One of the things I love most about the Christmas season is the ability to just live and savor the moment.
We spend far too much time either worrying about the future or regretting the past.
Over the last week, other than the two absolutely huge family dinners I cooked for the two sides of our family, I’ve spent a lot of time knitting and relaxing and not thinking a whole lot, but just enjoying being with people.
This was not a perfect movie, and it wasn’t five stars by any stretch. But I did enjoy it, and it raised so many issues about relationships that I think I’m going to have to read the book now
Anyway, I want to talk about a few things the movie brought up. Here’s the gist of the story: a woman, now in her mid-50s, is dissatisfied with her life. She’s not sure she’s appreciated, and she’s not sure that her life turned out the way it was supposed to. She really doesn’t know who she is anymore.
When she was in her early twenties, she fell madly in love with a man with three daughters whose wife had recently left him. She left the man she had been dating for years, and married this guy. They have another baby girl together, and then he dies in a car accident. She raises his three daughters and their own by herself, keeping his family business going, and caring for her husband’s aging uncle.
She holds everybody together. And then suddenly that’s not enough, and she goes in search of the woman she once was: intellectual, steady, and serious. She looks up the man she used to date, and tries hard to make that relationship work. But in the process she realizes that you can’t go back, because she really isn’t that person anymore. And she likes who she is now much better.
Her life is full of chaos; she has pictures of all the grandchildren and step-grandchildren on her fridge, along with family friends, including her handyman. She knows everything about everybody’s life, and is always helping. Her photo albums are stuffed full. She loves caring for the grandchildren and embracing her daughters’ new husbands. The phone rings off the hook.
And this man that she once knew leads the opposite life. Everything is controlled and planned. Everything is orderly. She tries to be like that, but she can’t. And in the end, she finds her way home.
It really is a lovely story, and there’s so much that touched me.
But the one theme that it brought out is that you can’t go back–and perhaps you shouldn’t.
We often dream of what might have been, and this woman had every reason to dream. Her husband had died when he was so young that she’d never had much love in her life. She’s had to raise three children that weren’t hers, and care for a business and aging relatives that weren’t hers either. Imagine if she had not had to take on all these responsibilities at so young an age!
Many of us feel that way at times, don’t we? That we should have been someone else. She can look back and see what a promising student she was, but she left that behind for her husband. Maybe you can look back on a career you once had, or an education you once enjoyed, and wonder where you would be now if you had pursued them.
But the movie provides a stark contrast: she likely would have ended up like the control freak she had once dated, and that isn’t who she is, either. She loves all the people around her. She loves that they count on her, even if the whole lot of them is completely dysfunctional. And she has changed because they have changed her, and that is a good thing.
Ultimately the life we choose for ourselves becomes our life.
That is who we are now. It shapes you. I am a different person because of who I married. I am far more secure, far more outgoing, far more relaxed, and far more go with the flow because of Keith and his big, loud family. If I had married into a staid, upper class family, I likely would be far more uptight and far more worried about etiquette, and china, and what fork one uses at dinner. I had those tendencies when I was young, and I easily could have been pushed in that direction. I used to have season’s tickets to the National Ballet of Canada! But that’s not who I became.
That’s not to say that we’re stuck where we are. The movie certainly doesn’t give that impression, because by the end of it her horizons are opening to her. But they’re opening forward, not backwards. They’re growing on what she’s become, they’re not denying it so that she can become someone different.
I think it’s an interesting exercise to think about how our families today, and the choices we’ve made, have shaped us.
When I look back on some of the other men I dated, I can easily see myself being a very different person had I stuck with them. And I am so glad that I’m instead the person I am today.
It’s hard when we’re in the middle of a hectic life and we don’t see much reward to avoid looking backwards and wondering “What If”? Perhaps what God wants us to do, though, is to stop looking back, to forget what lies behind, and to look forward to what He is going to do with the person we are now. We are becoming something very beautiful. Maybe it’s different from what you thought you’d be, but it is beautiful. And the choices we make now will continue to shape ourselves. I’d just encourage you, as the new year approaches, to make the choices that give you deep relationships and a meaningful life.