Consider how much stress you feel on a daily basis. No, not the overwhelming what-the-hell-am-I-doing-with-my-life stress. Just the low hum that’s present in mindless, everyday living. Like when you think you are going to miss a train. Or when the checkout line is just a tad longer than expected. Or when someone wants to “split” a dinner bill even though he had three $14 cocktails to your none and you kinda want to say something but you don’t want it to be awkward.
Then introduce the fact that you have zero extra spending money and probably not even enough living money. Three-dollar magazine? Nope, that exceeds the budget.
Then toss in the fact that you have a family for which you must provide. Even before broaching the inevitability of questioning your life, you must be living in a constant state of stress that far exceeds that low hum everyone else is coping with. Yea, I️ guess it’s all relative – those richer people will certainly find plenty of ways to be stressed. But actually, it’s not entirely relative since the poor family still has those missing the train stress points too.
The mother, Marion (Laurie Metcalf), in Lady Bird perfectly played out this struggle of a poor person trying to live a middle-class life.
This is why Marion was the most endearing character in a film filled with almost-great characters. She so badly wanted to hold everything together in what amounted to a Sisyphean task. Few would blame her for quitting in this scenario. While Marion didn’t always give the best effort or implement a thoughtful strategy, quitting is something she did not do.
That’s a form of actual greatness. Far too often we judge greatness by outcomes, which leads to far too much praise for those who happen to “win” regardless of effort and not enough consideration to those who happen to “lose” regardless of effort. Basically it’s a paradigm of greatness that fundamentally underestimates how much luck and randomness drive human existence.
Lady Bird managed to say a few other thought-provoking things.
Like this about love:
A seemingly simple observation about the world that’s hard to dismiss. Nor can I disagree with it. Thus, I will, right here, right now, adopt it as a companion statement to my belief that the greatest gift you can give someone is your attention.
Which then reminds me of another statement that fits snugly with this theme.
From Sam Harris:
This actually ties back to a comment from Marion in the opening scene of Lady Bird. Marion and her daughter, Lady Bird, just finished listening to Grapes of Wrath on tape. It’s silent for a brief moment before Lady Bird tries to turn on the radio. Marion scolds her along the lines of why do you always need to be entertained? Why can’t we just sit here? As one fumbles to jam in earbuds upon walking outside or sitting on a train or waking, these are questions worth asking.