Tuesday, April 09, 2013

Curses and Gifts reruns

I've blogged about this before but I keep coming back to its wisdom and simplicity:  Every curse is a gift and every gift is a curse.

I had the chance to watch a Monk marathon recently.  Adrian Monk is a brilliant detective played by the equally brilliant Tony Shalhoub, and psychiatrically Monk is a mess.   For those who have not had an opportunity to enjoy this excellent TV series, now in reruns, here is a synopsis of the character from Wikipedia:

Monk's compulsive habits are numerous, and a number of phobias compound his situation, such as his fear of germs. Monk has 312 fears, some of which are milk, ladybugs, harmonicas, heights, imperfection, claustrophia, driving, food touching on his plates, messes and risk...The OCD and plethora of phobias inevitably lead to very awkward situations and cause problems for Monk and anyone around him as he investigates cases.

 Monk is cursed with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD).  His strange habits drive everyone around him crazy.  He himself wishes he were "normal."  In one of the episodes in the marathon, Monk's psychiatrist again urges him to try some of the new medications on the market for OCD.  Monk relents, takes the drugs at too high a dose, and becomes a laid-back, happy-go-lucky "normal" person.  But guess what happens with the transformation?  He can no longer solve cases!  That sharp eye and mind are gone.  He has lost his focus or even his desire to immerse himself in the details.  Enough was enough, though, and all his coworkers and friends insisted he throw the pills away.  Yes, the old Monk drove them up a wall, but the new Monk was worse - and in fact, he had lost his essence.

The very curse of OCD was what gave Monk the gift of solving crimes.

As I ruminated on the show for days afterwards, the movie Harvey came to mind.  Harvey, with is a familiar movie to most of us, stars Jimmy Stewart as Elwood P. Dowd, an eccentrically placid, sweet, compassionate man who has the reputation of being nuts because he has a giant invisible rabbit (pooka named Harvey) for a friend.   Like Monk, he drives his family, in this instance, crazy with his weird conversation and his insistence on including "Harvey" in daily aspects of life.  The family finally decides to try to commit Elwood to a mental institution.  From Wikipedia:

Dr. Sanderson convinces Elwood to come into his office where he will receive a serum called Formula 977 that will stop Dowd from "seeing the rabbit". As they are preparing for the injection, Elwood's sister is told by their cab driver about all the other people he has driven to the sanatorium to receive the same medicine, warning her that Elwood will become "just a normal human being. And you know what stinkers they are." Upset by the very thought of this, Veta halts the procedure by banging on the examining room door, at which point Elwood comforts her and explains her tears to others with, "Veta's all tired out, she's done a lot today".

Yes, Elwood's curse was his gift, too.  He had the gift of being "pleasant," of making people feel good about themselves, of bringing tolerance and compassion into his world - but it came with a price of acting weird, being perceived as mentally ill, and everything that goes along with that.  The serum would have ridded Elwood of the "hallucinations," but it would have also torn away the very essence of who Elwood was.

This all reminds me to keep an open mind when dealing with things in life, things even within myself, which I perceive to be curses in some way, certainly not welcome, annoying, irritating, maybe even disabling, because with every curse there is a gift waiting there to be discovered.  It is a gift which probably wouldn't have been given without the curse, and without the curse, the gift is no more.  The curses and gifts combine to make us who we are - our soul, our spirit, our essence.   Sometimes it may be worth giving up the struggle with a "curse" to embrace it - and with that embrace, ferret out the gift that is always joined to it.  It might bring an "aha" experience that broadens our lives.