This is Us:

Berthday

 

It’s my birthday. There’s a pandemic out there so the party will be small. Since I have the gift of waking up to another day, I’m giving myself the gift of waking up and writing because it’s one of my favorite things. And I think it’s one of the things I’m supposed to do.

 

I may go for a bike ride in a bit. If I do, I will gladly adhere to the CDC’s recommendation and give others a wide berth.

 

This week I watched the season 4 finale of ABC’s “This is Us.” If you didn’t see it yet, there will be no spoilers here. The trailer for it gives more away than I will, and I’ll use the “he” pronoun for simplicity’s sake.

 

I love “This is Us.” The casting, the performances, the writing—so good. But what I love most is the honesty—not that the characters are always honest—necessarily—but how the show honestly mirrors what it is to be human with all of our flaws, foibles and failures (which includes dishonesty).

 

In the finale, there was a scene between two people who love each other so much that they’d die for one another. Still, in a horrible heat of the moment, one said something to the other that was incredibly cruel. He pulled out the stops and said one of the worst things I could imagine.

 

There was a palpable silence. They both looked stunned.

 

As the viewer, I couldn’t imagine it devolving deeper until the second person spouted off with something even worse than what the other had said.

 

By my standards—and in light of my own background—it was pretty much the worst thing you could ever say.

 

If someone said that to me, it would gut me.

 

Maybe this isn’t true for you and you’re always on-point; maybe you always say the kindest thing even in your worst moments. There are such rare individuals. Or maybe you are completely unconscious and in denial.

 

You pick.

 

Personally, I’ll raise my hand. I’ve said awful things. I’ve had awful things said to me.

 

Along the way, you may have noticed that some people don’t tend to fess up. The best they can manage is a magnanimous acceptance of your apology and maybe say some version of “sorry you got your feelings hurt,” but never flat out apologize for their own cruelty. In my opinion, this is often not out of something malicious, but something unconscious. It’s been my experience, you cannot shake someone awake. If they are asleep, you must wait, you must give them a wide berth.

 

We won’t know what will happen to the relationship in “This is Us” until season 5 rolls around. My hunch is that the two characters will become more conscious and see that they were both being dishonest—which is actually good news, because this means they didn’t mean the horrible things they each said.

 

Ever notice how when a movie or TV show is not very good, you are conscious? You check the clock to see how much time is left, or your *misophonia takes hold and you’re so distracted by the sound of your spouse chewing popcorn that you plot ways to choke him? But when a drama is truly good, you get lost in it, you forget that you’re watching actors performing lines? You are unconscious. I love that kind of unconsciousness; it’s like magic. This is one of the few manifestations of being unconsciousness that I see as positive.

 

Because I’ve seen all four seasons of “This is Us,” I have developed a relationship with it, in a way. I trust that it will mirror something believable, something true, something honest—even if it’s about dishonesty.

 

Because, often, this is us.

 

It’s a pandemic out there, so we’re told to leave 6 feet or so between us. Just between you and me, I think if we can learn to give each other a wide berth, we can become closer. Maybe another word for “wide berth” is grace, and it’s wisdom to see that others’ unconscious, self-protection is infinitely more about them than you.

 

And at one point or another you have been—and most likely will be again—in that very same space.

 

So give each other room. Happy berthday to us.

 

This is us.

 

*If you’re not familiar with misophonia, it is a disorder in which people have abnormally strong and negative reactions to the ordinary sounds humans make, such as chewing or breathing—this according to the website “Medical News Today.” Or, according to me, it is a completely reasonable reaction to the obscene and murder-provoking sounds humans often make when they chew or breathe.