I like the show Orange is the New Black. I binged watched the first two seasons. The third season has been out for several months now, and I haven’t finished it yet. I have lost part of my enthusiasm which happens to me with almost everything having to do with television. (I’m not a big fan of television or of movies. During my twenties and thirties, I went many years without owning a TV – popular culture isn’t really my thing.)
But the television show led me to the book, and while I have been doing my daily exercises, I have been reading the memoir that Orange is the New Black is based on. The book is not nearly as dramatic as the television show, but I like the book, and I noticed something noteworthy in it today, and it is something I have heard from other people, seen in movies, and read in books – even in the worst places, the human spirit can thrive if you have a spark in your spirit. Or maybe the reality is when all the busyness and distractions, and social media, and television, and noise of our daily lives are taken away, we can see beauty. Or maybe, it is when we are surrounded by the negative and the ugly our soul easily finds pleasure and beauty in simple things.
I can’t find the words to write down the exact message/experience, but the narrator in the book is in prison and she find such joy, pleasure, and beauty in such simple things, like listening to a college radio station, eating a root beer float, and jogging.
Her experience reminds me of one of my favorite movies, Shawshank Redemption. In the movie, the main character, Andy, holds freedom and beauty in his heart and mind and is always looking for ways to express that freedom and beauty to the other prisoners by using things like books and music. It is a theme that runs through many fictitious and true stories.
That freedom of the human spirit, that ability to find beauty in some of the ugliest places, and in the worst circumstances is a true gift but I don’t think everyone has it. There are only some people who can be locked up, or become terminally ill or live in extreme hardship and still look for and experience beauty.
I think it is that ability, that little spark inside, that little glimmer of hope, that little slice of magic, that breath of true life, however small it is, that connects my husband and me.
I don’t ever want to romanticize mental illness, and if I could choose not to have schizophrenia, I would definitely choose to live without it, but there are things that have happened, that my husband and I have experienced together, that came about because of my illness, where we found that small space of beauty among tragedy.
Mental illness is a tragedy, and it robs so many young people of their full potential, but the fact is many of us have to live with it every day. We don’t have a choice, so we have to make the best of it. And certainly there are parts of it that are terrible, and ugly, and then there are parts where a small slice of heaven shines through.
My husband and I have seen those warm and magnificent rays and we have rejoiced because to be alive is a miracle, and that miracle can be expressed even in a disease like schizophrenia.