My cancer vs a diner shootout


As I notice my reactions to each of the characters in the movie, “Winged Creatures”, it’s giving me some insight into myself and the differences between people’s coping mechanisms.

A quick description of the movie

In a diner, a father is having lunch with his young daughter and her friend.  An older man who’s recently been diagnosed with cancer is alone at the counter.  The bottle blonde uniformed waitress is hurrying between a quick call to her babysitter and serving the older man.  A doctor walks out as he holds the door open for a stranger.  The stranger shoots up the diner.  Father is fatally injured, cancer man escapes death by gunshot wound and the others are witness to the incident.  The story unfolds about how the daughter, her friend, the waitress, the doctor and the cancer man deal with their trauma.

5 different copes

1.        Looking for support in all the wrong places

The waitress (whose dark roots annoy me more and more throughout the movie!) has a baby whom she can no longer support emotionally.  Every loud noise frightens her and causes her baby to cry.  Unconsciously, she realises that her child is picking up her fear and anxiety and so she withdraws from him while trying to misguidedly capture the attention of the doctor (as someone who can care for her).  Even reporters at the hospital shortly after the incident turn away from her, mid-sentence, when they realise the young girl (who lost her father is more newsworthy).  She reaches out to her mother but recoils when she realises her mother, who has problems of her own, cannot offer her stable support.  She’s stuck, alone and needs someone to look after her or listen to her but she cannot face the county psychologist who’s ready to face the ordeal with her. 

2.       Trying to control life / the inevitable

The doctor operated on the father unsuccessfully and is having serious doubts about his abilities.  At night he cries while his wife sleeps.  During the day he throws himself into his work, not content to let anything go wrong.

3.       Feeding an addiction

The cancer man, faced with double disasters in his life, resumes his old gambling habit.

4.       Stunned into silence

The young girl’s friend becomes mute from the shock.  He wants to talk but his parents fight about his wellbeing vs potential medical bills and so worsen the situation by adding this unwelcome dynamic.  They each privately try to console him with totally conflicting messages of support; the father guides him to shout out his anger (assuming that this is what the boy is feeling!) while the mother gently encourages him to allow the psychologist to help him.  He chats to the young girl online perhaps feeling that voicing his fears and anxiety will give them power.

5.       Turning to religion

In complete contrast and having attended bible study no more than a dozen times in the past, the young girl turns evangelist of sorts.  This irritates me the most!  She’s advising everyone on the right thing to do outwardly when she hasn’t investigated what’s going on inside of herself.  

My coping

Although the situations are different (the diner is short and sharp while mine is long and tiresome), there is abundant traumatic stress in both.  My coping mechanism has been to strive for balance and control (the latter has often been a joke). 

I’ve re-prioritised my life (rest, research, relaxation, work, family, friends) and have had to learn to become selfish.   With limited energy, I cannot afford not to focus on “me first”.  I’m still learning.  My perspectives are taking some adjusting: I face the pain of the disasters I encounter and find the opportunities for the personal growth and learning that they offer.  Damned if they’ve presented just for the hell of the pain!  I work hard to find a reason.  Sometimes it’s not apparent and I just have to be with it for a while longer until the penny drops – sometimes after months – but it has dropped every time and I’m learning to trust that.  What an awesome discovery of the well of interconnectivity! 

To some degree and at various stages, I think I’ve displayed all of the 5 methods from the movie – I’ve tried on all the dresses and I wear whichever work(s) on a given day!  We all have our own ways of coping.  What the movie shows me is true about real life.  If you want to (or can) be available for support, be sure to ask or find out what kind of support is needed.  And make sure you’re doing what you need to, to support yourself as well.

The movie is not easy to watch (it feels quite dark and challenging along the way) but it has a great cast and offers clever insight, so you decide. 


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