When I was a little girl, my class was one day ushered into our school’s TV Room, and invited to sit down and watch the movie The NeverEnding Story.
(I’m assuming it was the end of term or something when this happened. I’ll be honest, my school wasn’t exactly top of the league tables, but I don’t THINK they used to just plonk us all in front of the TV and call the job a good ‘un. That WOULD explain quite a lot, though, now I come to think about it. Wow, two paragraphs in, and here I am, questioning everything I ever knew!)
Being a very literal kind of child (see also: All The Other Times I Took Stuff WAY Too Literally...), I was both excited and, honestly, a little bit worried about this. I was excited because this, I assumed, was to be a story that would NEVER end: I mean, can you EVEN?! One of the biggest issues I had with all of the books my mum had to carry home from the library for me each week, you see, was the fact that, sooner or later, they would all end. I HATED that. Sometimes while I was reading, I’d look at the number of unread pages still remaining, just to reassure myself that there were still more than enough of them to keep me entertained for a good long time: then I would try to read slower, just to prolong the experience. I was a lot of fun at parties, too.
Unlike all of those books, however, this movie carried the promise of being NEVER ENDING, and I was really happy about this, because FINALLY, people. FINALLY. At the same time, however, as we all filed into the room, and sat crossed-legged on the dusty carpet, which had probably been there since 1973 or something, I could already feel my stomach starting to ball into a knot of anxiety. The movie would NEVER END! That presumably meant we would be there… forever? I wasn’t really down with that. For one thing, that carpet was G-R-O-S-S. (I actually date my obsession with having clean floors back to the disgusting carpets my school used to make us sit on during “TV time” and other supposedly “fun” activities. I can still feel the texture of them under my hands, actually. I’m making this weird, aren’t I? I’ll stop talking about carpets now…) For another, my mum was expecting me to come right home after school, and I wasn’t sure the school would’ve thought to call her and say, “Sorry, Mrs McNaught, but you won’t be seeing Amber again: Never Ending Story, you know?”)
(Yes, I actually worried about this. I was… very young at the time. Also very stupid, obviously.)
So, the movie came on, and there were two big disappointments in store. One was the fact that it ENDED, obviously: I mean, WHUT? Trades Descriptions Act, anyone? I was obviously relieved about this, but I still felt cheated. Like, if you’re going to call your movie ‘The NeverEnding Story’, you better be damn sure it doesn’t END, huh? The other was that a horse died in it – actually DIED – and my young self was NOT PREPARED to watch a horse die right in front of her eyes. Not at all. I wouldn’t have been comfortable with seeing ANY animal die, obviously, but horses were my particular obsession, and I just felt like I’d been treated pretty shabbily here by the adults who were supposed to have my best interests at heart. Adults who’d basically been all, “Oh hey, Amber, here’s an awesome movie you’ll love! It’s called ‘The Never Ending Story’, only it ends, and also a horse dies! Have fun!”
But I did NOT have fun. Instead, I sat there worrying about what I’d do if the movie ACTUALLY went on forever, and trying to pretend that I wasn’t deeply disturbed by the whole “horse” thing, and all that stuff about The Nothing. (This actually shows some personal growth for me, because when my parents took me to see E.T. one time, I got out of my seat at the scene where you think E.T. is dead, and started screaming, “WHY DID YOU BRING ME HERE? I’M JUST A KID!” ) (See also: Bambi’s mum. I still don’t know how that scene made it into a kid’s movie?) I feel like this is a useful metaphor for my life, really: or for the fact that I have yet to encounter a single “fun” activity that I haven’t been able to ruin through sheer anxiety. (You’ll be pleased to know that I no longer take movie titles literally, though: I’d never have seen Trainspotting if that was the case, would I?) Holidays, for instance, are always a little bittersweet, because as much as I love them, the knowledge that the experience is soon going to end (Much like The NeverEnding Story, in fact…) always leaves me feeling a tiny bit sad. I find myself feeling nostalgic for something that’s still happening, and then worrying that I’m spoiling it for myself… and the beat goes on.
Why am I telling you this? Because 2016 has been tough so far, hasn’t it? It’s been a bit of a Dragon Year, if we’re being honest. (If you’re about to comment to tell me that NO, it’s the Year of the Monkey, click that link first…) So far Terry and I seem to be getting off lightly (I really hope those don’t prove to be famous last words), but so many of the people we love have been dealing with some really awful stuff that my natural tendency to worry is making it impossible for me to sleep some nights: instead, I just lie there, staring at the ceiling and wondering who’s going to be next, and what if it’s us, and all of that fun stuff you think about in the dark reaches of the night. (Also, celebrities. They’re not having a good 2016, are they?)
Now, although this post might convince you otherwise, I don’t actually believe in fate, or in Dragon Years, or that 2016 has it in for us all, and is just waiting for the perfect moment to pounce. (It is, though. And I’m not joking about the “lying awake at night”thing, either…) If I DID believe in those things, though, I guess I’d probably come to the conclusion that if 2016 has anything to teach us, it’s that you never really know what’s coming. (This is also what The Never Ending Story has to teach us, now I come to think of, because I know the horse, like, kind of comes back at the end, but SERIOUSLY. Did NOT see that coming.) And that, instead of worrying about it so much that you ruin all the good stuff that might also be on the way, you should maybe just try to enjoy the movie.
So that’s what I’m trying to do. It’s a tough one, because worrying is my natural state, and I’m not really sure how to function without anxiety as a constant background noise, but I think we have to try, people – we can’t let 2016 win. With that in mind yesterday afternoon I should have been working: that was the plan, because that’s ALWAYS the plan for a Thursday afternoon. Sit at desk, write blog posts, rinse, repeat, ad infinitum. But it was a sunny day, and for once it was actually warm, too: it felt like spring actually arrived this week, and I wanted to make the most of it, so Terry and I stopped what we were doing, got into the car, and drove to a local park, where the daffodils were out, the sky was blue, and 2016 felt like a much friendlier dragon than it’s proved to be so far. We had a wander around, stopped at a café for some coffee and cake, and came home feeling like the world was just a little bit brighter.
We enjoyed the movie, in other words. And I’m going to keep on trying to do that, as best I can*.
(* Unless a horse dies, obviously. Because if that happens, I’m taking my ball, and I’m going home. SO THERE.)