Losing The Easy Things

“I didn’t just loose five years on the island.  I lost the part of me that enjoyed being alive…listening to music…eating a soufflé with a beautiful girl…the easy things.  When you asked me about the island it reminded me of all the hard things and the hard choices that I had to make that still stay with me, make me question who I can trust, and even if I’m worthy of being with anyone.”

 This is probably my favorite quote from the show so far.  It says a lot of what I feel is true when someone faces a trauma.  It was true for me anyway.  Losing the  little things are what make me so “different” from others now.  I don’t like music, parties, hanging out with friends in the way I used to like them.  They don’t inspire me or bring great joy to life.  They are more like chores…they take work…and yet they are supposed to be “the easy things.”  I love that Oliver points this out.  “Being alive…listening to music…eating a souffle with a beautiful girl” are supposed to be easy, but he has to spend so much time and effort warding off flashbacks and presenting himself as “a normal person,” who enjoys these things, that it take all the fun out of them.  The things themselves are not what is fun for him anymore.  His idea of “fun” has changed drastically from what it was before.

 Secondly, this quote points out that Oliver is reminded all the time that things are not black and white (anymore).  McKenna (the girl he is on the date with) starts firing off questions but none of them have simple answers, none of them are easy to answer, and she doesn’t give him time to even try to respond.  McKenna expects a quick and simple answer that she can understand but that just simply isn’t possible.

 Thirdly, Oliver is trying to balance his memories, the present day, and figure out how truthful he should be (just like he mentioned to Helena before…”I don’t know how truthful I can be.”) all at once.  The fact of the matter is McKenna doesn’t want the whole truth and if she got it she probably couldn’t handle it.  Oliver had to make a lot of hard choices and these choices still stay with him.  He still questions everything…his past (trying to sort through flashbacks), his present (who he is becoming), who he can trust (because no one else is telling their whole story either and he has learned that some do not have good intentions), who he is (because this has been one HUGE upheaval in identity…he doesn’t even like the same things anymore…he has lost the part of him that…fill in the blank), and even what he is worthy of.  What he gained on the island was not gained because he WAS worthy of it…it was gained because of shear effort…because he MADE himself worthy of it…he survived.  Survival and love are very disconnected at times.  Making choices for survival do not always fit with making choices for love.  In love you think and chose carefully.  In survival you choose in the instant and out of instinct…not choice.  They don’t always fit together very well. (An essay on this: Impossible Decisions)

 Yet, through it all, here is Oliver trying to have a “normal” relationship.  And this quote is the perfect thing to say.  It helps McKenna understand.  It gives her information, but only what she is ready to handle.  It reveals a lot about where Oliver is at if the listener has the context and experience to interpret it.  And it is completely honest.  If I could have had a line to give to people when I came back from overseas and from enduring trauma…this would have been it.

The only problem with saying this to others is that they almost always fixate on the last 9 words (“and even if I’m worthy of being with anyone.”) and they loose, or don’t have the ability to see everything else that is being said.  They, like McKenna, immediately respond with “of course you are worthy of being loved.”  If I were Oliver, my mental response (or response inside my head) would be…”you can’t decide that because you have way, way, way, to little information. You don’t know anything! In reality the opposite of what you say is probably true.”…it’s back to his other quote… “if people knew, if you knew, you’d see me differently, and not as some vigilante guy…as damaged.” because, i think, this is how Oliver sees himself.  But even Oliver doesn’t have all the information…he can’t go back and look at his time on the island or time before the island like we (as outside observers with The God Perspective) can do.  But…to be fair…fixating on these last 9 words (“and even if I’m worthy of being with anyone.”) works.  It results in the “acceptance” interpretation that Oliver needs from McKenna (or that those out of a trauma need from others) and although Oliver knows that it is “incomplete/unknowing acceptance” it provides for a 2nd date, future opportunity, continued discussion where Oliver has the chance to reveal a little more and possibly be accepted then as well, and McKenna has the chance to get more of her questions answered or decide that she doesn’t need to know everything to accept Oliver.


How Truthful Can I Be?

Oliver – “People are always asking me what did I miss the most…air conditioning, satellite radio, tagliet – uh- ta…”

Helena – “Tagliatelle?”

Oliver – “Right…but those are the answers I give people because those are the answers they’re expecting.”

Helena – “Why can’t you just be truthful?”

Oliver – “I don’t know how truthful I can be.”

Oliver gives these answers to what he “missed most” because it is all people can understand.  That is really true.  I have found this a lot when I talk to people about my time overseas and times of great hardship…most of the time they don’t seem to have the foggiest idea what I’m talking about, so it’s easier to just keep my answers predictable.  If people are not able to actively listen then short predictable answers save me/Oliver the frustration of reliving a difficult story, trying to put it into words, only to have the point completely missed or misunderstood.

I also really like how Oliver says, “I don’t know how truthful I can be.”  I totally agree with this and feel the same way.  How much are you really supposed to say?  There is a such thing as too much information and it’s also possible to hurt someone by describing things they are not ready for.  For example, what would Thea do if Oliver talked in detail about being tortured?  She isn’t ready for the that information.  Telling the whole truth isn’t always what people want either… it can lead to a lot of trouble,  misunderstanding, and rejection (an essay “Is There Room In The Church” on this topic).  Putting aside the fact that Oliver probably can’t tell his story (PTSD stuff)…How truthful should Oliver really be?


“Do you want to know why I don’t talk about what happened to me there?  Because if people knew, if you knew, you’d see me differently, and not as some vigilante guy…as damaged.” ~Oliver

I have to admit…I didn’t like Oliver at first.  His character felt overdone to me…I thought he was over muscular, over dramatic, and overly idealized.  However, as they began talking about his scars I began to like him more and more.  Scars are interesting.  Each one means something different. They show we are marked, they remind us of the past, and they also open doors.  We are slowly learning where each of Oliver’s scars came from and how impacted he was by the event  that caused each scar.  20% of his body has scars on it…that’s a lot…and a good metaphor for how affected he was by his time “on the island.”  

In this quote Oliver responds to why he hides his scars and what happened to him in the biggest event of his life…this quote shows me how Oliver is redeemable and this was when I really started to like his character.  I like how he responds to Laurel when she finally asks about his scars (he leaves SO MUCH unsaid)…I like how he says “why don’t you hate me…you should” and how his voice changes to a factual tone when he says “you should.”  But above all I like the contrast between how we (as an audience) see his scars, how others in the show see them, and how he sees his scars.  The person who is marked or scarred usually sees their marks/scars as a horrible/shameful/evil thing because they know what was involved in getting those scars.  The outsider, like Laurel, usually romanticizes the scars seeing them as a “amazing.”  But we as the viewer who, who knows both sides of the story and can see the overall picture, see the scars as much  more.  They add depth to the person, they make their story easy to relate to, and they open up a redemption element.  We, as viewers with “the God Perspective” as I call it, see Oliver as lovable because of his scars.  

(For more on the power of scars check this out (The Power of A Scar)

Right or Wrong?

“I could be wrong.  The list isn’t” ~Oliver
This quote really shows how Oliver (and many of us) need(s) something concrete to hold onto.  His world of understanding right and wrong has been completely turned upside down from what he went through on the island.  Before the island, Oliver probably had a clear understanding of what choices were right and what were wrong (even if he didn’t follow them)…but now, having experienced “the island,” he has had to face things he never thought he would…and he has survived time and time again…not only when he shouldn’t have survived but when he didn’t necessarily want to survive.  Trying to figure our right and wrong in such a horrible, tangled, survival based situation is practically impossible.  So…he needs something concrete to hold on to.  The list provides this.  Having something concrete, tangible, accomplishable to hold on to is a key step in recovering from a trauma.  The person needs a tangible, solid goal as part of their recovery process (And essay on this idea, Failure Redeemed).  Not something vague like “help others” or “follow, love God” but something that you can check off.  The list is exactly this for Oliver.
The thing is, someone who needs this kind of tangible goal, will accept anything they can hold onto, anything they feel is “right” and leading them down the “right” path.  Anything they can “check off” and feel is working.  From my experience, a person in this situation will accept pretty much anything they are handed because their life has been shattered.  Anything could be true.  The key is to hand them something that is actually true.  So that, when they follow this goal over a long period of time, they will end up ingraining real truth as a part of their lives.  In Oliver’s case however, he has to eventually face the idea that this list may not be what he is looking for…or at least his method of working through it may not be perfect.

Accepting Him

Thea: So, what, he gets a free pass?
Moira: No, I just think we need to stop judging him for the Oliver he was and start accepting him for the Oliver he is.

It can be really hard to see someone for who they really are and not as who we want or expect them to be.  Our lives are so busy and we have so much going on in our own minds, hearts, and circumstances that stopping to really think about who someone else is, what they might have been through, or how they are trying to express themselves to us can be really difficult.  Listening, accepting, and understanding someone really takes focus, time, and work…but it’s worth it.

On The Island

Helena – “Hey can I ask you something.  I know it must have been hell for you alone on that island for 5 years…but um…was there ever a day when you were just happy to be away from everything. No pressure from you family, no need to be the person everyone else expects you to be.  Was there ever a day when…when…”

Oliver – “When I didn’t feel lost, I felt…free.  More than one.  And uh, those are the days that I miss.”

I really like this quote because despite everything bad, really bad, that happened to Oliver he can also see how it freed him. He can see how there were some things that he will only have “on the island.”  I think this quote speaks to the fact that part of him will always be “on that island.”  There is a part of him that misses the island.  The island was hell, but, in the end, he understood it.  He knew how to survive on the island, and, he gained something, part of his identity, by being there. 

This is true for many of us as well.  We have our own island (a time when were were isolated, enduring a trauma, trapped, changed) and this time stays with us.  It is part of who we are and even though things were hell when we were on the island, there were good things too…times we were free, things we learned, new aspects to our identity that formed.  Understanding this, and seeing the possibility that can come of our time “on the island” is an amazing strength to have.

I’m Not A Hero

Oliver: Crime happens in this city every day. What do you want me to do stop all of it?
Diggle: Sounds like you have a narrow definition of being a hero.
Oliver: I’m not a hero.

Oliver doesn’t consider himself a hero.  I don’t think most heroes do…most heroes have been through too much, lost too much, and seen too much to consider what they are/do to be heroic.  It is more like atonement, survival, or a desperate attempt to find hope in their eyes.  When someone stays quite, shuns recognition, or rejects statements like “you’re a hero,” it is probably a big sign that they are a hero or at the very least that they have been through something that has made them see the complexity of the world. (I talk more about this in a Harry Potter based essay I wrote called “The Silent Champion“…if you’re interested)

Our typical definition of a “hero” may not always apply and loving someone (or fighting for some cause) may not always come out in the ways the general world expects it to (another essay about this…What Truly Defines a Hero).  Oliver understands that things are complicated, that he has done a lot of things he regrets as well as things that have helped, and he is pointing out that stopping every crime is not only impossible but also that it will not necessarily “save the city.”

What does truly defines a hero?  What makes you a hero?