Love, Actually

Every year I relish the seventeen times Love, Actually is on television.  Indeed, I enjoy it so much I finally just bought the DVD.  Love, Actually is a British “Christmas” movie with some of the greatest stars: Colin Firth, Liam Neeson, Bill Nighy, Hugh Grant, Emma Thompson, Alan Rickman, Kiera Knightly, Martin Freeman and for all you Walking Dead fans, Andrew Lincoln.  There are a few others you’ve seen before, but have no clue what their name is.  The storyline follows eight very different couples the month before Christmas.  But they aren’t all “couples”.  Liam Neeson and his stepson are one said “couple”, while the beautiful Laura Linney plays the sister who gives up any chance of a love life to be there for her brother.  As for love, the opening narration (done by Hugh Grant) sums it up.

“Often, it’s not particularly dignified or newsworthy, but it’s always there. Fathers and sons, mothers and daughters, old friends.  When the planes hit the Twin Towers, as far as I know, none of the phone calls from the people on board were messages of hate or revenge–they were all messages of love.  If you look for it, I’ve got a sneaky feeling you’ll find that love, actually, is all around.”

We put such a narrow meaning on the word “love” that we forget it IS everywhere. It’s present in everyday exhibitions of caring and sacrifice just as much as in the messy, hot passion of a love affair.  Sometimes it manifests itself by simply making your children a paper mache lobster costume for the Christmas pageant.

Like all incredible stories, I’m able to take away a new outlook with every viewing.  Whether it’s something as superficial as recognizing one of the stars for a new role they’ve done or just realizing how funny certain lines are, I never watch the same thing twice.  I am able to relate to one of the stories and see how my life, my love, is being reflected in myself.  This year was no different.  But for the first time, I related to Laura Linney’s role as caregiver. Her character spoke volumes to me and I love her for it.  I respect her for it.  I respect myself a little more.  Her character, Sarah, is very much in love (lust?) with Carl, a handsome guy at work.  However, Sarah is constantly tied to her mobile phone, the connection she has to her disturbed brother who lives in a home.  He always comes first.  His call brings her back to reality, back to the harsh responsibilities of a real life caregiver.  When finally given the opportunity to be with Carl, she has to make the heart wrenching decision to push him away in order to fulfill her duty to her brother.  It’s not your average, feel good story about love. It’s the story of sacrifice and love for family, yes, but it’s also a bit eye opening as well.  I wondered why she pushed Carl away.  She could have let the phone ring and her brother would have been okay.  He was surrounded by people taking care of him.  He was safe.  But when she reached for the phone instead of being present with Carl, she was reaching for a crutch as well.  She was choosing the safety of the known (her role as caregiver) over the unknown (was she good enough to be loved?).  At first I thought it was because of her overriding sense of family that made her give up the chance she’d pinned away for.  But when she said, “I don’t deserve him” it made more sense.  The story changed from the love of sister-brother to the love of one’s self.

There’s something about being in love, or loving, that creates a fine line between confidence and the fear of inadequacy.  Perhaps it’s normal to have fears and doubts when faced with the one person you believe makes the world go around.  When you look at them and think, “wow, they’re amazing!”,  perhaps it’s more normal than not to question your own worth.  It’s only when you love yourself enough, have enough self confidence and acceptance of your own worth that you are able to truly love another.  All obstacles will fall away and make room for it, if you’re ready.  Suddenly, I saw the theme in all the couples.  Confidence and trust within themselves was the only way to truly find love.  Once they found that, they found everything.  So simple. And it’s been there all along.  Man, I love good movies (and books) just for this reason!

So this year I may have continued to swoon over the love of Colin Firth (because, well, he’s Colin Firth) but I paid a bit more attention to the real love stories as well.  The love of the self.  Even Colin needed to overcome his own demons and try again at that frightening prospect.  He had to realize he was worth it.  I saw how each character struggled with their own insecurities and failures.  Some winning, some losing.  Because actually, love can only start with the self.

To the Mountains…towards my passions

I’ve spent the morning searching hotels on line.  Well, not hotels actually. Inns nestled in the White Mountains of New Hampshire.  I’m looking for a retreat; a place to hide away for a few days and escape the stresses of my life. Maybe even get some much needed writing done on my novel.  Ideally the Inn would be historical, yet comfortable; I won’t have to think about cooking or dishes because my meals are beautifully prepared. People are friendly, yet not intrusive.  Perhaps they’ll have a dog that sleeps by the fireplace in the main room and I’ll watch it snooze peacefully, adding to my own comfort.  I’ll settle into an overstuffed chair with a good book and a blanket, a cup of tea (poured by someone else) at my side.  The scent of Earl Grey will reach my nose and fill me with warmth.  It will be January or February and certainly mid-week before everyone else arrives. Solitude is a pleasure for me. There will be large amounts of snow in the mountains and if I’m lucky, a gentle snow will fall at least once while I’m there.  But then the storm will blow away and the sky will turn to a crisp blue, the sun shining brightly.  I’ll head out on snowshoes through the woods, or maybe I’ll try my hand at cross country skiing.  The bright, new fallen snow will require sunglasses as I look at the snow topped trees and the surrounding mountains.  It’s a winter wonderland and I can’t imagine being anywhere else.   I’d return refreshed and ready to tackle the world!  But the warmth of the fireplace and the gentle snores of the sleeping dog will return me to the calmness I crave.

My room will have a large four-poster bed.  A fireplace.  A touch of Victorian, that era I love so much.  I’ve found the room. I’ve found the Inn and ironically (or not), I’ve been to this Inn before.  I was there many moons ago with my ex-husband.  I was a different person then, full of hope for the future.  Perhaps that’s why I’ve picked it again.  I may even request the same room.  Not because of any fond memory of him, but perhaps because it’s familiar in a strange way.  It’s almost like a reset; a place to start this new journey of my life.

One of the critical lessons I’ve learned through Discover the Gift is that action towards your passions is of utmost importance.  Every choice we make will move us towards our gifts, or away from them.  My gifts include nature, learning and writing.  This retreat would feed so much of my soul.   Every decision and action I take, I take towards becoming my authentic self.  So, while it may have started out as curiosity, as a fantasy of escape, I’m finding it to be so much more.  This journey is allowing me to take a large step in the direction of creating the life I’m dreaming of.  It’s a small, yet poignant step towards discovering my authentic self.  I’ll be booking the room.