Lessons from a skeleton?
Around this time of year, I often find myself watching Tim Burton’s, The Nightmare Before Christmas. I happen to be a big fan of Burton and his films. In fact, his 1989 Batman sparked my love and interest for comics. What makes The Nightmare Before Christmas stand out to me is the subtle way it addresses monotony and how it can be rekindled. Hear me out.
The main character of the film is Jack Skellington, the designated “Pumpkin King” of Halloween Town. Halloween Town is exactly as it sounds, a fantasy world where nothing but Halloween décor, novelty and literally everything is centered around the Holiday. Here Jack is coming to grips with the fact, that while he is the best at what Halloween Town has to offer, he’s grown excruciatingly bored with his life. Following a nice long walk through the forest, Jack discovers a circle of trees that each have an individual holiday symbol on them. He picks the Christmas tree and is immediately sucked into the world of “Christmas Land.” It’s unlike anything he’s ever seen and is so excited about his discovery he decides to bring “Christmas” back to Halloween Town. After struggling with trying to understand the meaning behind this strange new land he’s discovered, Jack decides to take Christmas in his own two boney hands. He transforms Halloween Town into a Christmas making village the only way someone who specializes in scary things can. In the end, it doesn’t turn out for Jack, his quest to change who he was and become Santa Claus was met with disaster. Yet, in the end Jack found himself inspired and dedicated himself to giving his old job as the “Pumpkin King” another go. Only with about 1000 times more effort. It would be easy to watch this film and chalk it up as another holiday movie for this specific time of the year. But I think there might be some lessons from a skeleton that should be brought up.
Let’s start from the beginning. Did any of the description of Jack sound familiar? Have you ever been bored out of your mind with your job? Have you gotten so used to the grind or the routine that it’s become 100% procedural and you have consorted to going through the routine because you’ve accepted it as “life.” If any of that sounds familiar, I would suggest doing what Jack did. Take a walk.
Seriously, take a walk. Or a jog, a drive or maybe even a flight. Bottom line, remove yourself physically from the current situation and simply take a walk. I realize in our great state of Mississippi if someone finds you walking, they’ll stop and offer you a lift or ask you where your car is in hopes of getting you gas for the car they assume you’ve left behind somewhere (you have to love southern hospitality) but keep walking. Granted, you might not come across a magical assortment of trees with Holiday symbols on them but clearing your head by physically removing yourself from whatever it is you're in the middle of struggling with can certainly set you up for the opportunity for clarity.
You will however (hopefully) discover “something.” Something you weren’t expected. When that happens, we have to use the example Jack gave us. Walk towards it and use your curiosity to investigate. What this “something” is or will be - I have no idea. The point is, keep your eyes and ears open, inspiration is all around if you look for it. For Jack he discovered Christmas Town. Which was the absolute opposite of what he was used to. He didn’t run away from it though, he began singing ‘What’s this?’ and embraced the entire culture of what he discovered. I do not know what you will come across, but whatever it is; recognize it as an opportunity and get excited. Breaking out into song is completely optional.
Tell your friends. Whatever revelation you have during your trudge, I advise you again follow Jack’s example, and tell all your friends about it. I loved the part in the movie where Jack is trying his best to explain Christmas to a bunch of Halloween townsfolk. They wanted to understand so bad because they could see the passion coming from their friend, but they just couldn’t grasp it. This might happen to you too. Keep in mind, when you find yourself in a state of perpetual boredom you are most likely hanging out with friends who are in the same boat. Don’t expect them be fully onboard with your newfound enthusiasm. Remember, they haven’t discovered the “something” yet. Be patient with them but at the same time don’t let them hold you back.
Whenever you change anything, it can be difficult, scary and may lead to disappointment. In the end, Jack failed in his quest. But what emerged from the ashes of that failed experiment was a renewing of both mind and spirit. He came alive through the experience of trying something new so much so that he vowed to excel in his old position as the “Pumpkin King.” You cannot be afraid to fail. Just by doing something different and branching out of the norm, getting out of your comfort zone, you’ll have the opportunity to see things from a new perspective. “Failure isn’t the end it’s just an opportunity to get clarity on what you really want” - Gail Goodwin.
I was recently in a small group at my church and we were discussing marriage. The question was brought up - when marriage becomes a routine and more like a chore, what do you do to break the cycle? While there were a few different answers, one that stuck to me was the word – remember. You have to remember why you married that person to begin with, you have to remember why you loved that person. By doing this, it may create that spark you need to break up the monotony. Obviously, this can work in a relationship, but it can be applied to work, friendships and even diet and wellness. The bottom line is to embrace the idea of change and mix things up to help break the day-to-day tedium. For Jack, it took a walk. So, if you find yourself walking through a wooded glen and come across a magical circle of holiday trees...I would pick the one with the Christmas symbol on it, just like Jack.