From Monotony to Montage

collageI’m officially one week into my New Year’s resolutions and I’m proud to say I’m doing quite well, even though I’m hatin’ it.

Overcoming vices is tough.

They’re like a group of bad friends who are exciting and fun to be with, but they’re a bad influence so I have to make new friends with higher standards. Even as I distance myself from the old gang, I know we’ll still be friendly on occasion. We just can’t be close.

Sigh.

It’s been a strong week, but only a week and one week does not a weakness break, so I’ve still got a lot of work ahead.

Who decided New Year’s should be in January? The dreariest month of the year and therefore the hardest month to muster and maintain motivation?

What I could really use right now is a montage.

You know, that part of the movie where the protagonist is at her lowest point and she feels hopeless. But just then, she thinks of a plan! And the plan is going to be arduous and take dedication, discipline, time and hard work but she knows she can do it! And do you know why she knows she can do it? Because she has a montage coming up.

All those difficult weeks, months or years it takes to transform tragedy into triumph are conveniently condensed into a three-and-a-half minute highlight reel of expedited progress set to some sappy song like I Believe I Can Fly.

I love the montages.

We all love the montages because the monotonous, day-in-and-day out effort it takes to accomplish something meaningful isn’t usually something pleasant to view (or do) unedited. Just think of the precious minutes of life we’d all have back if finding the Horcruxes would have been made into a montage.

One of my all-time favorite montages is actually from a book. In Three Clams and an Oyster, author Randy Powell poignantly describes how real life doesn’t offer the luxury of montage and, ironically, he does it with a literary montage. The brilliant description offers both a swift summary and a tedious tick through time.

The scene: Main character, sixteen-year-old Flint McCallister is at the house of a buddy one morning frantically trying to help him clean up after the disastrous residue of a rowdy, non-parent-approved party. As he finds himself mucking through the filth, he monologues about montage, “Real time goes by second by second, one second at a time, one…bottle cap, candy wrapper, cereal flake, and potato chip at a time. There’s no skipping, fast-forwarding, or cutting. No montage. Real time is reality. Reality can really bite. It can smell bad too.”

I feel your pain, Flint.

There’s no way around some of the dirty details of life.

However, while life doesn’t offer a physical form of montage, it does offer an intellectual one—it’s called “memory.”

When we actually manage to finish something, overcome something or achieve something after rigorous effort, the brain automatically edits and produces an inspiring highlight reel in our head that offers a visual of how the struggle culminated for our good. Choose your soundtrack wisely though. Once Elton John gets inside your head, he’s tough to get out.

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