Different Kind of Same

Isn’t life odd? We read books, watch movies, listen to podcasts and hear stories composed decades apart every day. Yet, despite the separation of time, the stories are all a different kind of same. Could it be there are only so many stories in the world, and we are just recycling through them the second, third and fourth time around? Perhaps, there is maybe a hint of plagiarism in writings and mediums, in the recycled material? One could look a little deeper, provide some divinity, and deduce that we are all getting the same tests, with different questions. I would like to believe the latter.

For example, in comparing Susan Glaspell’s play “Trifles” to modern day ABC TV series “A Million Little Things,” we learn that, in the last hundred years, we are still realizing in different situations, what Mrs. Hale said to Mrs. Peters in 1916. As Mrs. Hale and Mrs. Peters discover there is a real chance their friend, Mrs. Wright, killed her husband John, Mrs. Hale remarks “we all go through the same things — it’s all just a different kind of same thing.”

In the play by Susan Glaspell, the community is in shock that their friend was found in her home unharmed, while her husband lay in their bedroom dead. The Sheriff, the County Attorney and their wives go to the crime scene. The ladies are tasked with gathering a few of Mrs. Wright’s belongings. While they are in the home, they learn a little more about their friend and recall things that maybe they had not really thought about until that moment. They realize she was quiet, she kept to herself, that maybe she even seemed a little depressed. They find a bird cage, but Mrs. Wright’s beloved bird was not in the cage. As the ladies go through her quilting items, they find a box. In the box, they find the bird, dead, and appearing to have been strangled. The ladies knew Mr. Wright as well and depicted him as a bit of a sad and simple man. The ladies are faced with deciding what to do about the bird. Showing the bird to the Sherriff and the County attorney the bird would surely provide a motive and imply that Mrs. Wright causing her husband’s untimely passing. Mrs. Peters ultimately ends up wrapping the bird in cloth and hiding it. For a moment, the ladies believe their deed is irrelevant. Mrs. Peters even says “wouldn’t they laugh” in reference to showing the bird to their husbands. In the end, the County Attorney tells them “it’s all perfectly clear except a reason for doing it. But you know juries when it comes to women. If there were some definite thing — something to show — something to make a story about — a thing that would connect up with this strange way of doing it.” The ladies continue to hide the bird though, all based on the statement “we all go through the same things — it’s all just a different kind of same thing.” The ladies related to her and realized that, in the right circumstances it could have been either of them. They showed empathy for their friend and did their part to help her out.

Fast forward one hundred years later and we have Jon Dixon. Jon has a very successful career, wealth and great friends. One day, while he is at work, he closes one final real estate deal, leaves his friend a voicemail and jumps from the balcony on the top floor of his office building. Jon’s wife, his children, his three friends and their partners are perplexed. Why would someone who had it all willingly give it up? The friends spend an entire season really trying to understand why their friend would commit suicide. The show elaborates on their friendships, how they all met, how they interacted and what their lives were like both separately and together. In fact, one Jon Dixon’s best friends actually had a handful of pills and a suicide note written when he received the call about his friend’s passing. The show really elaborates on depression and the lack of attention society affords it, as medical condition. It shows how even in small circles of friends, there are still a lot of things going on in our close connections’ lives that we may not understand. In some cases, that is because we do not want them to know and in others, it is because we did not want to see it ourselves. The first season ends with this quote from Jon, in a flashback moment; “friendship is holding a friend’s hand when she loses her restaurant even though you know she’s going to open up a better one. It is the person you trust with your wallet, and your keys and your wife, and your kids and it’s being able to have the hard conversations and willing to listen. It’s a million little things.” Of course, this was a hat tip to the title of the show, but the premise was, after watching the first season episodes, nothing is ever just as it seems. It is a lot of things, a million little things. It is the good things and the bad things, and we hope the good outweighs the bad.

What is fascinating though, is the timing. Susan Glaspell’s play and ABC’s hit series are exactly one hundred years apart in their making. Yet, we still feel as a society, as friends, as family and spouses that we are really into unchartered waters when we identify that, in many ways, we are all the same. I have had the experience of sitting in a room with a bunch of people just like me who were all experiencing the same things I was. However, I am certain until I had that epiphany of “we all go through the same things — it’s all just a different kind of same thing,” I spent much of my time looking for the differences. While as a culture, we spend time focusing on our differences, I think you could look at the comparisons of these two shows and concur that, “we are all going through the same things — a million little things.”