The Dark Side of Sap

I’m sure it’s not much of a surprise to anyone who’s read the beginnings of this blog from last year, that I’ve watched Frank Capra’s classic It’s a Wonderful Life, based on Philip Van Doren Stern’s story The Greatest Gift several times already since Thanksgiving. I love the originality and morals and positivity in the writing. I love Frank Capra. I love Jimmy Stewart and Donna Reed. I love the love story. I love all the nostalgia and the messages from the subtle (or not so subtle) shots at the greed of the rich and the idealism and honor of good people in the face of adversity. Of course I like all this…I’m a sap. I’m an optimist. I’m kind of old fashioned. J really does remind me of George Bailey. You know…

But I’m also kind of reflective around this time of year. You know…another year ending and a new one beginning, and I just finished writing and putting out a new novel…and this movie does dredge up some deep thinking despite what a lot of folks think is cheesy holiday sentimentality.

There’s this part nearing the close of the movie…



And it makes me think about my own life every year.
I mean, George really got to see what it would be like if he’d never been born. And his missing life DID leave an awful hole.
But sometimes I wonder if mine would.
Now, no need to worry about me. I’m not suicidal, and I never have been. And I don’t wish I’d never been born, and I never have made that particular wish. No holiday depression or anxiety is weighing on me (in fact…my next planned post is about just how much I’m actually looking forward to Christmas this year…which hasn’t happened in a long while…and my anxiety is never really holiday-specific…unfortunately?).

But I do often wonder if my life has any real impact on people I care about and the world at large. If I’ve touched any other lives, really. What a gift George Bailey was given, to be shown what his life meant to other people…the people he loved and his community and the world…how his actions that he believed were small and maybe meaningless rippled out to affect not only his loved ones, but the world.
I often feel like while I certainly am grateful for my life and the people in it, and I enjoy the things I’ve been privileged to do with my life, that who  am and what I do…that my existence…doesn’t really make much of a difference, and that does get to me sometimes.

I love the ending of this movie. I love the revelation and community; how everyone comes together for George to show him how valuable he is; to prove to him without doubts that what he does and who is mean something and always did mean something; to reciprocate the selfless way he’d always treated other people and the generous way he’d always given to other people. I love that at the film’s close, George knows he matters with surety.
But the end of this movie definitely doesn’t only fill me with hope and love and the power of kindness and friendship and doing the right thing. It makes me wonder if I am kind enough…if I am generous enough…if I do enough for other people, and if any other people notice the efforts I make to put others first or how carefully I think about the impact my actions make. I wonder if anyone just notices me here in any capacity, and I wonder if my absence would leave a hole. If my life has touched any other lives in some significant way. Social anxiety likes to tell me no one does notice and my absence wouldn’t even leave a scratch; that I haven’t touched any other lives; that I don’t matter. In fact, it usually tells me I’m a huge pain in the ass…a burden…just for existing and taking up any kind of space in someone else’s life. It tells me that no one would show up for me if I were to find myself in a jam like George Bailey.
And the crummy thing is? For the most part, Social Anxiety is right.

“Jen’s in trouble,” wouldn’t elicit any sort of pronounced community response. I can’t imagine being in a room full of people who all cared about me, even without the big pile of money. I’ve never experienced that ever in my life, and even if it was a really small room, I’m not sure I could fill one with people who cared about me now no matter how hard I tried and how lenient and forgiving I was defining the word ‘care.’
The thought of my kid brother saying anything like this about me is laughably unlikely, no matter what kind of good or bad was happening in my life…


And then there’s the very tail end of the movie, when George finds the inscribed copy of Tom Sawyer in the big pile of money…


I have some friends. Two very very DEAR friends in particular, besides J. But that’s honestly about it. There are more people out there whom I care about a great deal, but I don’t know (and usually doubt) if that feeling is mutual. Many folks I love wholeheartedly don’t even know my true full name or what city I live in. Some of them have never seen my face.
So even though I love It’s a Wonderful Life…it’s one of my all time favorite movies…probably my favorite love story on film…it kind of makes me feel like a failure at the end when I watch it.

Before this sounds too much like a Holiday Pity Party Post, I’m not feeling sorry for myself. The main reason I adore this movie so much is because of the very real, strong love George and Mary have for each other. Even at George’s lowest point…before he meets Clarence at all…when he’s thinking of jumping…he still loves his children. And he still loves Mary. And his family with Mary in that ‘drafty old house’ is really the core of the movie. And I DO have THAT.
I don’t have a town full of friends or a family outside of my house who adores me or an important position in a community. As much as I try to be a good person and see the good in other people and remain optimistic about life, I know those things about myself. I really don’t think very many people, if any, would show up for me if I were in serious need.

But J would. I do have J. And our Boy. They are who make my life so wonderful.
December has always been a sentimental and introspective month for me. I met J in December. Our son was born in December. I got my wonderful life in December.


I’ll probably watch this movie a few more times before 2020 rolls around. Because I love it. I love all the positive things it brings to mind and even all the darker things, but I’ll try not to get too dark thinking about things. I’m sure I’ll be mostly focused on my wonderful life.

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