My family and I went to see Steven Spielberg’s “Lincoln” last night at the movie theater; what a marvelous performance by Daniel Day-Lewis, portraying the beloved president who was complex yet simple, powerful yet demure, jocular yet intense, cheerful yet burdened. I have always loved Abraham Lincoln. He is, without a doubt, one of the true heroes of our country.
I don’t know if your life is like mine or not. But I have often seen my life as a movie. And, as I mentioned in an earlier blog entry, it most decidedly is not. I suspect that some of my fascination with this movie thing comes from the fact that I was raised in the 1950s and 60s, and we loved watching movies. (Granted, they are produced now at such a staggering rate – there is no comparison to when I was a boy). But I also remember hearing that my father frequented the theater in his own era, paying a dime to enter the movie theater every chance he got. Maybe it runs in the family.
But my life is not a movie, of course. Not at all. (I am not Truman Burbank). There is little to no rehearsal. And although there is coaching available, there are no do overs, no mulligan. Words that are said, and actions that are taken have their result, and no amount of desire can alter the sequence. The pictures cannot be lightened or darkened, or doctored in any realistic way. They are by their very nature . . . the final cut.
There is no doubt that we all are actors in this life (metaphorically speaking), with varying degrees of skill. But there is no personal script to which one might refer when straddling a difficult decision, or traversing a painful landscape. And there is no rewrite possible. Your life’s story is written as you live it; things “go to press” immediately, and are published in the blink of an eye.
Maybe that’s why I have felt the way I have for the past three months.
Mother passed away.
My brother and I picked up the remaining tasks of settling her life’s affairs here on this earth.
And I have been fine with it all. Oh, on occasion I have broken down, or felt a shudder of emotion rise up in me, but all in all, I’ve been fine. Going about my days.
But as time has passed I find myself burdened. Forgetful. And each day now, by the time late afternoon rolls around, I am often tired enough to go to sleep. It is hard to be motivated to do anything beyond what is absolutely necessary. And so I plod through the days, wondering when I will feel energetic again, and at peace.
I am grieving, arent I?
This is not a motion picture I am experiencing; it is my life. If I am waiting for a director’s prompt, or a revision of the script so that I know the next emotion to portray, the next action to take . . . my part will cease to be believable; it will not look or feel real, because it is not real.
Of course, it could very well be that as I write this I am only writing to myself. No one else in the world even approaches anything close to these feelings, or mistakes their life for a movie in which they are the star actor and everyone else is a supporting actor. And if that is the case, I thank you for reading this anyway, and allowing me to admit my deluded thinking to someone. If that is all that results, then I suppose that will be enough.
But there is the distinct possibility that you know exactly what I’m talking about, and that I am not the crazed lunatic I have often feared I am. Without a doubt there is something within each of us that wants to do a second, third, or even fourth take in the movie of our lives. Human feelings are not “acted” out as they are on the screen; they are felt. Deeply. And if I choose to literally be an actor in my life’s story, not metaphorically, but really . . . an actor . . . I forfeit the depth and breadth of emotion that makes me truly human. And I will imagine a script and follow it. Even though . . . it does not exist.
Learning how to live. It’s not for the faint of heart.
As I reflect on the Daniel Day-Lewis portrayal of this historical giant-of-a-man I am struck with the realization that what moves me about “Lincoln” is not the actor; rather, the human being the actor is striving with all his theatrical acumen to portray. The real man himself. The greatness that he lived out. Not flawless, mind you. But greatness in spite of personal failures and national obstacles. His final cut.
May I live in such a way that my final cut would inspire and enthuse others toward greatness. And the postmortem script of my life . . . may it receive rave reviews.