Friday, January 27, 2012

What if?

Laura Linney gets real with younger man Topher Grace in P.S.
What would you do for a second chance?

That’s the tagline for the 2004 movie P.S., which we watched a few nights ago, having put it on our Netflix queue as another older woman/younger man love story. Louise, a 30-something divorcée played by Laura Linney, is still mourning the death of her high school boyfriend many years earlier. Now she meets a younger man who has his name, his looks and his affinity for art. Has her dead boyfriend returned? Naturally, complications ensue.

The movie didn’t dwell on the age gap (about 15 years), which was refreshing. The story had more to do with the ex-husband, the best friend, and sibling tensions. Still, it got me thinking about the idea of do-overs.

I’ve written about just this thing before: the summer boyfriend spurned,  killed in a car accident and then mythologized. In my case he returned in a dream to deliver a message about Michael, just when I needed to hear it.

Do-overs aren’t always so transcendent. I’ve moved back to places I’d lived before: Connecticut, Montana, Baltimore. I quit smoking at least 10 times before that final cigarette 22 years ago. Lost weight, gained weight, lost it, gained, lost again.  For writers, revising is a kind of do-over. Planting new seeds every spring? A do-over.

But the fantasy of getting a for-real redo – erasing large blunders and small goofs, getting things right after all these years – seems hardwired into human nature. What if? It’s an engaging vehicle for movies and books – in one 2009 book , a 48-year-old guy goes back to kindergarten and his prom night. But what if, instead of looking back and trying to redo your life, you could realize that what you might want to do over is in front of you right now? In the movie, Louise reconciles with her brother and lets go of the ex-husband as she recovers the balance she had lost while living in the past.

My friend Courtney put up a recent blog post that put this in perspective for me. A wise woman who just turned 32, she wrote about how her life has moved from the leading edge of journalism to another frontier that she loves even more: the husband, toddler, the hard work and joy of farming in central Montana. She’s surprised at how her life has turned out – it’s the last future she imagined for herself, but now that she’s in it, she has no regrets, doesn’t want a do-over.

Life is hardly ever what you imagine it will be. Michael and I have each abandoned places we love in order to be together. We’ve struggled to pay the mortgage some months, watched our dogs die, had arguments over silly things. But I've never wanted a do-over. And sometimes he’ll whisper into my neck,  “Will you marry me?” Meaning: I’d do all of it, all over again.

1 comment:

  1. Interesting...are we chasing ghosts or laying them to rest when we attempt to revive an experience through a reincarnation of a past love? There's an expectation there that's unfair to the person who is the "second chance." Can we look our mate in the eye and say, "I'm with you because you remind me of...[insert name here]," and subject him or her to old feelings or behaviors? Not fair.