No matter how much we mentally prepare for change, life can slip out of control instantly. “Tout passe [everything goes], tout lasse [everything tires], tout casse [everything breaks].” The concept of “control” is a mental construct of our collective imagination that we dare wield to challenge The Great Unknown in a battle of normalcy over our chaotic reality. With only tangential relation, how might Trishna (center) and John (right) handle vulnerable moments in “The Story?”
Spoiler Warning Scale: Minor (some early events)
Let’s go ahead and dig into it.
Trishna’s service dog Pollyanna will inevitably pass away within the first two or three years of John’s arrival in “The Story.” Trishna’s family got Pollyanna predictively to help with basic tasks, but between Trishna’s disability being minor compared to what it could have been and her stubborn steadfast resolve, she can do most tasks independently. Pollyanna still has a few heroic moments. The family may have an assortment of other dogs, and certainly animals on the farm, so Trishna is used to the idea of animals passing away.
John is not.
Pollyanna, either through self-awareness which will be its own side story or through a dog’s intuition, latches onto John as soon as he arrives on the farm. John is not used to affection from anyone, maybe other than meeting his teacher’s dog once or twice, and becomes infatuated with everyone. Maybe some of Trishna’s family notice to varying degrees. Her parents might appreciate his devotion to their daughter and her sister might half-jokingly tell her “let me know if you dump him so I can date him, since he’s really cool.”
John really wants a normal life.
John wants to drop off the hardening that constant bullying had done to him growing up, perhaps stirring an interest in military studies, history, and other combat. He wants to put that sheath away, which also means that he might become a big softy, so when Pollyanna passes away, he’s forced to for perhaps the first time come to face the fact that anyone he cares about could die. Trishna is, of course, saddened by the death of her service dog and constant companion. Her parents, the farm, it’s all helped her cope quicker.
John? Not so much.
It will hit him harder. He’ll be low for longer and it might not drain him too much, but it’s enough to get Trishna worried. They might, despite living in either college dorms or a cheap apartment, try to get another dog or pet to fill that void. It might also be the necessary step for him toward getting into therapy to address the deep-rooted problems that plagued his childhood. That’s where I imagine that within the two to four years that John and Trishna spend in college, they will learn a lot about themselves, each other, and the world.
Conflict is our greatest teacher.
Through conflict, we can better understand our tolerances, our limitations, and how we perceive reality. Despite how tough we might be on the outside, like John, if something that is precious to us vanishes, then it can cause us to spiral out of control. What I’ve personally found to be the best way to solve this is to address the stress by identifying it. What is the pain point? If there is something that can logically be done to remedy the situation, do it, but most often that’s not the case. Most often, it’s riding out waves of emotion.
It might be easy for John in that regard.
All too often, I’ve found myself in lows for no other reason other than because my anticipation of a situation doesn’t match up with the reality. We expect a job interview, a promotion, or some other sort of success to go through and yet it doesn’t. Then what? We invest all that effort into something so trivial, or something more full of meaning like a relationship with someone, and to have that torn apart either explicitly or implied through a close call? It’s the sort of thing we don’t expect to happen in our perfect worlds.
Yet here we are, in a world where change is the norm.
What’s the problem with wanting things to go well? Maybe it’s that we subconsciously doubt and push away the possibility that things won’t go well. If we expect everyone to live forever, if we don’t confront death or injury as a constant that is only moments away from us, then when it happens it is a complete shock. Sure, that does mean always living with the idea in the back of our minds, which eventually fades into an idyllic scenery of our imagination where faults exist our bubble of perception, until the next hit.
There is no real way to practice imagining mortality.
No matter how much we consider the mortality of everyone around us, no matter how many books like Hagakure we read, these are all theoretical. Theory can certainly help us when faced with real-life situations. If we understand how sorrow and vulnerability can linger in our minds well past the mourning period, we can perhaps more quickly bounce back. That’s where I think John is in “The Story.” Trishna may have indirectly encountered the death of farm animals or distant relatives, though no direct family members.
It’s not like we can really practice this.
There is no skill to level up or easy way to build up tolerance. Maybe escapist media can help? Stories with violence and tragedy far greater than our own can help place things into perspective. Is it really escapist at that point? Or do these stories serve a greater purpose: to help us heal the internal struggles that we might experience with death, near-death, or loss that linger far longer than any physical injury. To help us reframe chaos into a neat, orderly way so that we may continue living in a way that makes sense.
That would be a nice way to conclude Pollyanna’s story, anyways.
Quotes:  A French phrase I encountered in college.
Inspirations: As of this writing, everyone close to me is fine. There was a close enough of a call to remind us all of mortality.
Photo: Trishna is counseling John, who may have fallen over hearing bad news.