My life would make the worst “very special episode” ever. You remember those. A family sitcom or kids show wherein a lead character makes a serious mistake, learns an important lesson and vows to never make that mistake again. Sometimes these lessons were so ridiculous, they become iconic for how silly they are and not really for their powerful message. Jessie and the caffeine pills on Saved by the Bell, anyone?
Other times the “serious issue” itself was so bizarre that it made you question how necessary the entire exercise was. Monroe’s rape and abduction on Too Close for Comfort illustrates this quiet well.
Often these ratings-grabbing sobfests featured special guest stars like Tom Hanks as the alcoholic uncle on Family Ties.
But it didn’t matter if it was Blair smoking weed on The Facts of Life or Punky Brewster shoplifting, the whole mess was always cleared up in 30 minutes (sometimes 60 if it was a really, really special two-part episode.) This is where The Sean Show tanks at very special episodes. See, no matter how many years I have sober or how enlightened I become, my problems are rarely solved in 30 minutes and most of them come back. TV executives must have figured out early that watching a person do the same thing over and over again isn’t entertainment, it’s insanity. although my own experimentation with caffeine pills, wine coolers and a junior high dance only happened once. Jessie would be proud. I mean why mess around with No Doze when you can have cocaine? Now, I’m moving into Kelly Taylor territory.
Anyway, my own issues are thankfully of the” normal, boring and wouldn’t make for a good sitcom” variety these days. Even more undramatic is the way my problems get solved (or don’t get solved as the case may be). Very special episodes of The Sean Show, much to the dismay of television viewers everywhere, would end with me sitting at the kitchen table having a glass of warm milk like they do in TV World and saying “I don’t know” after the kind dad/concerned coworker/mom in fuzzy bathrobe asked me how I was going to handle the problem du jour. Roll the credits and the theme song. Really. That’s my answer to all the life problems I get these days. I don’t know. I don’t have the answer. And I don’t have to. By saying I don’t have the answer or know how to fix my problems or the world’s problems, I’m free to be open to real solutions and ideas that the universe will provide even if I don’t have a very special guest star or feature a hotline at the end of the broadcast. Not knowing, to me, means I’ve admitted I need help from a bigger authority. When I’ve reached the place of I don’t know, it means I’ve admitted my ideas won’t work. This is what enlightenment tends to look like in my life today. Not knowing. Who would have thought?
I’m reminded acutely of how little I know when senseless tragedies like the one which happened at the Boston Marathon yesterday. I don’t know why anyone would do that. I don’t know who would be behind such a thing. I don’t know how people rally and take care of each other during these moments. I don’t know how to even process these kinds of things most of the time. But I do know that we’ll get through it. I do know that, contrary to the mounting evidence, people are good. To quote the theme of another sitcom that was far too smart to ever need a very special episode, love is all around and we are going to make it after all.