispirited Melvin (his psychiatrist had just thrown him out of the office for bursting-in without an appointment), glares at the room of waiting patients and says fiercely, “What if this is as good as it gets?”
I love that moment because it’s the first time we see Melvin be honest and vulnerable about the true state of his life. When I first saw the film, I felt depressed for him. Now, I see that moment for what it really was- a moment of courage.
I refuse to let a splinter, no matter how small, remain under my skin, waiting to hurt me until I’m at my most vulnerable. I don’t want to live in fear of anything--big or small--anymore. I want to make choices because I know who I am, not because I’m afraid of who I won’t become.
P.S. If you haven’t already seen it, there is SO MUCH good in this film, so many layers. Watch it and if you want someone to pick it apart with you, I’d be happy to oblige!