July, July, July

“People confuse the source of their happiness. They become temporarily happy when they get a new car, or a new house, or a new marriage. And they think that they are suddenly happy because of this new thing in their life. In reality, they are happy because for a brief moment, they are without desire. But then soon another desire comes along. And the search continues.”

– A quote off a photo caption in Humans of New York

Letting go has never been easy despite it being a constant in one’s life. People always say we need to accept that change is constant, but we also forget to say that with that change comes letting go of a place, a person, a profession or a job, a sentimental object. Once that is gone, we lose what was once a huge part of who we were in past moments and move on to the present, where what is gone–is well, gone.

Back in high school, our Catholic philosophy class taught us that people would never be satisfied. I can’t recall the exact term Aquinas and the rest of the Vatican coined, but what I remember the most was that we are bound to constantly be unsatisfied–never happy–just constantly in search, going from each means to another until we find the end. (The lesson led to the said end being God, but that’s not my point).

I graduated high school armed with the knowledge there was no such thing as total happiness (except with God and faith, but that’s another story). I had this knowledge that happiness would be a fleeting moment that went from one thing to another. 

I eventually learned that life was about savoring those happy moments. The impermanence, the temporary state only made those minutes, those hours, those years worth holding on to while they lasted.

But then there are those people and those places we hold on to. Despite the distance, the exterior changes, the fights, the faults, and everything else that could get in the way, these people choose to stay. You work and fight for them to stay. They become a part of you as much as the air you breathe or the address you indicate on an information form. You stick to that person because you want to, because you have to, because you’ve spent so much time making them a part of your life.

Yet the choices aren’t always enough to make you want to stay too. So I left. I left despite having to leave a chunk of myself in the past into a present I have yet to understand.

I was told that happiness was fleeting, that the search for fulfillment is forever this hunger that is forever asking to be fed or a movement from one hunger to the next. But as that caption indicates, perhaps we shouldn’t be taught that happiness is in finding the one, the One, or the End or an end, or a thousand means. 

Happiness is usually a smile, laughter that fills the room, the desire to share that good feeling with others. 

But how does happiness come in when we’re in between? When we haven’t found quiet yet what we’re looking for or had to let go of someone/thing to better understand what we really need?

I’m rambling but haven’t you ever asked yourself these questions?

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Celeste & Jesse Forever

I had an art film phase. I devoured Chinese, Japanese, French, South American, Spanish, etc. etc. movies like they were being passed around like gourmet food. I was the pretentious teenager who believed a well-made film with certain filters, a crushing story, and a nationally or internationally relevant topic would change the world. I scoffed as my parents wondered how I could keep watching these movies and still feel okay after.

Then I grew older. Not much wiser, either. But time moved me into important decisions that had to be made. I was exposed to more realities that my parents themselves faced, alongside the weakening economy. I went to work through a crappy public transportation system and always had a street kid or adult passing or sitting by during the commute. I went to events and met some of the country’s elite. I overheard one of them complaining about how she didn’t get her ice cream delivered on time, while I had the knowledge that there was a family living in a box above the market in the next street. I finally understood the powerlessness we all hold when we see these problems–these issues that never get solved or hardly move on–while members of the middle class also have to deal with inflation, rising gas prices, and the instability of a circus government. No wonder my parents didn’t like seeing art films: it was a reminder of the realities they couldn’t solve while they were still trying to solve problems of their own.

But even us young adults still need a film that will softly remind us of our lives. We don’t know what we’re doing 80% of the time, so it won’t hurt to come across a story that will nudge us the right way. The conundrum is particularly confusing when it comes to letting people go and understanding our reasons for doing so. Movies like “Celeste & Jesse Forever” are a gem: it’s indie without being pretentiously artsy because it delivers a tender realistic story.

 

Celeste and Jesse are two individuals legally separated after a six-year marriage, but have been best friends since childhood. Thus they face the problem of having to let go of each other officially, but aren’t sure how to keep the friendship that started and came with the partnership. It’s a problem many couples face post-break up and writers Rashida Jones and Will McCormack handle how Celeste has to let go realistically but subtly: at first she busies herself with work and says she’s okay with Jesse moving on. But eventually when the truth sinks in…

I won’t spoil things from here. Given my er, recent situation, I just really appreciated how on point each scene and conversation was without being too dramatic or depressing. The story was paced right, slowly and then suddenly fast but back to the quiet, just like normal life. The scenes weren’t very boring either, despite the parallels they had with how normal friends and exes talk about navigating relationships. Rashida Jones and her co-writer Will McCormack do an amazing job of presenting friendships and relationships, the choices we make, heartbreak that comes with those choices, and the difficulty of moving past decisions we can’t take back. 

Before I saw the film, there was a scene in the trailer where Paul (played by Chris Messina) says to Celeste: “Do you wanna be right or do you wanna be happy?” It’s a question we all ask ourselves, whether we’re figuring out a relationship or deciding on where to go next with our career. It’s a question that also sums up the meaning we try to find in life. I asked a similar question once as well and I remember the answer: “It’s not a matter of whether you did the right thing. Time will tell and from there you’ll understand why you had to make that decision.” 

It’s easy to hear and say that. Life, however, is the best teacher to show you how that unfolds. This movie manages to render that painful but enlightening lesson.

Photos from The Huffington Post‘s “Rashida Jones on ‘Celeste and Jesse Forever’: I Wanted to Play Somebody…Less Likeable’