Another long break. A lot to process in these dark days of December. When days are heavy we need to go inward, to have space and time to heal. We also need escapes, something vivid and enveloping to lift our spirits or at least avoid them as we dissolve ourselves into the lives of others.
Nothing has done that for me lately as well as the Beatles: Get Back, the 8 hour documentary by Peter Jackson. Yes, 8 hours. And yes,you have to subscribe to Disney Plus but I felt it was worth the mere $8 to lose myself in such a rich and complex tapestry of drama. Yes, there is a lot of drinking tea and other unidentifiable liquids, lots of long moody silences. Also playfulness and
in-jokes from years of being together, of this young band being a family. But observing relationships foment and unfurl in real time is not like watching paint dry unless the painter is Jackson Pollock. Too much happens in the inbetween.
With all the challenges and infighting and long stewing resentments there is still such a strong connection, and the flippant and at times furious four become a unit, they come together. The film and what they go through is a great example of both/and: how all endings, in retrospect, give us much to appreciate in all that went before.
All happy families are alike, but every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way, Tolstoy said. The Beatles film is in fact a family drama, like a Russian novel or perhaps more like a Checkhov play where all the characters spend hours in a room filled with long brewing resentments and bitterness as well as fierce connections and attachment.
Brian Epstein, their long-time manager, had committed suicide the year before, leaving them adrift; though only a few years older than the band members he was a father figure to them all.
So there is Paul, trying to keep the ship afloat, at turns bossy and self absorbed, supportive and collaborative. There is John, sarcastic and remote, attached at the hip to Yoko, yet in moments deeply connected, joyous and playful. There’s Yoko, who clearly did not break up the band, but was a constant and often superfluous presence. Whatever her talents this was no platform for them. There’s George, wounded that his songwriting skill is not appreciated and is shadowed by the Lennon-McCartney cannon. If only they could see him as more than a brilliant guitarist. And then there was the master drummer Ringo, often hungover it seems but reliable and present throughout it all.
Witnessing relationships ending is bittersweet and painful. Yet out of all of that, through all the Sturm und Drang is so much creativity. You can literally watch songs take form, the phrase, a chorus, a turn of words come together to become a much loved song; at its height Paul writing Get Back while a bored George and Ringo appear to be listening to an advanced lecture in Astrophysics rather than the making of a classic. John is nowhere in sight.
And after 7 hours of tea and toast and the high’s and lows of the four brothers in turn bickering and stewing and collaborating as comrades, there is the effusive performance on the roof. If you think nothing happens, rewatch the first and last half hour, as I admit I did. In fact I watched the ending 3 times just to be immersed in the exuberant climax to such a bittersweet story, to see the importance of downtime and discord in the creative process.
We all live in the movies of our own making. This time of year ours is stultifyingly dull and long, V has little focus and so the unstructured hours seem interminable. I don’t post here in large part because I don’t like what I have to say, I don’t want to be a complainer but an explainer and it’s challenging to do the latter without traces of the former mixing in. Being “on V duty” for such long stretches never gets easier. I am mesmerized by the spaces where little seems to happen on a screen, frustrated at how it feels in real time.
Yet I soak up the precious time alone or with T: at night with TV or movies, in the morning with my happy lamp and reading, writing little snippets I like alongside long stretches that I don’t care to share, that I keep rewriting because I want it to be a dark comedy more than a heavy drama. I hope at times I succeed.
I finally can appreciate how gratitude and acceptance are the antidote to the holiday season. V waking up at 330 am on Christmas leads to a very long day indeed, and on December 26th he sleeps past 10 to make up for it – a wonderfully late start to the day that allows me to sit looking out the window onto a quiet street where just last month I was still going out each morning with Ruby. The temperature at 8 am is no longer an issue. Things seem unmoving and yet they do in fact change, often alarmingly quickly.
Since December 21st, the longest day of the year, the daylight grows incrementally longer each day. That’s the sort of thing I remind myself of to get through the month. It ends slightly brighter than it starts. In January school hopefully will return and the days will be longer still. Grief remains yet time and love help the healing process.
To anyone out there reading this I say thank you. Thank you for letting me share small pieces of my life, thanks for reading this, for helping to alleviate my loneliness through a narrative that often is not as sweet as I wish it was, and yet is filled with much to be grateful for.
I wish you a sense of belonging and feeling loved in the world, of being part of something bigger than yourself. And a year ahead that continues to get brighter and better.