Last month while watching Bridget Jone's Diary at our ladies movie night, I was shocked to learn that Letty had never watched Love Actually. The only solution for this was to get her to the theater! Letty is not only a hilarious and talented actress, singer, and comedienne, but she's also a very hip wife and mother. More importantly, she's a dude's dude kind of lady and I was mostly interested to see if she would be as emotionally touched by Love Actually as she was by R. Kelly's Trapped in the Closet. So, naturally, we decided to do a joint/linked posting. You can read her's HERE!
And now, on with my post:
Last year Love Actually changed for me. Although I had been broken up from Mr. Ex for nearly a year, it was my first Christmas since we ended. Looking back now, I don't understand why I was having such a hard time with it, but I was pretty miserable and listening to this song endlessly:
Last year I hosted a co-ed viewing of Love Actually, cooked a huge turkey, and desperately tried to withhold my tears from my guests. It didn't feel cathartic enough, so after they left I watched the movie a second time, while sobbing, and was surprised that the scene that produced the most tears had changed from this one:
to this one:
CRAP! YouTube doesn't allow embedding on the only video of this scene I could find! You can view it HERE.
At the time I wasn't entirely sure why the Emma Thompson and Alan Rickman scene moved me so much more than before. Sure, I understood overwhelming disappointment brought on by self-inflicted excitement. Many times throughout my life I have imposed a false sense of hope onto a relationship just to feel foolish when that optimism is unmet in the end. Last year it was especially fitting since I was reliving my most recent breakup, but more unexpectedly, my emotions were heightened by a new relationship expectation.
Last Christmas I made plans to spend Christmas Day and the following day with my "real" father. He and I had recently reconnected after nearly six years of not seeing each other and practically zero interaction whatsoever. While I can't pinpoint a single incident that lead me to end contact with him, I was full of disappointment whenever I thought about our relationship. Essentially, it just didn't feel good to me to have him in my life.
Last year, while I was sobbing watching Emma Thompson's character eagerly open a gift from her husband, which she had anticipated to be the gold necklace she had found in his coat pocket instead of the Joni Mitchell CD she actually received, I remembered a particular Christmas from my childhood. I must have been in kindergarten, as my parents were on the verge of a divorce, and my father came home early from work and asked my sister and me to wrap a special present for our mother and hide it deep underneath the tree. It was a bottle of her favorite perfume, Cacharel's Anais Anais. By Christmas morning I had forgotten all about the special bottle underneath the other presents. My mother had opened a handful of gifts from my father already and reacted enthusiastically to each one, thanking him and telling him how wonderful, thoughtful, and loving he was for every single gift. Just when we had thought all the presents had been opened, my father instructed my mum to look once again because he thought there was one present left. Alas, there was the present my sister and I had wrapped! This really confused me as a child, because my mum had already unwrapped a bottle of Anais Anais and I had assumed that my father re-wrapped the gift my sister and I had messily scotch taped together. My mother seemed very surprised and a bit reluctant to open this last box, but she unwrapped the present and started crying when she saw that it was another bottle of her favorite perfume. She repeatedly asked my father if he had bought it for her and was very emotional. I couldn't understand why this second bottle of perfume elicited so much more reaction that the first, or all the other gifts he gave her for that matter. It wasn't until many years later, as an adult, that my mother explained that she had bought all the other gifts for herself, pretended they were from my father, and was genuinely shocked by the one present he actually got her.
It's hard for me to imagine trying to hold it together to make the last family Christmas seem normal for your two young daughters. It's hard for me to imagine elaborately purchasing, wrapping, and opening gifts with your family when you are miserable and just months away from ending an unsuitable marriage. What isn't hard for me to imagine, however, is getting that surprise bottle of perfume and being overwhelmed by the optimism it gives you within a relationship. I've felt that optimism many, many times.
Last night, while I was crying at the Joni Mitchell gift scene next to my lady friends, I cried not just for my mother's Christmas all those years ago, but I also cried out of joy; joy that comes from a lesson learned, irregardless of how long it took to finally learn. Even though my father didn't speak a word of it, I learned this lesson from him. All types of relationships, be they romantic, familial, or platonic, are set up to fail by imposing too many expectations and hopes into something that is wrought with error. Knowing that makes it much easier for me to forgive the people who haven't met my expectations. After all, they failed by my standards, not theirs. And perhaps, from their angle, they did the best they could. So in the spirit of the holidays, last night confirmed my introspective, Christmas Carol-esque growth as a human and I've learned to forgive again.