We have been watching inside out… a lot. Mainly because Celeste is having a tricky time of it of late. Flynn has been seeing a play therapist who has worked wonders, or perhaps it is he who is the wonder, and I see a Traumatologist (yes such a thing exists, but I suspect only in West London), but I fear poor old Celeste has been left a little behind in terms of coping specialists. I hoped because she was so young when she lost her dad that she would need the least amount of help (she was only two), but I was wrong. I perhaps should have suspected something was amiss when she invented a new game titled – Doctors and Snow Monsters….
Her Granny, myself and Flynn’s play therapist believe she is experiencing delayed grief, where the act although almost half her short lifetime ago has caught up with her cognition and emotional maturity. What would have been an intangible thought/ experience to her before is now something which can be fully realised and understood, well as much as a four-and-a-half-year-old is capable of.
For those of you not to have experienced the joy of this wonderful creation allow me to fill you in. Inside Out is a Disney animation (but don’t let that put you off) about an 11-year-old girl called Riley Anderson (true story). Riley lives in Minnesota with her parents, is passionate about ice hockey and loves her friends, her home and her family. She is then forced to move to the city when her Dad is offered a new job, live in a smaller, unfamiliar house and leaving all her friends behind.
Within Riley’s mind exist five personifications of her basic emotions—Joy, Sadness, Fear, Disgust, and Anger— which gradually come to life and influence her actions via a console in her mind’s Headquarters. They all have colours and sadness is typically blue. Joy is the boss and dominates all of Riley’s emotions and therefore experience because Riley is so happy. As she grows up, her experiences become memories, stored in colored orbs, which are sent into long-term memory each night. Her five most important “core memories” (all of which are happy ones) are housed in a hub that each power an aspect of her personality which take the form of floating islands. In Headquarters, Joy acts as a leader to maintain Riley’s cheerful childhood, but since she and the other emotions do not understand Sadness’ purpose, she frequently tries to keep Sadness away from the console.
When Riley’s life begins to change for the worst we see sadness take a more active role then she did in the previous 10 years of Riley’s life. Sadness begins touching Riley’s happy memories, turning them sad, Joy tries to guard them by isolating her. On Riley’s first day at her new school, Sadness accidentally causes Riley to cry in front of her class, creating a sad core memory. Joy, panicking, tries to dispose of it, but accidentally knocks the other core memories loose during a struggle with Sadness, deactivating the personality islands. Joy is no longer in charge of the console so the other emotions try to maintain Riley’s happiness in Joy’s absence with disastrous results.
When Riley finally opens up to her parents about her feeling and tells them that she misses her old home she feels sadness, however when they comfort her and connect with her she feels joy in conjunction with her sadness creating a new core memory that combines these two emotions. A year later, Riley has adapted to her new home, made new friends, returned to her old hobbies, and adopted a few new ones (fueled by new, more nuanced core memories from combinations of her emotions). Inside Headquarters, her emotions all work together on a new expanded console with room for them all, enabling Riley to lead a more emotionally complex life whereby one can experience joy and sadness and all at the same time.
I recently read a review of this film that said: “The main rather brave message is that sadness is essential to an emotionally complete life and that it’s resolution is a route to a deeper tranquility and more rounded personality than shallower joys can ever provide”
Perhaps when she is old enough to understand I will explain the above to her, perhaps she will not need it explained. I might add that although she was but two, her existence was a constant source of ‘Joy’ to her father’s core memories stored tightly in his own console. I recently read a piece by Paul Kalanithi, a neurosurgeon who when facing terminal lung cancer was asked by his wife – “Will having a newborn distract from the time we have together? Don’t you think saying goodbye to your child will make your death more painful?” To which he replied ” Wouldn’t it be great if it did? – Lucy and I both felt that life wasn’t about avoiding suffering.”
James can use his words no longer but if he could he would have echoed the sentiments of Kalanithi who wrote in a letter a few weeks before his death:
Cady- I hope I’ll live long enough that she has some memory of me. Words have a longevity I do not. I had thought I could leave her a series of letters- but what would they say? I don’t know what this girl will be like when she is fifteen; I don’t even know if she’ll take to the nickname we’ve given her. There is perhaps only one thing to say to this infant, who is all future, overlapping briefly with me, whose life, barring the improbable, is all but past. That message is simple.
When you come to the many moments in life where you must give an account of yourself, provide a ledger of what you have been, and done, and meant to the world, do not, I pray, discount that you filled a dying man’s days with a sated joy unknown to me in all my prior years, a joy that does not hunger for more and more but rests, satisfied. In this time, right now, that is an enormous thing.