Our house is on the market. This means that in addition to sweating every crumb, and seeing each loose hinge as a problem to be solved rather than a graceful, soulful aging we are frequently exiled. The call came around noon, asking us to be out that evening, a Sunday, and so we split up for a rare family movie night. By family movie night I mean the boys see something about someone in a costume saving the universe, I see a movie about grown ups talking, and Steve pretends he would rather be going with me while internally skipping down the aisle to Iron Man 3.

I headed to see the third most famous Leonardo woo Daisy.

There were 5 strands of interest for me in the movie.

  • The decor. Overlooking the general opulence I was drawn to details that could reasonably be repeated in real life, piles of jewel toned velvet pillows, billowing sheers, gilded framed paintings hung so close they became three dimensional wall paper.
  • Whether Gatsby was great. The idea of turning away from god to remake oneself for love, decadence as a mask and matadors cape at once. can you be great and be focused on someone…ordinary?
  • What had happened to Leo’s looks. Was his face just thicker? Was it the makeup? Why, if he was wearing too much makeup could I still see his pores? Was he doughy in Gilbert Grape? These questions need answers.
  • Most strikingly though was the camera work. The way it illustrated what I was reminded was my favorite part of the book, the concept of within/without.

The first explicit introduction to this thread is during a scene of daytime drunken debauchery where Nick is both reveler and observer. As the tinsel (more tinsel in this film than all the christmas trees in the midwest) and laughter rained down the champagne bottles and the camera spun to carry the viewers (amongst whom we can count Nick) out of the room to the street below. Here he stands, dressed more properly, looking up at his drunk self. Both within and without.

This visual and conceptual duality continue through the movie as Nick is observer, participant, recorder and judge. So many roles for just one man.

This morning in therapy I sat just shaking my head no. No no no no. It wasn’t forceful. More slowly, sadly overwhelmed. These things I am doing. (I need a stock disclaimer that I know there are real struggles on earth blah blah) Establishing new, healthy habits. Diets, Exercise, spending money only on necessities, meditating, noticing rather than judging, flossing. All so difficult. And yet I have chosen them…but not me really. It is the within/without of gatsby. My narrator self has listed these goals, and the participant me has to enact them.

No no no no.

Speaking with a friend today about writing practice she emphasized the importance of being clear about one’s goal is. For me the habit is the goal, not the output. Eating kale and eschewing chips, not a specific weight. This too, that the process itself is the goal is hard. No no no no. Give me a list. Let me cross things off of it. Doing something for an infinitely long time. No no no.

Gatsby’s goal was to get Daisy to show up. And she did. It didn’t seem like he had thought further down the line than that. Before their reunion he would gaze at the green light on her dock. After she had arrived at Gatsby’s castle Nick mused that there was one fewer item on Gatsby’s list of enchantments. The green light held no magic with Daisy on this side of the water.

I guess each of these goals, fitness (with its imagined endless energy), presence (with the bliss of right now), healthy oral hygeine (with twinkling white teeth), seemed like one day they would arrive in my life through magic. I mean, they are all things that grown ups do. One day I would be a grown up and I would have these things. Perhaps it is the opposite. Once we show up, when our within and without come together and the dreamer, planner, observer, and the live-er become just one self…then the enchantment is gone and the work begins.

No no no no.

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Anna Rosenblum Palmer is a freelance writer based in Denver, CO. She writes about sex, parenting, cat pee, bi-polar disorder and the NFL; all things inextricably intertwined with her mental health. In her free time she teaches her boys creative swear words, seeks the last missing puzzle piece and thinks deeply about how she is not exercising. Her writing can be found on Babble, Parent.co, Great Moments in Parenting, Ravishly, Good Men Project, Sammiches and Psych Meds, Playpen, Crazy Good Parent, and YourTango. She also does a fair amount of navel gazing on her own blog at annarosenblumpalmer.com.

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