Monday, November 07, 2005

Relief

Having just (well, on Sunday) sat through the most gut-wrenchingly emotional episode of Extreme Makeover: Home Edition I’ve seen so far, which had me reduced to a quivering wreck for the entire middle part of the day, I thought I’d try to explain what it means, or maybe what it symbolises, to me. I think I’m doing this for me, actually, to clarify in my own mind why this type of show – which on one level is so overtly commercial – can have such a profound effect on me, time after time.

This particular episode centred on a guy called Rodney, a young college student with a talent and a passion for basketball. It was his entire life. He lived in a deprived, mainly black neighbourhood (I think it was called Sutton, but I can’t remember the city) in a house he shared with his parents and brother. His girlfriend hung out a lot, but didn’t live there. They were poor, but they were also good people.

Rodney’s life - and those of everyone around him – changed dramatically as he walked home one day from a game. He was shot four times in the back by a local gang member who mistook him for someone else. The guy that shot him apparently leaned over him as he lay on the ground, almost dead, and said “sorry, man”… then left him lying there. He survived, but he survived as a paraplegic, and he’s now trying to rebuild his life from a wheelchair.

After the shooting, his girlfriend moved in and became his fiancé (god, what a sign of love, and faith) and his Aunt came to help, along with her two children. That's eight people in total. But it gets worse… they got a grant to carry out some adjustments to the house so he could get around in his wheelchair, and used a local contractor. The contractor took down half the outside walls and most of the roof, then ran off with the grant money, leaving a house half the size it was, with an exposed timber frame and plastic sheeting that couldn’t even keep the rain out. Half the people living there were sleeping on the floor, without even the benefit of a mattress. Rodney's Aunt slept two feet from the only toilet in what was left of the house.

The team from the show sent the entire family off to the Bahamas, where they gave Rodney a diamond engagement ring to present to his fiancé – the one he couldn’t afford to buy her himself. And then they built two – yes, two - houses where the shell of the old one had stood. They also arranged, in complete secrecy, for a wedding ceremony to be held when the family got back. While Rodney was in the Bahamas, they sent live video of the college retiring his no. 4 basketball shirt, and rolling it out over the court in his honour. At one point, even the owner of the contracting company helping with the build sobbed as he spoke of the privilege he and his men felt working 20 hour days for over a week, in the pissing rain. None of the designers could talk on camera for the emotion they were feeling.

Okay, maybe you get the picture now. But for me, it isn’t just what I feel for the families on these shows. All of them are facing traumas that most of us will – hopefully – never experience in our lives, but all have the kind of humanity that shines from them like a beacon. As if in adversity the people they really are come to the fore.

But it’s also much more personal than that for me. Sometimes, I sit and think about the stuff I’ve fucked up in my life, and now and again I can even begin to feel sorry for myself. As if somehow I’ve been deprived of something that I deserved, or that my life might have been “better”, if only… But seeing what other people go through in their lives, the pain, the tragedy, that would be unbearable if they stopped believing for even a moment that they were going to make it, that they were going to get through it somehow… that’s when I realise how fucking lucky I am. That my problems are so insignificant and my life so full of things for which I should be grateful. It makes me realise just how little I have to complain about, and it’s partly that knowledge that makes me cry. The relief I feel, despite everything.

Slightly different subject... I opened a new box of Alpen today, and there were so many raisins in it that I’m getting concerned that they’re going to become an endangered fucking species.

"mues·li (myūz'lē) n.

A mixture of usually untoasted rolled oats and dried fruit, often used as a breakfast cereal."

Clear now?

33 comments:

k o w said...

Bloody hell mate. You work us up with the guys tale and then spank our behinds with the raisins again.

NewYorkMoments said...

I don't like watching shows like that. I always feel just the opposite. I have enough drama in my life, and when I sit down to watch TV or a movie, I want to laugh. That said, there's a home for special needs people on my block, and I'm reminded how lucky I am everyday when I see them.

More postings about the raisins please. I find it fascinating.

it's all about me said...

Just reading your post made me feel emotional - I'm glad I didn't watch it or I would have flooded the house. It's amazing what some people go through in life and survive - emotionally and physically. And yes, it really puts your own stuff into perspective.

wdky - the raisins are the best bit! You can send them over to me if you like.

WDKY said...

KOW, you know you love it :-)

NYM, I'll do a little raisin research and see if I can't satisfy that need of yours. Try and get some Alpen in the meantime.

Sara, what's mine is yours. You know that...

Caterpillar said...

Hi there :) I saw part of that episode a little while ago, and was also weeping all over the place. I agree with everything you said - it's a reminder that my problems are so small in comparison to what so many people have to deal with, and also makes me just love and adore them to see how wonderful they are despite their circumstances.

And if I were there having a bowl of Alpen with you, we'd certainly have a mountain of raisins on the table in front of us! We could eventually mail boxes of raisins to all those raisin-lovers out there!

kimmyk said...

I'm tellin ya I can't watch that show. It's too emotional for me and I can't be sobbing at the TV.
You need to quit watching it...for your sake.

What is Alpen anyways? Chocolate? Trail Mix?

I love chocolate covered raisins, or yogurt covered raisins, but haven't eaten them in a long time because a girl I work with opened a box of raisins and there was a dead maget in her box.

Yeah, kinda ruined it for me too!

WDKY said...

Cat, you're worse than me! As for having breakfast together...

Kimmy, Alpen as a brand of meusli over here, made by Weetabix. I think it was probably the first big-selling meusli in the UK, in fact. Then they started loading it with fucking raisins.

Do you like chocolate brazils?

unforgiving b*tch said...

I saw that episode of extreme makeover (though it was a long time ago) and I also cried...a lot...(shh, don't tell, no one needs to know that I'm sensitive).

Anyway, what's meusli?

WDKY said...

(I won't tell a soul...)

See post for further info on muesli, UB. Just for you x

serendipity said...

I saw that episode and it made me cry too. A testiment to love and the strength of human character.

BTW, what is the deal with the raisins??

WDKY said...

Hi Serendipity (I love that word). Raisins? Oh, just my ongoing battle with the makers of Alpen. Bastards.

j said...

that was a fantastic episode and i agree heartily with your assessment.

it puts perspective on life and shut up my whining.

it also reminds me that i do have a heart.

sirreene said...

GG needs to get over there and turn off the blasted TV and take care of your needs pronto so you need not worry about the amount of raisins left in the world...

Networkchic said...

Thanks...I needed a good cry this morning. You know I love those types of shows for the same reason, it restores my faith in human kind. There are a lot of bad people out there, but for every bad one - there's two more with hearts of gold.

E-E said...

Thise damn shows get me every time too. I usually don't cry at a damn thing (I'm such a cold hearted bitch... lol...)
But EVERY time I watch these shows my heart strings get ripped outta me. UGH.

Anyway. Those damn raisins remind me of that old, old commercial from the California raisin group... there were these dancing raisins and they were animated.... they were dancing to "heard it through the grapevine".... does anyone else remember that????
I guess because I studied advertising it's stuck with me.
I hope I'm not dating myself here!
=)

WDKY said...

J - why do you forget that you have a heart? I'm glad you agree with me, though...

Sirreene, GG's in Spain at the moment. I'm just going to take it nice and easy for a week.

NWC, it's a pleasure, you know I like to look after you.

Emerald - I actually quite like raisins. I just don't want so many of the little bastards.

Sky said...

Those shows get to me too but I can tend to be very emotional. There was one recently in my area. One guy worked at Radio Shack in the area and was shot and blinded. There were other problems too, I just can't remember all of the details but it was a huge thing in the media here. They would give updates on the radio every morning and of course, I would show up at work all teary eyed. They do make you think and they tend to make me forget about my problems for just a little while.

As for raisins, I don't want to eat no darn grapes that have had all their juices sucked out of them...bleh.

k o w said...

Raisins are good. Your all nutty for not eating them.

Annalis said...

Nice post wdky. These shows can be a bit depressing, but they do remind us what amazing obstacles folks can overcome.

WDKY said...

Sky, that's terrible!! And I like grapes myself. Seedless, naturally.

KOW - stick to the swamp juice. Trust me.

Thanks, Annalis. I agree with you, it really is amazing.

TJ said...

Great post, wdky--and it made me think about my own situation.

I kind of have a foot in both camps--most of the time I feel the way NYM described in her comment near the top of this section--I have had more than my share of drama in my life and like to turn to things that will make me laugh, or channel my energy into making others laugh.

So I don't go out seeking dramatic material that will bring up emotional feelings, but I have come to learn that when it does happen, rather than try to stuff them back down and ignore them, I'll just let them run their course and then move on after the moment passes.

I don't have any thoughts one way or the other on the cereal issue. I'm on a strict Pop-Tarts diet for breakfast...

ladylongfellow said...

Yeah...I saw that particular episode a while back. I stopped watching that show, actually. I would rather watch other things that churn up different emotions. I have enough of my own emotions, life in general to deal with, don't need to watch it on TV.

k o w said...

I have dedicated a post to your love of raisins my good man. It's not often that I dedicate posts to other authors, in fact you may be the first, but I was inspired so I let it run it's course.

cheers.

WDKY said...

TJ, that seems like a pretty healthy attitiude!

LL... come on, feel it with me. Really feel it.

KOW, I'm speechless!

Blueprincesa said...

I know exactly what you mean. I get into the trap of feeling sorry for myself too, but I think half the trick of learning how to live is in learning how to really appreciate the things you have. I probably would have cried if I had seen that episode.

awaterpixie said...

I friggin sob like a baby every time I watch that show. That was a fantastic recap.. LOL @ the endangered raisins.

::smooches::
Mara

WDKY said...

Blue, what a beautiful post you wrote today. I love your blog, but you were away much too long!

Mara, we've just got to stop watching. It's the only anwer.

NML said...

One minute you telling the moving tale of Extreme Makeover, then you're on to the raisin takeover. I like your style!

Sher said...

I cry over raisins.

WDKY said...

NML, I like the unexpected. What can I say?

Sher - sweetheart. Come here...

j said...

no heart? because not a lot moves me that gets others. i live in my head and not my emotions and forget that feeling is important to life.

WDKY said...

Let it move you, then. Feeling is just a choice we make.

Ms Smack said...

Wow. The liklihood of that certain episode airing here in Australia is small but I as I read your post (and my eyes misted over) i felt as though i'd seen it with your wonderfully written post.

Great stuff :)