It was quite difficult to not make this title time to be reel…I held back because it’s a serious topic. And now I’ve ruined it anyway.
It was physically a bit of a push, but Sunday night I went to see “Gleason,” a documentary about an ex-NFL player who is battling ALS. Steve Gleason became a local hero when he blocked a punt at the Saints’ first game back in the Superdome thirteen months following Hurricane Katrina. That moment was a symbol of our city’s rebirth, and when Steve retired from professional football in 2008 those few seconds defined his career.
Three years later Steve was diagnosed with ALS. His battle with this neurodegenerative disease has been public since the early stages, shared not only with his fellow New Orleanians but on a national level. Steve raises awareness and money, fights for technological advances and research, and meets with elected officials so that the expensive assistive devices on the market are more affordable. While his job will never be complete, it would be difficult to argue that Steve has changed the country’s perception and knowledge of this disease.
As I watched “Gleason” the other night I was struck by how transparent Steve and his wife, Michel, were in front of the cameras. It seemed that no topic was out of bounds. From the side effects no one ever wishes to discuss much less show the world to private conversations shared between husband and wife…I’m pretty sure there’s no way a disease and its impact on a family could be more realistically portrayed.
This isn’t the kind of movie you walk out of and say, “Man, he has such a great attitude! I need to be more like that!” This isn’t even a story that makes you want to live life to the fullest and take that trip you’ve been putting off. This is documentary that examines the impact of ALS. It’s a window into one family’s life that makes you think about what it actually means to be sick or love someone who’s sick, or makes you feel a little less alone as you grapple with the reality of your own health struggles.
As I watched the movie I thought about the reasons so many people hold back from fully sharing their experiences. Perhaps it’s because of a desire to maintain a little privacy, protect those they love, or simply not wanting to unload their personal burdens onto others. I thought about this little blog and how I aim to be transparent and honest but am constantly censoring myself. I hold back here, in my conversations and relationships with others, and even with myself. I don’t want to say the words that will trigger an emotional response within me or the person to whom I’m speaking, so I tiptoe around the truth.
Sure, the arguments against being honest and real are valid. There’s a fine line between being open with others and being an annoyance who shares too much. Holding back is sometimes the right thing to do, like when you’re in a grocery store and you run into someone you haven’t seen in ten years and it’s obvious all they’re looking to do is exchange pleasantries. That might not be the time to get into your hopes, dreams, and fears…it might be a little…heavy? But still, my belief that I was somehow successful if I kept how I was feeling to myself and failing if I shared this information no longer seems like the route I should take in each situation.
I’m not going for being “that girl who has hip problems,” and I’m also not going to suddenly start every conversation with an explanation of my latest treatment. But I’m going to try to stop lying, especially to the people I love and trust, and I’m going to try to be real.
And then in six months I’ll write a post titled “how to lose a friend” or something like that and remark on that time back in July when I thought it would be a great idea to just be honest with people.
Image courtesy of http://www.gleasontickets.com/microsite/3579#upcoming_theaters-10010.