I had the privilege of attending a press preview of Black Swan this past week in London. After reading various reviews about it and remembering those reporting on how grotesque and psychologically thrilling it was, I admittedly was nervous when the lights went down in the Covent Garden Hotel theatre.
As the opening scene began, I found myself totally transported into the world of Nina, a vulnerable, self mutilating, obsessive compulsive ballerina played brilliantly by Natalie Portman, whose emotionally deranged mother keeps her "sweet girl" hidden from the world with a bedroom full of stuffed animals, bubblegum pink walls and obsessive phone calls. As the movie progresses, we see Nina win the role of Swan Queen in her company's production of Swan Lake.
With her inner "white swan" perfected, I became completely immersed in Nina's rollercoaster ride of letting her inner "black swan" loose. This achievement plunges Nina deeper into her already quite dark world where there is no equilibrium, no moments of calm or ease. I found myself constantly on the edge of my seat, preparing for the worst and hoping for the best.
Although this quite controversial movie sheds a serious light into the world of a mentally unstable young woman, there are parts of Nina's breakdowns, and breakthroughs, that I found myself relating to. As Nina goes through her emotional journey of pursuing her own self-perfection, there were times when I felt as though I was looking at myself, empathizing with the feeling of trying to break through something within, something that's holding me back, but not fully knowing what that "something" is. The act of doing so causing so much internal struggle that the resentment within myself, for myself, continually piles up. There are times in my own life where I reach a point when I almost don't recognize myself, when the person staring back at me in the mirror is someone I feel so alienated from. This person who should have accomplished so much more in her life by now, who doesn't understand how others can deem her remotely attractive, who doesn't know where her career is going and who is a constant disappointment to others (read: herself). Unlike Nina, however, I am able to snap myself out of this state. Sometimes it takes longer than others, but however low I get I am luckily always able to rebound to an equal, if not greater, high. I often rationalize this behavior as my "A-Type Personality" acting up again. But when is enough, enough?
I think it is fair to say that we are all, at one point or another, guilty of striving for some sort of "perfection". But what is "perfection"? And do we need really need it? From birth we are constantly exposed to society's "perfect" look, "perfect" life, "perfect" job, "perfect" family. But what is it all really about? Is it nailing that starring role, signing the bottom line on a major deal, having that 3 carat engagement ring that will send your friends green with envy; is it getting that promotion you've been working yourself, and those around you, crazy for? When does it end??? We constantly strive for perfection, but what about the imperfection that make us individually perfect?
I came away from the movie with a rush of many emotions, but also with a lot of insight. As though, at times, I was an outsider looking in on my own life. The movie reminded me of the dangerous borders this self destructive behavior causes one to cross.
The lesson of acceptance is a hard one to swallow, but it is essential. Will I ever be able to fully accept myself for everything I am? I hope so. I try every day to do so. I constantly try to turn negatives into positives and not allow myself to revel in my own self pity. I continue to try to be easy on myself, to not expect the unachievable, but to embrace who I am and where I am. To continue learning and loving, to be the best person I can be and, at the end of the day, put my head on the pillow feeling pleased that I've done all I could possibly do, and to let everything else go, if just for a night. Then to wake up in the morning ready and excited for what lies ahead. To find the balance between my "white swan" and "black swan."
My final thoughts for this post come from a prayer which I learned as a child and has grown with me, within me, throughout my life. It's held different meanings at different ages, but has always managed to shed light and comfort on whatever I'm needing it for:
The Serenity Prayer
God grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change;
the courage to change the things I can;
and the wisdom to know the difference.
Till next time x