I am rewatching Breaking Bad, the riveting TV show that broke all stereotypes. The series tells the story of Walter White, a reticent high school chemistry teacher who is diagnosed with stage-3 lung cancer.
Suddenly, Walter is jolted out of his humdrum, deadbeat existence. He realizes he doesn’t have much time left. So, decides to try to make enough money for his family through fair or foul means before he dies. From Mr. Simpleton he becomes Heisenberg – a real bad-ass guy – and the black sheep of his family.
The transformation is extraordinary. One is flabbergasted and entranced as he throws caution to the wind and lets this fearless, ego-maniacal persona take over.
However, one wonders why did this brilliant, qualified guy wait for this brutal wake-up call to take control of his existence. Why couldn’t he do something earlier?
He didn’t because he was afraid, fearful of what might happen. Cancer is his wake-up call that time is limited. It is now or never.
Being Part Of The Flock
It is an innate human tendency to want to be accepted and belong to a family or group. Being relational beings we will do anything to fit in and not be the odd one. It takes guts to be different. To be unlike the others and dance to a different drum-beat may entail the rejection, derision and very often the loss of family support.
Furthermore, to win the acceptance of our parents, who in most cases just want docile lambs, we suppress what we truly want. We fear being discarded out of the flock. This fear stays with us like a default mechanism’ All our actions are governed by whether our choices will make us acceptable or the weird outsider – the black sheep.
We carry on in this somnolent state of self-denial. Pretending we are doing what’s best. Even though our existence seems off, and maybe depressed at our situation; we just don’t have the drive to upend our status quo. Either, we don’t want to tread on anyone’s toes and upset the apple-cart. Or we are too afraid of breaking from the security of the familiar.
However, life has a way of kicking you out of your stupor. Like Walt, you may be forced to make choices
Tipping Point, Becoming The Blacksheep
After my mother died, I quickly realized that survival and acceptance meant being ‘the good helpful girl.‘ At least I would be tolerated even though I was not loved. It meant I had to be useful and put on my happy mask. I blocked out and repressed my needs and feelings. I thought I was tough not to feel hurt or cry at the many atrocities happening in my life.
But my body kept the score and showed it. I developed scoliosis. That was my wake-up call I was forced to see the reality of my situation. Furthermore, I could no longer pretend and hide from myself that no one really cared.
I was alone in this and it was up to me to do something. It was my tipping point, I had nothing to lose. I was just a piece of convenience because I was was Ms. Helpful. Gradually, I realized the futility of trying to please, it would never gain the love I craved. It only added to my sense of worthlessness.
When Walter realizes that he no longer has the luxury of time, he breaks the fetters of fear and lack of confidence. Cancer was his tipping point from good to bad.
Getting Over Fear – Anyway One Is Going To Be Dead
One of Walter’s inspiring monologues that captures the state we live in because we fear the unknown:
“I have spent my whole life scared, frightened of things that could happen, might happen, might not happen, 50 years I spent like that. Finding myself awake at three in the morning. But you know what? Ever since my diagnosis, I sleep just fine. What I came to realize is that fear, that’s the worst of it. That’s the real enemy. So, get up, get out in the real world and you kick that bastard as hard you can right in the teeth.”
Walt realizes that staying safe is not going to get him what he wants.
Accepting The Truth
I too realized that I had to stop being someone just so I would be loved. I held on to the memory of my mother’s love for me and with that vision, I accepted the truth that how people treat me has nothing to do with me or my worthiness.
Like Walter, I broke away from my Christian family mores, went off to live-in with a man 20 years my senior hoping for love. Unfortunately, it turned out to be another version of my toxic family. Moreover, I was branded the black sheep and ostracized.
It hurt a lot to be cut loose from one’s family but then what the hell, no matter what I do, I am going to die one day might as well live the life I want.
Never Give Up Control
As the series draws to an end, Walt continues to tackle his now complicated life. He is no longer afraid, though he makes many wrong decisions, he continues to stay afloat despite many setbacks. Like Walter, I have continued to tackle the many challenges that have come my way hoping to find what I am looking for, healing my scoliosis.
Another of his inspiring dialogues which I like to keep repeating to myself is he reinstating his belief that he is in control:
“Never give up control. Live life on your own terms. To hell with your cancer. Every life comes with a death sentence. But until then… who’s in charge? That’s how I live my life.”
Notwithstanding, Walter White’s ultimate destruction, Breaking Bad has a life lesson for all of us. Don’t wait till it’s too late. Stop being afraid, what is the worst thing that can happen. Be bold to live the life you want. Don’t waste time pleasing others. It is up to you to fulfill your dreams.
It may hurt being the odd-ball and being shunned. But then some great innovators and change-makers were considered the black sheep of their family.
So, what the hell, take control of your life and live according to your terms.
Image Source: Amazon Prime
Feel the Fear . . . and Do It Anyway – Susan Jeffers
Will, I Ever Be Good Enough?: Healing the Daughters of Narcissistic Mothers – Dr. Karyl McBride
The Emotional Incest Syndrome: What to do When a Parent’s Love Rules Your Life – Dr. Patricia Love,