We are all familiar with the idea of reprising a television series or a movie. Some of these do-overs can be fantastic, hitting all the right notes, while others can be absolutely abysmal, threatening to ruin our memory of the original we enjoyed so much. I confess that I’ve spent some time recently binge watching And Just Like That, the largely popular reboot of the wildly successful HBO series Sex and the City. I did not expect to be wowed, but I most certainly was. Because there is such a wide range of quality when it comes to TV and film reprises, l think we’ve all come to approach them with a fair amount of caution. This led me to wonder what is it exactly that makes for a successful do-over? Why does one work, while another fails so miserably? In terms of And Just Like That, the answer has a lot to do with the fact that the new series captures the feeling of the original perfectly, yet moves the storyline in new directions that are completely unexpected. These shifts allow us to accept that the characters are on new journeys, and any new additions to the cast have become both comfortable and complementary. Even the absence of the beloved Samantha has been handled deftly, and in such a way that makes us feel as though she is still present, yet changed. Because And Just Like That bathes us in so much familiarity while making it clear that this is 2023, and not 1998, it made me think of the times that we try to reprise something in our own lives that comes from a certain time period or place. I wondered if there were any parallels that could be drawn between our own do-overs and Hollywood reboots. Does the same formula for success apply?
I spend a fair amount of time thinking about getting older. How could I not? The days go by like they are passengers on a speeding freight train, and suddenly I have children in their thirties and almost thirties, and an oldest granddaughter who just turned six. Some days I really do wonder when all that happened, even though I know I’ve been present for it the whole time. I’m not someone who minds being the age I am; I don’t want to give the wrong impression. There is, in fact, something that’s quite nice about recognizing myself as the same person, with the almost identical thoughts and reactions that I’ve always had, but now with the additional layer of solid experience that lends a bit of wisdom to share. As long as I’m healthy, I’d really like to be one of those white-haired pasta granny ladies, still cooking in the kitchen at 102. And yet, there are days when I don’t love what I see in the mirror, and I worry and wonder about growing old gracefully and remaining vital and relevant to everyone who knows me. I certainly believe in the reinvention of the self, at any age, and I’ve done it in big ways and small ones, but lately I’ve felt that I want a mantra that I can put up on my wall that will reassure me that everything and anything still remain possible.
My oldest granddaughter Nora has no shortage of confidence. She will often say things to me like “Freezie, I am magnificent at art.” Or “Freezie, you know that all my ideas are really, really great.” That last one, in particular, always gets me. I think of my reactions to my own ideas, and the fact that I usually have to consider them ten ways to Sunday before I decide that they’re even marginally good, let alone really great. I’ve only ever seen her confidence falter once when she brought sleeping bags over for a slumber party we were having, but then decided that my bed was cozier. “I guess that wasn’t one of my best ideas,” she said in a way that broke my heart, and I replied that not only was it a really, really great idea, it was a scathingly brilliant idea! If you’ve ever seen the movieThe Trouble With Angels from way back in 1966 starring Rosalind Russell as the Mother Superior and Hayley Mills as the less than cooperative student, you’ll recognize the line. If you haven’t seen it and attended Catholic school as a child, then you need to watch it as soon as possible. So many things will resonate! Since the sleeping bag incident, I’ve told Nora at least three times a week that her ideas are scathingly brilliant, and she wholeheartedly agrees with me every time. It has led me to wonder at what point along the way do we lose the ability to maintain that level of nearly unfaltering confidence?
In last week’s post, I mentioned that I’d discovered a new podcast called On Being with Krista Tippett. I confess that up until about two months ago, I was not much of a podcast listener. I had a few favorites, mostly astrological, but I hadn’t really branched out all that much beyond those. I think people who regularly listen to podcasts will say, however, that once you discover some good ones that you like, they will often lead you to more that are similar in style and content. And so that has happened to me. I came across House Calls with Dr. Vivek Murthy through On Being and have quickly become a huge fan. I’m almost embarrassed to tell you that I did not immediately know who he was. For those of you who are in that same boat with me, Vivek Murthy is the 21st Surgeon General of the United States. In a groundbreaking move on May 1st, he issued an advisory to call our attention to the mental and physical effects of loneliness, which he sees to be an epidemic in our country. The powerful force of loneliness is a topic that I’ve written about quite often on this blog and as recently as last week, in fact. As it turns out, over 50% of U.S. citizens have reported feeling isolated even before the Covid-19 pandemic, with those feelings intensifying in its aftermath. As you would expect, House Calls covers topics related to the ways in which we can manage these kinds of emotions and move in a far more compassionate and empathetic direction overall.
I was unfamiliar with the idea of ambiguous loss until only recently when I heard it explained by the rather famous psychotherapist Esther Perel on an episode of On Being with Krista Tippett, an equally famous podcast. Originally coined in the 1970s by Pauline Boss, also a relational therapist, ambiguous loss is most simply explained as loss without the opportunity for closure. Even when a loved one dies under the most tragic of circumstances, we generally have knowledge of the events that led to their death or may have even experienced those events firsthand. Despite our seemingly insurmountable feelings of grief, being armed with such understanding will eventually lead us to acceptance and closure. When the facts of death are unknown, however, such resolution remains beyond our reach. Consider the example of losing a loved one to a disappearance or kidnapping, to an act of war or terrorism, or to a natural disaster. All of these cases deal with the concept of “physical absence with psychological presence.” Our loved one is gone, but we are unable to fully accept this as fact because the circumstances of their death or disappearance remain remote and unexplained, rendering them impossible to process. Similarly, there are instances when we know where a person is or what has happened to them, but our relationship has changed because of circumstances like separation, divorce, or incarceration, and contact may become unwelcome, restricted, or even prohibited. The very modern occurrence known as “ghosting” would also fall into this category, in the sense that when a relationship ends without explanation or an opportunity for conversation, it can feel very much like a death or disappearance. Closure and acceptance can take years.