I suppose dying’s as good an excuse as any to start living. -Charlotte “Chuck” Charles
I’m really drawn to the work of Bryan Fuller, specifically his morbid fantasies, Dead Like Me and Pushing Daisies (I have a forthcoming chapter in this book about the latter). The connections between the female protagonists of these two series are pretty clear. Georgia and Charlotte both go by boys’ names–George and Chuck. They both have some sort of after-death experience. George is a Grim Reaper and spends her afterlife living as the undead. Chuck is brought back to life by her childhood sweetheart, Ned, and his magic finger. In both cases, this “life after life” precipitates an existential crisis. Neither felt like she really lived the first time around and both seek to find themselves more clearly and live more fully the second time around.
Not to get too personal, but recently I’ve been coming back to life after some personal and relationship losses and a bout of depression. My counselor and super-smart psychology PhD friends have discussed the experience with me as a grieving process, noting that I’m mourning not only the loss of a relationship and the loss of plans I thought I could count on, but also the loss of a sense of self. That’s the really hard part. Like George, like Chuck, the girl I thought I was was killed. Not by a flaming toilet seat (George) or a murderer on a Tahitian getaway (Chuck), but by the gradual suffocation of stress, pressure, and giving pieces of myself to others who didn’t always take care of them. This is life, isn’t it? The problem is that if there’s nothing building you back up, helping you through, nurturing those pieces you’ve committed to safe-keeping (or you’re not open enough to vulnerability to let that happen–check out Brene Brown‘s work), over time you lose yourself. Little by little, and all of a sudden, I died inside. I wonder how much of the little, nagging pains we have inside are in some way mourning ourselves–our failures to be the people we know we could be or our inability to see and love the people we are.
In the midst of my own revivification, I find the youthful, beautiful, morbid approach Dead Like Me and Pushing Daisies take to self-discovery a powerful metaphor. In a way, coming back to myself feels like living a life after life. I feel like I’m on a carousel of sadness, anger, confusion, joy, and gratitude, because coping isn’t linear. At the same time though, throughout it all, I feel free. Liberated to begin again. I suppose falling apart’s as good an excuse as any to start living. And living I am, in my own way.
*Not that I need a man to bring me back to life. I just love Ned.