This one comes from Isabella Yosuico

Last January I started binge-watching Grey’s Anatomy from season one and I’m nearly caught up. That’s a viewing pace of something like 27 episodes a day, which comes with a diagnosis and 12-step program referral. My saving grace is that I’m nearly done, so I can finally reclaim my life. Mind you, I haven’t stopped bathing or forgotten my kids at car circle yet, but I’m close. I stay up way past my bedtime and slobber myself awake at 1 am with surgeries droning into my earbuds, still snug. This means I’m over-sleeping into my (very holy) quiet time and pre-dawn jog, both of which are vital to my mental health and middle-aged spread. The question is why? Given to relentless self-examination, I’m sending myself to the proverbial lab for analysis.

Let me begin my cathartic public exploratory surgery by saying I’m not a couch potato. In fact, I could almost chuck my two televisions in the dumpster without martyrdom, were it not for my family. (It’s all their fault). Let me also say, with a mildly superior tone, that when I do watch TV, it’s normally some highbrow BBC or public television programme. Yet Meredith and Derek, Karev, Chief Webber, and the antics of the more transient cast members have captured my imagination more than any episode of Call the Midwife, The Crown, or Grantchester. I’ve been able to pull the plug before. Now, I seem stuck in the waiting room at Grey-Sloan Memorial unable to move, but I can’t understand the cause.

Yes, there is the medical drama. I do love the diagnostic mysteries, the routine procedures gone awry, and even the graphic surgeries. The psychological drama is fascinating, too: extreme escapism, substance abuse, PTSD, criminally explosive rage, acting out of childhood dysfunction, all occasionally punctuated with collegial comic relief. I’ve enjoyed getting to know the characters, familiar and eventually predictable as they are. And I really appreciate the groundbreaking diversity. I do take issue with the goofy portrayal of Christians, which seems like a prejudice to me. But I tolerate it in part because, sadly, it’s not entirely off mark. I’ve been April Kepner. Ick.

No doubt, the sexy soap-opera storylines also have their appeal, but they are a little too ridiculous to titillate me. Too many unrequited longings, impulsive hook-ups, and rapid-fire marriages that end with calamitous flair, only to lead to yet another torrid love affair with a colleague’s ex.

In fairness, I’m not alone in my obsession. These combined narrative strains have infected more than a decade of viewers. In its sixteenth season, the show is the longest running scripted drama in TV history, has enjoyed top ratings for many of those years, has won oodles of awards, and has made its stars and creators very, very rich. It’s just that my case of Grey-itis seems to be particularly severe.

So, having recounted the show’s many debatable virtues, the lab report is in. Gray-Sloan normalizes the rough stuff of life without predictable happy endings. Bad things keep happening and the cast soldiers on. The dysfunction is exaggerated enough to take the edge off my own disappointments. Their seeming near-miss redemptions give me hope, of the more realistic variety, that I can endure my own trials. If Meredith—a neurotic afraid of commitment, haunted by an over-achieving mommy and an alcoholic daddy, plus assorted tragedies—can navigate repeated heartbreak and still try again while she self-actualizes, there’s still hope for me. If Karev and paramour du jour, Jo Wilson, stumble through the heavy fallout of their really-hard-knock childhoods, then maybe I’m not all that bad off. By comparison, my brokenness seems less broken.

No doubt there’s a little too much of everything packed into each storyline, pushing the believability envelope. Plane crashes, secret illegitimate kids, tortured love, critically crossed wires, sudden deaths, brain injuries, and lost pregnancies—all one person in the space of a few really bad years. Still, my own life and others’ have been splattered with conspicuous crises, some of which were entirely unbidden and unpredictable.  Sure, the show also delivers some silver linings most of us never get, like multi-million-dollar settlements, good-guy deliverance, and bad-guy just rewards, but overall, the Grey-Sloan doctors really have their hands full of life. I’m not the least bit miserable, but I have been, and there’s so much comfort in knowing you aren’t alone. Misery does indeed love company.

There’s a saying that those who put everything in God’s hands eventually see God’s hand in everything. Dare I say I do see God’s hand in Grey’s Anatomy like I see it in pretty much everything else? I want life to be tidy and predictable, but it’s not. I want right living to always produce right results of my own definition, but it doesn’t. I want to believe that when I finally get what I thought I wanted, I’ll be happy and satisfied, but I won’t. I want the bad stuff to be redeemed before my eyes, but it isn’t. The whole Bible is pretty much a story of all that, our misguided motives, strivings, and random results. The Good News is the story has a silvery thread lining it start to finish: Jesus. Because “from him and through him and for him are all things” (Rm 11:36). A truly happy ending with no season finale.