If you are planning to see A Single Man, the new movie directed by Tom Ford, stop reading now - I don't want to ruin it for you. It's a beautiful film, brimming with pain and, ultimately, salvation, although not in the way one might think. I watched last night and it got me thinking about the power of surrender. In the movie, Colin Firth plays a middle aged, homosexual academic who can not come to terms with the death of his partner of 16 years. Eight months on, he is meticulously planning his own suicide. The camera follows Firth through his last day of life, but everything does not go to plan.
And that's life, isn't it - our best laid plans scuppered and interupted in ways both irritating and illuminating: People die/leave us/change; circumstances fail to meet our expectations. And in this beautiful mess we have two choices - either hold stubbornly to our pain and disappointment, or surrender to the inevitable ebb and flow of life. Put another way by Poet Greta W. Croby, "Loss makes artists of us all as we weave new patterns in the fabric of our lives."
Back in 1998 I was floored by the news that I would never be able to have children. The consensus among the various fertility specialist I saw was that having donor egg IVF was my only viable option. Furious and refusing to accept their diagnosis, I went into overdrive seeking specialists and techniques that might tip the odds in my favor - Traditional Chinese Medicine, psychotherapy, Reiki healing...you name it, I probably tried it. After about three years, when I was tired of fighting with God about my predicament, I reached my surrender point. I quit struggling and decided that with or without a baby I could have, would have, a wonderful life. Several months later I fell pregnant, naturally, with my son Charlie.
You may argue that it was the all the treatments added up over time that enabled my pregnancy, but with the benefit of hind-sight, I beg to differ. The inner shift I experienced when I surrendered was measurable - it was if I removed a dam of resistance and allowed the waters of life to flow freely once more. And although I never stopped wishing for a baby in my heart of hearts, I quit focusing on what I didn't have, and did a swan dive back into the life I actually had, rather than the one I thought I should have.
Colin Firth does not get the chance to kill himself in A Single Man. He too awakes from his grief and notices that the world and all its beauty is still there, offering its hand if he will only grasp it. Quite beautifully and ironically, he dies of a heart attack and is reunited with his lover upon his surrender.
I thought this an inspired way to end the film, which begs the question, what are you resisting in your own life? Where are you trying to swim against the current? If you are willing to take the risk and give up the struggle (though not the wish) you might be amazed at where the flow of life might take you. As counter-intuitive as it seems, surrendering may be the most powerful thing you've ever done.