How you look at it

I’ve just seen Stories We Tell, a sort of documentary that delves into the confusing past of actress/director Sarah Polley (if you haven’t seen it I highly recommend it).

The part that struck me was close to the end when her father said that he didn’t mind that his wife had an affair because it produced Sarah and made their marriage happier.

That’s an interesting attitude, but it shows that life can be a ghastly, should-destroying nightmare or a beautiful affirmation of the possibility of goodness. It just depends on how you look at it. If your wife has an affair and you find out that your daughter isn’t actually ‘yours’, you can take the path most people would and stew about it for the rest of your days, secretly planning violent revenge on all involved. Or you can see the great benefits to everyone including yourself and delight in the rest of your days.

The same thing happens in the underrated Martin Scorsese film The Age Of Innocence. Similarly, a wife finds out that for much of their time together her husband has secretly been in love with someone else (it was Michelle Pfeiffer circa 1993. Understandable). Her attitude is not a pissed off sense of betrayal, but a feeling of great happiness: her husband chose her over this woman he wanted so much. What greater sacrificial act of love could there be?

In the non-relationship world I recall Andy MacLeod calling middle of the road advertising incredibly brave. His point was that by making safe, anonymous ads a marketing manager was at a much higher risk of simply throwing his company’s money down the lav. Although I think he was being deliberately provocative, he was also right, and that new angle of looking at something we’d all dismissed was cleverly repositioned in a way that made it much easier to argue against.

So maybe you’re angry right now. Maybe you don’t have to be. Maybe you can’t alter your circumstances, but perhaps there’s another way of looking at your situation that leaves you giddy with delight instead of oppressed with hatred.