A TV show saved my life. This is no exaggeration. Tonight, This Is Us is on again with a new episode, and I cannot wait to see it. But, I will have to wait to see it, because this TV show — I mean, a TV SHOW, for heaven’s sake! – has given me an hour a week that’s sad and terrible and funny and joyful and loving and family and fixed me up a bit.
I hadn’t watched the show, but for the pilot episode, until my Mom told me that I should and that it was one of her favorites. It was about the time when I’d quit my job, had done all the Neflixing one gal could handle during that downtime, and found that I wasn’t really in the mood for making. So, I was a bit of a lay-about. Or, I WAS A PURE-D, CHICKEN-FRIED a lay-about, actually. From the bed to the couch to the daybed to the couch was pretty much my daily routine.
But, because my Mom is smart and kind of bossy, I listened to her and watched the second episode. And, my goodness. It was so special, and the series has been so special to me that I never want to watch the episodes in real time. I like to save them for times when I need them. That’s what started me back on the bike when exercise was the furthest thing from my mind. I knew that I could perch the iPad on the handlebars and spend 45 minutes pedaling while I watched an episode of This is Us. I’d feel accomplished, sweaty, better and tired after, but a good kind of tired.
On May 1, 1969, Fred Rogers (a man whom I feared most of my childhood – those puppets! – but whom I came to love when I got older) gave testimony in front of a Congressional hearing, advocating for the funding for public television. You can see it here:
And he said that he ended each program by saying, “There’s no person in the whole world like you, and I like you just the way you are.” I’d argue that it doesn’t matter the circumstance kids grow up in, or adults navigate on the daily where those words don’t matter and that hearing them doesn’t help, just a bit. I know we’re not talking about public television here, but the sentiment transcends. That’s the thing about This Is Us for me, at least. That this family is just accidentally and terribly cobbled together; they are weak when they should be strong; they are strong when it’s surprising that they can be; they are always loving each other in the best way they know how, because they take each other as they are. It really just gets me in the feels, and as I said, it has saved my life.
It’s so weird, right? I mean, this is TV! But, the medium is powerful. The images we see on the screen can slink up and sidle up next to our hearts and minds, and they are powerful, I think. This Is Us has just about saved my life. For real. It got me back on the bike when the bike was the last thing I wanted to do; when sleeping seemed like the best thing to do on a Monday or a Tuesday or any day; when just giving in and giving up seemed okay. It’s because I did look and do look forward to each new episode, because the story of that family is a reflection of the world as I’d like it to be, what my family works towards, and what I want for mine and myself. It’s hard, struggly, ugly sometimes, full of foibles, but also hopeful and magical and welcoming. Knowing that I can ride and watch those stories of lives lived in that way made me ride. Once I started, I understood why it was important (for me and for my family) to take care of myself, so I keep my riding shoes near, my seat high, and my water bottle (and crying towel) ready for the one day of the week when I ride just for me. (The other days are for my front butt. Or, against my front butt, I guess, but I’m not going to ruin this beautiful post by talking about my front butt. You know what I’m trying to say.)