Fiction has always inspired me. Books. Movies. TV shows. And I don't just mean it inspires me to write my own stories. It inspires me in my daily life. Delving deep into the lives of a cluster of fictional characters awakens in me a desire to make my own life, and the lives of those around me, a little better.
This has always been the case. In fact, in the past I've gone out of my way to read books and watch TV shows which I thought would spur me on to greater contentment in my life. What I've discovered is that this kind of thing can't be forced. I can't go looking for inspiration. It has to find me. And sometimes it finds me in the most surprising places.
The Inspiration I Never Saw Coming
I've recently been watching Six Feet Under. Talk about a show that should not have inspired me to do anything! I mean, the whole premise of the show centers around a seriously messed up family full of messed up people living messed up lives. These characters go through some truly awful crap, and they don't usually do the best job of handling their responses to all the awful crap they have to go through. What about these characters could possibly inspire me?
The answer is that, while the characters' lives are significantly more complicated than the average person's life, they're all going through things that, on a certain level, I can identify with. And while their reactions are often far from saintly, sometimes they see the light and they do the right thing. Or at least they want to do the right thing, whether it works out for them in the end or not. And this constant struggle to figure out the complexities of life makes me want to get my own affairs in order so that maybe I won't have to go through all the strife the people on this show experience.
Finding the Best In Everyone
I don't really have a favorite character on Six Feet Under, which is odd for me. Normally at the top of my list of criteria for liking a show is finding a character I just can't get enough of. Okay...normally it means finding an attractive male character I can fangirl. Don't judge me.
This show is different. I'm involved in all of their stories. And while they all make decisions which have tragic consequences that I can see coming from a mile away, still I can sympathize and identify with each and every character. It's like my personality has been shattered, and the fractured pieces fell into this show, each one showing up as a different character. There seems to be a little bit of me in each of them, so when they struggle to find meaning in their lives, it mirrors my own struggles.
Brenda: I probably identify with her the least, but I can understand her feelings of unworthiness. I understand what she's feeling when she wonders whether she deserves to be happy. Seeing her finally take control of her life in the final seasons gives me hope. If she can do it, anyone can.
Nate: Another character I don't strongly identify with, but still he inspires me. He goes from being completely lost to finding satisfaction in the day to day tasks of being a father and a husband. Again, if he can do it, anyone can.
Lisa: What a beautiful character. She is not so much a reflection of who I am as she is a reflection of who I want to be. She has a quiet strength to her that I can only hope to aspire to. She knows who she is and she lives her life in accordance with her own convictions.
Ruth: Ruth suffers an identity crisis after her husband's death, and her quest to find herself is something I think a lot of people have experienced. What inspires me about her is that through it all she hangs on to the belief that the most important things in her life are the people she loves.
David: Boy howdy, do I ever identify with this character. His lack of self-confidence, his fear of speaking up for himself, his worry that he'll never be truly loved for who he is mirrors my own struggles to accept myself and establish my place in the world. He inspires me by holding onto his faith in God throughout all the suffering he endures on the show.
Claire: Claire is the other character I can relate to the most. If David represents the outward part of me, Claire represents the part that I hold inside, afraid to show to the world. I share her creative spirit and her desire to live her life in search of beauty. But while Claire openly embraces her artist identity, I have a tendency to hide mine away. Art is such a personal thing, it's hard to put it out in the world for all to see. Claire has no qualms about putting herself out there, and she inspires me to do the same.
What Have I Been Inspired to Do?
Ruth has inspired me to spend more quality time with my husband and children. Lisa has inspired me to pursue a healthier lifestyle. Claire has inspired me to see beauty in everything, and to make sure I capture some of that beauty in an artistic way. I don't know that the other characters have motivated me to any specific action, but they have all taught me to keep pressing forward. To look for the good even when life seems to be showing me the bad.