Wellbeing Matters: the ties that bind

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Welcome to the spot on the site where we chat about wellbeing and mental health – and this week, a word about ties, and finding a way to loosen them a little.

Hello and welcome to Wellbeing Matters, the quiet spot to natter among ourselves here on Film Stories. We hope it finds you all well.

Watching the television adaptation of Stark: Lethal White last night, it was striking to see art imitating life. Showing the ties that bind us, those covenants and vows that we give to watch out for, stand by and care for one another. Some entered into voluntarily such as marriage, others that come from blood.

We wear some of these ties lightly, others with joy. When they snap us together, there are celebrations, commiserations, lives remembered. They can share a burden, help through a rocky spell or provide a shoulder to cry on when stuff gets rough.

Others are more onerous. There’s the family responsibility, the need to step up in scary situations. The frustration when you lack support, when you feel alone in a sea of people, all talking heads but with little momentum to move forward.

And then there are the sinister ties. The ones that begin to constrict, to cut off the blood flow of independence. That tell us we can’t exist without them, even as the tie becomes shorter and shorter, and the walls close in.

Spousal removal for Robin Ellacourt was obstructed in Stark due to Matthew’s pesky illness at the critical moment she knew it was all over, trapping Robin into a marriage contract she was regretting. That confectionery of a wedding, all blossom and cake, bright spring days but no substance. No padding for the winter, the darker days. Robin’s regret was writ large on her face, in her anxiety attacks. Sometimes duty triumphs over desire, pulls that cord tight. As it chafes, a little bit of soul dies.

Breaking the ties can bring great emotional and economic turbulence. There are hidden pockets of air that drop you, lurching all that you thought was solid into insubstantial mist. Ties rebound like rubber bands, you feel unmoored when they snap, adrift in the grey unable to navigate towards firmer ground.

Ricochets, unstable ground, uncertain loyalties emerge when the status quo is challenged. It’s difficult to change course in life, and it’s hard to admit you’ve made a mistake. Perhaps it’s easier to have a half hour of regret on an interim basis, than to let chaos and uncertainty in.

In many ways, 2020 has been a year of stasis, even as geopolitical events of great magnitude sweep the globe. We’ve been locked indoors, watching our own personal fault lines either widen or repair, listening to the whisper of time passing us by. Time that might now lie heavy when we look to the future, and envisage no change, no movement. No wind of chaos on our faces, telling us to breathe.

Perhaps as we move forward into autumn, we can loosen some of our ties. The ones that have chafed, the ones that have hurt. Open discussions that have been buried for so long that it is as if sound has been muffled about us, because speaking too loudly might shatter the glass bubble of the snow globe in which we live.

Autumn is a time of change, of cool nights and gathering mists. Be bold, ask yourself what it is you really desire (yes, I’ve been watching Lucifer!). What can you achieve, what do you want to change, as you move towards the new year. Do you want to study again, pick up a book, learn to draw? Burn the entire contents of your wardrobe and start again? End a relationship that’s making you unhappy?

There are no tidy endings in life, no neat edges. We all fray, and sometimes we have to tear away from that which is holding us back, be it material or human. There are some ties we can’t – and shouldn’t – sever. But there are others that yoke us tight. Perhaps it’s time to cut them and see what’s over the horizon.

Sometimes you have to let the storm in, to see the new dawn. Sometimes, you realise the status quo is exactly where you want to be. Neither option is wrong. Whatever autumn brings this year, may it bring us all a measure of peace and accomplishment.

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