Friday, December 30, 2011

"We Choose...therefore we are."

We watched 127 Hours last night. Spoiler alert: I'm going to write about his "desperate measures to extricate himself".  If you haven't seen the movie and want to be surprised by the end, you should stop reading now.  Most of us heard of the young man Aron Ralston (played in the movie by James Franco) who became trapped in a canyon in Moab, Utah when a boulder pinned his hand and he ultimately came to the decision after 5 days to cut off his arm to save his life.
One thing I can tell you about this movie, even though I knew the end, I sat on the end of my chair and barely breathed for the entire film.  My daughter and I watched it together, and after I said for the sixth time, "you should always tell someone where you are going; never just take off like that"...she said "mom, I get it".  At one point, she said "I wonder why he cut his arm off so high up; it was only his hand that was pinned?"  When it finally got to the scene where he makes the decision to take off his arm the realization hits that he needs to break the arm first and then cut through - as he didn't have a tool sharp enough to cut through flesh; let alone bone.  Just before he started to use his arm as a fulcrum to break itself; I said "that's why it's up higher - it broke at the weakest point".  So, could I do the same, confronted with that decision? I think so.  Not because I am brave.  More for fear.  Fear of what I would leave behind.  My daughter, my dogs, my life.  Fear of the pain I would cause for my daughter by not having enough courage to endure what is essentially a relatively few minutes of excruciating pain in exchange for a chance at life. My own mother decided to give up on her chemotherapy and died of cancer.  I am still angry at that choice.  Hers to make.  But the hole she left behind in my heart will never heal. Can I for certain say she would have survived had she continued the chemo? No.  But without it, her chances for survival diminished greatly. In my mind, she gave up and chose death (no more pain) over pain. But, she didn't have the benefit of knowing what the aftermath would be.  I do.  So it would make my choice to live easier to make, if I had to.

What about those choices we make everyday that aren't life or death (in our minds)? How about the cigarettes we continue to smoke, drinking too much, drugs, eating more than we need, not exercising enough or spending money we don't have?  All of these choices can lead to ruin and/or death over time.  Most people don't make the choice to quit smoking, until faced with a diagnosis of cancer - by then - too late.  Same for liver failure, diabetes, heart disease, and relationship/financial disaster. It's just easier to continue our behavior when it takes longer than the very condensed decision Aron Ralston had to make to survive.

Choices shape us. In the movie, Aron has 5 days to reflect on who he is and how his selfish choices have impacted those around him.  He never took time to return calls to family & friends. He didn't share his life with those around him - thought that he alone was in control of it all and above needing help from anyone.  I can relate to this. Party Of One. The most gripping part of the movie for me is when he makes it out of the caverns, sees people in the distance before him and starts yelling for help.  His cries are muted and music is playing so it's hard to make out what he's yelling - but you can read his lips and the final plea "I need help" leaves it's impact on me. Would Aron have learned to reach out and trust had he not experienced his life/death experience? Maybe. Maybe not.  I don't want to have to be faced with that decision.  So, I'm going to try harder everyday, little by little, to make better choices.

(Photo Credit: I took a photo of the DVD case; it's a film still from the movie; I'll just credit Cloud Eight Films)

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