Thursday, February 21, 2013

Those pesky reminders

I'm a big Downton Abbey fan. The acting is superb, the costumes gorgeous, the setting is breathtaking.  With each episode I am pulled back into that time, that setting, and I feel as if I am really there.   Along with other viewers this week, I accidentally heard ahead of time that one of the major characters was slated to be killed in the finale, which was shown Sunday night in the United States.  Downton Abbey's season aired in Britain in the fall, and with the Internet and Facebook and every other impossible way of trying to keep secrets, I knew something bad would happen, to whom it would happen, and I was devastated.

Of course, the information age being what it is, I learned why:  The actor who played this character did not renew his contract, as he is involved in other projects and wanted to be free of this particular commitment.

I understand that completely, as I also understand I am watching basically a well-acted, well-produced soap opera - a fictional rendition.  Yet, when I am in the process of watching, I am transported to that place and that story.  I really forget these are actors and sets and scripts.  The idea that this actor didn't renew his contract, and therefore the writer had to come up with a fatal accident, was just a sad reminder that these are, yes, just actors and sets and scripts.  I hate bring brought down to earth.  It was just a reminder of reality - reality that I already knew but could escape from for those few hours.  What?!  These people are really actors on a set?  I could swear they are real!

I am reminded of Christopher Reeve, the actor who rose to fame playing Superman.  After his tragic accident which left him paralyzed, he had dreams where he was running and jumping and moving, and then he would wake up and realize it was just a dream, that reality was very different.  A very ugly reminder of reality.

I have dreams, too, where I am 18 again, young, firm muscles, long hair, no wrinkles, all possibilities lying ahead.  Then I wake up  - with thankfully not as much a downward crash as Mr. Reeve -  in my 58-year-old body, time ticking away on my life, and feeling somewhat disappointed in the dramatic contrast in my dream and my present state, and I renew that sense of urgency on how to get accomplished what I want to do in the time I have left.  Every creak, every huff and puff, every gray hair, every mirror, is just an annoying reminder of the reality of growing older every day.

Some reminders, of course, are heartwarming.  I see a picture of my baby Emily on Facebook and talk to the older children on the phone and I am brought back to the miraculous reality that I have four amazing grandchildren from my own amazing kids.  Every day I am reminded that I have a job that challenges me and makes me feel productive. I was reminded when I found a penny in an unlikely place with the year of my dad's death on it that I have had parents who have loved and supported me unconditionally.   I was reminded when I got up and saw certain items arranged on the kitchen counter that before he went to bed last night, my sweet husband thought of what I needed to prepare my breakfast this morning.  I am grateful for the reminders of family and friends and situations that make me smile, that make my heart sing.

So I'm not upset with the Downton Abbey writers and actors, as some fans have been.   I will miss the character, but things happen in fiction and in real life and we go with the flow.  The only thing that disturbs me is that the situation gave me an unwelcome dose of reality, took a little more of the magic of my losing myself in the show, and just reminded me that, hey, I'm actually watching a soap opera!  So be it.  It's a grand, majestic, splendid soap opera and I can't wait to see what happens next.  My hope is that I can wake up here in this present 58-year-old body and hold aloft the same positive, expectant attitude towards my own personal journey... Here I go, still seeking and creating and mourning and celebrating in this, my very own reality show - and I can't wait to see what happens next!

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