Supposedly I can write. Somewhere along the way my inability to express myself through words changed; as if by magic my hands flew across the keyboard and came up with words that explained things. And those words became sentences which made sense and people began to understand what it’s like to have a disability.
But of course that’s not true. An able bodied person could never fully understand the limitations and frustrations of not being able to do things you really want to do.
In the end, words become meaningless and, frankly, it’s tiring.
But this isn’t really what I want to write about today. Nothing to do with it. I have just finished watching the documentary Catfish (2010) and I have this urge to write. To let my fingers glide across my keyboard and discuss the concept of wanting to be something you’re not. Of wanting to escape your reality even if it is just for a moment and even if it means putting your reality at risk.
Catfish follows the story of a young man who is contacted by a little girl who discovered his art online. She wants to share her art with him because it touched her. These two people connect and become friends, if only from a distance.
At some point the young man, Nev, starts talking to the girl’s mother who is grateful that he has taken this interest in her daughter. He then gets to meet her other children, albeit online – her son and her older daughter, Megan, who is the same age as Nev. Megan is attractive and a musician and she and Nev have an instant rapport. They start to write to each other, send each other songs and photos, until the friendship grows into a mutual attraction.
I doubt that he was looking for an online relationship but having happened he wanted to make it a reality; he just didn’t know how. So how do you take a relationship with someone you’ve never met to the next level?
Nev didn’t seem unhappy. It didn’t seem like he was looking for something to escape his reality. He seemed like a pretty happy person and confidant too. From what Nev could see, Megan didn’t seem unhappy either and as far as he could tell there wasn’t an ulterior motive for her to befriend him so he let it continue. He let Megan into his life and he let his brother and friend document the development of the relationship.
And then something happened. Something caused Nev to question Megan and if she really existed. If you don’t like spoilers then don’t continue reading this blog entry.
One day Megan sent Nev a song she recorded and for some reason he decided to look up the title online and was shocked to find another version of this supposed original song. The revelation caused him to question everything. Did the little girl, Megan’s younger sister, really have an older sibling who sang, rode horses and was in love with Nev?
Through this one incident Nev felt compelled to find out the truth. The deeper he looked the more determined he was to untangle the web of lies that had consumed his world. At this point in the movie I considered stopping as I was worried something scary or sad was going to happen. I hate scary movies and I am so over sadness. Against my better judgement I decided to continue.
We find out who Megan is. We find out that she does ‘exist’, but isn’t the woman Nev had been communicating with. We discover that the little girl is real too but she isn’t the artist Nev thought she was. We learn that the mother created a whole new world for herself.. To our horror we discover that she is married with children and that she is the artist. To compound her disgrace we discover that she is caught up in a dream that she lives online to escape the world she lives in.
It’s not that she doesn’t love her family or is driven to leave them for Nev. Through Nev’s journey we learn that ‘Megan’ constructed a virtual life as a counterpoint to her many regrets about her unfulfilled existence, including her failure to succeed with her art. .
I finished watching the film and realised that I share many of the emotions explored in the film. The burning question for me, and I suspect for others who feel the same, is whether our fantasy life could become a virtual one which we use to replace the life we currently live.
Megan found solace in her virtual life but ultimately lost control of it. Could that happen to me? I’m sure it could and it scares me.
I guess this is why I am feeling lost and sad right now. It makes me realise how important it is to live the life you want to live rather than the life you think you have to live. We all have obligations to ourselves and to people we care deeply about and most of us are protective of that. But how do we balance that with the need for emotional and physical gratification that exists beyond our comfort zone? Way beyond, as Megan discovered. I don’t have the answers and feel very alone in that dilemma. So I have decided to explore that by talking to others, including people with disability whose circumstance mirrors my own.
(To be continued…..)