‘Why couldn’t you just let me be happy?’ I believe that is the question she asks her friend Betty, who has recently been incredibly harsh, before walking off, leaving Betty sitting speechless and alone on the steps (“Mona Lisa Smile”). At the time, Betty was in a marriage she had just begun – with incredibly high hopes and expectations – , but that was falling to extreme pieces. Her husband clearly did not love her, and was rather uninterested in her in general, but she didn’t know what to do. All she could do was continue her school work, and unintentionally let out her suppressed panic in the form of nastiness toward her friends.
As I thought more and more tonight about this little scenario that is within the film “Mona Lisa Smile”, I began to relate it directly to my own life. Betty couldn’t let her friend Connie be happy, because Betty was so miserable. How could she help herself against being bitter and angry that Connie’s love life was blooming, when her own – one she had until very recently believed to be perfect – was falling apart? It made perfect sense to me. And so I wondered where I have done that in my own life (or at least wanted to do it).
Talking with a friend the other night, she was sharing how much she had loved her Japan job. It made me want to be angry, because I was miserable in my job in Japan. What does one have to do with the other?! I found myself asking… myself. So what if she enjoyed her job? That’s a wonderful thing! And yet the desire persisted every so gently, to the point where I still have to let it go over and over again (though it is much easier than it was at first). This is the same as Betty Warren’s problem, really. I was unhappy, so it was almost wrong of someone else to be happy in that comparable situation. (I’m not saying this as fact, of course, but as the feeling behind it all for myself.)
When I have been making not-very-much money in recent years, I grow annoyed at the former classmates who are buying their wonderful, large houses. Not having a significant other (or anything similar, beyond a (married) best friend across the ocean), I sometimes feel sick when I see yet another engagement announced on Facebook by people in my age group. And the list goes on for all sorts of things… wonderful pets, trips to beautiful or cool places, exercise…
While my initial responses were similar to pure anger and jealousy (as if their getting a house or getting married has any deprivation effects on my life), upon seeing or hearing about the various happy events in other people’s lives, they have developed to a calmed state of slight discomfort and longing instead. (It just felt wrong to be angry at such things, so I made a genuine effort to look at what was behind it all for me, and to manage a healthy response for myself, as well as for the people who are celebrating – I don’t want to be sending them angry vibes, ya know?) 😛 But that changes nothing from the Betty Warren within me – it still takes an effort to allow others to be happy in a situation in which I am not happy. Granted, my responses are much improved and I do not shed bitterness and nasty comments the way she did. However, the discomfort still remains for the situations.
I don’t know what I wanted to say about this all – I think I just wanted to say that. That I can relate very easily to poor Betty Warren and her inability to let her friend be happy in an area of life where she, herself, was so unhappy (despite what likely was a genuine love for her friend and desire for her friend to be happy in life). We do that in our own lives quite often, it feels. From the greatest to the smallest of things, when we are unhappy with a specific aspect of our own lives, we struggle to see others be happy in that same aspect of their lives. I don’t want to give out a solution to this behavior – I just want us to notice that we have it, really. Simply noticing it, bringing awareness to it, makes more of a difference than we could imagine, anyway. Betty seemed utterly shocked when Connie accused her with the question. To that point, even if she had realized what she was doing, it is likely that she was unable to admit it to herself…
Yeah… I want to look even more into the smallest nooks and crannies of my life to see where else I have been in this rut-based hatred/anger in the past. I want to let all of that go. And I want to be free of it all for the future, and to be able to wish others well with ease, no matter my own current situation.