It was 1999 and I remember watching trailers for Fight Club. I was struck with its themes of identity, life’s purpose, and honestly, quite confused – a movie about dudes fighting for no reason? As a fan of Helena Bonham Carter, I was truly excited to see her play a non-period piece role -- which up until this point, many of them were period piece roles and had Ms. Bonham Carter in a corset. A Room with a View – the movie that jump started my Merchant Ivory fascination and Helena Bonham Carter fandom – CHECK. Hazard of Hearts – check. Lady Jane – check. Maurice – check. Hamlet – check. Howard’s End – CHECK! The Wings of a Dove – check. I watched many of her movies and always enjoyed her performances. Her presence, her commitment to the role, to the words, and just bringing the character to life was incredible to watch – and still is, hello The Crown. I was intrigued when I saw her in the trailer. Not to mention the lines – “your life ending one minute at a time”, “what piece of furniture defines you” and a sense of foreboding that is this what I have to look forward to – never feeling like I was enough? I was 25 years old living in the Bay Area of Northern California struggling to make rent -- which was $500 a month for a basement studio underneath a main house in Hayward. I was between relationships, wanting to get promoted, and wondering why I was feeling so sad all the time. ALL THE TIME.
What helps with my sadness? Cinema. Films. Movies are an escape from the real world for me – especially when I see a movie in a theater. I can disappear for 2-3 hours and sit in the dark, anonymously amongst others and laugh, cry, and think about what I am watching. After pulling together enough money, I went to see Fight Club and I was astonished from the jump. Watching the opening sequence with the brain firing up, I became more mindful of the brain’s response to stimuli. In this case (and based on some IMDB trivia), the pathways demonstrated the narrator’s response to fear. And pretty much after that, the whole movie deals with that response to fear, authority, purpose, self, and relationships with others. I have mixed feelings with the violence, edgy pillow talk, and Project Mayhem – but there are a few key takeaways that ignited my curiosity about the mind and the mindset. And as I embark on my life and mindset coaching work, the call back to this movie seems appropriate and worth a pause and reflect moment.
When I heard this line, I knew I could never forget it. The grind and hustle culture endures. Not taking time to understand your life’s purpose or your calling can be a hindrance to your joy. We think we can buy happiness. We think owning certain things will fill a void. In this movie, we can see that this is not the case. Fight Clubs and Project Mayhems aren’t my source of joy – the lesson to seek joy or that feeling of aliveness – that is what resonated then, and still does now.
Chuck Palahniuk’s debut novel contains unforgettable lines. His amazing way of capturing everyday conversations, weird happenings, and orchestrating a narrative that played out well in the book meant that this movie could pull the whole thing off cinematically – and it did. When the camera pans around the circle of fighters and before the first fight, the rules are said allowed. As the first rule is said, my immediate reaction is, “Hell yeah I am going to talk about Fight Club!” In the not talking about the subject, your behavior, your posture, and your temperament speaks volumes. Your presence brings forth that joy and excitement into other areas. We’re not processing feelings here – we are taking action on the feelings. Again, Fight Clubs and Project Mayhems aren’t my source of action – the lesson is to put an action behind what you dream about – that is what resonated then, and still does now.
Movie Image from
Fight Club -
Jack and Marla looking out a high rise window.
This was the moment in the movie that pulled it all together. When The Pixies’ song, “Where is my mind?” came on with Jack and Marla looking at the window watching the buildings crumble – it brought the metaphor of breaking down all my sadness to begin again. When you have things taken away – the conveniences, the crutch, the go-tos, the band aid solutions – what are you left with? Diving into the mind – understanding your energy and where it is flowing, attention will go. Minding the mindset became very clear here. I’ll say it one final time, Fight Clubs and Project Mayhems aren’t where my energy lies – but it illustrates where you point your attention, things become attainable.
With a play on the song title, I often ask myself, “What is my mindset? Right now? Where is my mindset?” Whenever I consider my mindset first, I set the stage for what comes next. There is something poetic about that brief pause and reflection to set up and follow through on something. It’s that call to occupy a certain space, execute and enable the necessary skills, and move forward with action.
My name isn’t Robert Paulson. My name is Elaine…and thanks for reading my first blog-flection - highlighting movies (or books or shows) that offer me lessons in life, leadership, and parenting.