Daughter/Filmmaker: What Would Mary Alice Do?

Daughter/Filmmaker: What Would Mary Alice Do?

By Erin Bagwell

My mother is annoyingly optimistic. Her iced coffee glass is always half full and her kitchen is painted sunflower yellow. When I get on the phone with her I already know what her mood will be: happy or, at worst, moderately happy.

When I was growing up, especially as a teenager, this drove me nuts. I felt constrained by her positive vibration--there were so many other emotions in the rainbow to choose from, why must we be positive all the time?

So as a high schooler I decided to believe that maybe my mom was always happy because her life was just easier than mine. Maybe once you don’t have term papers and college applications and hormones to deal with, life was good. Maybe being an adult was easy.

But over time my narrow perspective on this narrative shifted dramatically. Not only because I watched my mother weather many storms but because at times, I needed her advice on things she went through while I was growing up. When Sal was overseas for three months for work, I asked her how she managed to run a household of two kids in the States while my dad was stationed in South Korea for a year. I watched her take care of her best friend when she got cancer, watched her navigate the press when her name was smeared by a false accusation, and watched her plan both her parents’ funerals.

And even though she was emotional and vulnerable in those moments, she never let the negativity take over. She always managed to find her alignment, never let anyone slow her down, and stayed positive.

Now I look at this bubbly blonde woman not as a creature of privilege but as someone with immense personal power. The ability to find the good and see the joy in life is not an easy task. In fact, in today’s culture I think it’s a bona fide super power. It’s a weapon, and it is a form of resistance.

I think the Trump administration would like nothing more than to watch us wither. From the endless news cycle, the loss of human dignity when it comes to addressing serious issues, or the cavalier repealing of rights and freedoms we’ve fought for generations to secure- you could stay in bed all day for any number of reasons and no one would blame you. The world sucks right now, and we are in the thick of it.

Which is why I think instead of staying in bed--we need to rise and thrive.

Like the phoenix, we have to evolve, and grow, and push ourselves to love more. We need to stay informed and fighting, but also set up boundaries to protect our energy.

You might not be able to control what happens in Washington or Russia, but everytime you choose joy you’re making a political statement that the only one who controls your life is you. Every time you pick yourself up to keep going you are showing the universe that resistance is in your bones. And every time you decide to choose to take care of yourself and your emotional well-being you become even stronger.

Like my mother, we need to be active seekers of joy and positivity. We need to adorn rose covered glasses not because we are uniformed or naive, but because we have hope. Because the world is worth fighting for.

Erin Bagwell is the director of Dream, Girl, a brilliant film about inspiring girls to dream big. This elegant ode to her mother first appeared on her blog.

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