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I haven’t been able to watch much of the contest for the new leader of the Labour party.  I felt as if I was watching a car accident in slow motion, between my fingers, hardly daring to look, steeling myself for the inevitable catastrophic impact.  Which never came.

As the younger brother, Ed Miliband, stole the victory from his older brother, David, by a last-minute whisker of just over one per cent, the two brothers rose to embrace each other.   In his acceptance speech, Ed spoke first of all of his love for his brother and we now know that his first thoughts were what his victory would have done to his brother.

His older brother won the majority of support from Labour MPs, from members of the Labour Party, and from members of the shadow cabinet.  It was the union vote that won the leadership for the younger brother.  And now it looks as if the older brother will walk away from the front-line of the opposition – unable to take a place behind his brother.

Most of us have siblings and many of us can imagine how we would feel if we were one of the siblings in this very public contest for support for we have experienced similar events in our own lives, in the history of our families.  I identify with David’s position very easily.

How can David be pleased for his brother?  How can his own feeling of frustration at losing not cloud out any love for his brother. How can he not hate his brother for stealing his show?   Perhaps he is just resigned to Ed always creeping up on him and stealing his thunder.  Perhaps his expressionless face is the frozen face of a man who’s been kicked once too often by his brother.

Listen to this analysis here from Nick Robinson on today’s Radio 4 Today programme:

and a few minutes later this clip in which political commentator, David Aaronovitch, and left-wing blogger, Will Straw, of Left Foot Forward, discuss Ed Miliband’s first speech as leader of the Labour Party.

David Aaronovitch paints a picture of the younger brother triumphant in his acceptance speech, twisting the knife in his supplanted brother’s back by dismissing policies supported by David Miliband.  No overt cries of “Finally, I’ve won”, but the delight is nonetheless there.  David Miliband lashes out, but at Harriet Harman sitting next to him.  “Why are you clapping?” he asked her about the criticism of a decision that she, too, had voted in favour of (

In which case, David Miliband’s anticipated decision to leave the front benches is a passive aggressive response to being ‘done over’ by his brother’s triumph.  In a tight knit family of first generation immigrants, where the world outside is the enemy, and no divisions are allowed, and in the media spotlight, David cannot express his anger and upset in any other way.  So he distances, leaves the field, and hands the hollow victory to his brother: “See, you’ve won the crown.  But see how heavy it is, what a price you have paid, and see how much it hurts to wear it”.

I find it so easy to identify with the older brother.  My younger sister out-performed me academically at every level, driven by a ruthless need to compete and win.  She went to a private school, had considerably more success at public exams at 16 and 18, gained entry to a better university and was awarded a better class of degree.  And always in the mostly the same subjects that I had chosen.  French and English became our battlefields.  It wasn’t as if I was jealous, because her successes always came exactly two years after mine.  Perhaps I would have felt jealous if her successes came before my failures, but instead I just felt a sense of defeat, a sense of never having been quite good enough, and a dread of the next achievement that would be overshadowed by my younger sister.  I gave up.  It was not worth the aggravation, and I handed her the trophy.  She always knew that she had done better than me, she was always driven to do better than me.  My nightmares are populated by her smug Cheshire Cat face leering down with her most recent triumph.  Later, once we had both left education, I managed to secure a place on a prestigious EU programme for graduates – a singular success in an otherwise mediocre record –  and she cried when she heard.

A Different Perspective on Hope.

My wedding ring was made by Mr Hope in Birmingham.  It wasn’t new, but I liked the colour of the old soft gold, and it was made in the year of my mother’s birth, and we bought it in a nice friendly jeweller’s shop in a seaside town.   Mr Hope traded under the name ‘Hopeful’.

I’ve traded under that name a lot too – always hoping, always optimistic.

I was thinking about what I really mean when I “hope” that something happens.  I think I really mean that I “want” something to happen, and so, in a way, I am trying to control the future, wanting it to turn out according to my plan.

Seeing Hope like that suddenly makes Hope seems not such a good thing at all, at least not in all circumstances.  Because my plan for the future may be vastly different from someone else’s plan and imposing my hopes on them may feel as if I am controlling their destiny.

Sometimes I have hoped, and hoped, and hoped.  By which I mean I have really wanted something to happen.  But it hasn’t.  And it hasn’t happened because another person didn’t want it to.  Then I feel hopeless.  Or perhaps that is another way of saying that I feel sad because I have not got what I wanted.

Sometimes I hope for ridiculous things that no reasonable person would think would be likely to happen.  Sometimes I want something to happen that any sane person knows is never going to happen.  Sometimes I go on hoping far longer than I should.  I should have realised that the other person involved did not want the same thing as me, and so my desire or my hope was always going to be thwarted.  I think that sometimes I go on hoping or wanting because it hurts less than accepting that the other person does not want the same thing too.  I think it was a habit that I acquired in childhood which is not very healthy now.

Sometimes I just go on banging on the same door, over and over again, when it is locked and bolted and padlocked and forever shut to me.  I think I somehow thought it was virtuous to keep on hoping that the door would open.

Now I think differently.  If the other person wants the door to remain closed, and I want it opened, then there is a battle of wills.  And I’m going to lose because whether or not the door opens is not something I can control.  I can bang on the door all I want, it is not going to open unless the other person wants it to and all of my hope is not going to make the slightest difference, and so I need to go away and grieve, and cry, and ache and eventually get over it.

I think it would be better to save my hope for things that I stand half a chance of being able to influence.

I bought a copy of this book a couple of years ago to send to a friend.  She told me that she’d had three copies that birthday.  The book had her name written all over it, but I didn’t think it was for me.  Then I heard that Julia Roberts was starring in a film of the book, and I found myself in a supermarket looking for a third book to complete my “3 for 2” offer on paperbacks.  I couldn’t see anything else I vaguely wanted so picked up a copy of Eat, Pray, Love.  And I’ve carted it around with me everywhere I’ve been since then.

It’s wonderfully written.  It’s easy to read, and in a format that allows you to drop it and pick it up again and not to have to remember the plot.  It’s thought provoking in the extreme.  It’s educating.  It’s funny.  It chimes on so many levels.  And it’s unlikely that many men will voluntarily read it.  The sub-title makes that almost a certainty.  I mean, what man is going to sit on a train reading a bookcalled “Eat, Pray, Love: One Woman’s Search for Everything”.

It’s not a perfect book.  The author doesn’t tell us enough about why she has had such disastrous relationships, and I don’t sense that she is brave enough to really try to find out why.  She glosses over her “happy” childhood, and what she did, or didn’t, learn in periods of therapy, and thinks a burst of existential angst aged nine was merely a symptom of her precociousness, arising out of nowhere.  And yet she wants us to believe that she is accessing higher spiritual levels as she gets to know herself more and more.  I am unconvinced, though interested in the parallels she draws between transcendental practices in so many world religions.

She writes this (elsewhere) about her upbringing:

“My folks had strong ideas about self-sufficiency, self-reliance and independence of every possible kind (financial, political, emotional).  We raised a lot of our own food, kept goats and chickens and bees, made a lot our own clothes, heated the house with our own firewood, and pretty much stayed away from the outside world’s influence. Which isn’t to say that our parents were hippies or hermits, but just that they created this very small, self-enclosed world on those few acres of Litchfield, and what happened on our little farm bore terribly faint resemblance to what happened outside it.

This factor alone means that my sister and I were both encouraged to think outside the box, because we lived outside the box, and watched our parents, every day, making choices that weren’t in line with their neighbors and peers. Maybe that kind of free-thinking (or even oppositional thinking!) is the birthplace of imagination?”

In an interview about a book she wrote earlier called Stern Men, about lobster fishermen in Maine, she says this:

“But my parents were somewhat quirky (my father, particularly) and I always felt that our family (my father’s family, specifically) were a cast of fairly unusual souls, who lived in a world that didn’t really look like anyone else’s world—and who were also big drinkers and creative cursers, just like many of the characters in the novel. I think I got an early taste for insular eccentrics, which has never really abated.”

It sounds to me as if her father was unlikely to have been very emotionally available, that Ms Gilbert would, as a result, have had an anxious attachment to him and would have been drawn in adult life to repeat that pattern by being attracted to avoidant men in relation to whom she soon became “needy” and “controlling” …

And then I begin to speculate about her relationship with her new husband, described in the third part of the book.  She doesn’t really need much encouragement to get it together with Felipe, an older man from Brazil.

“Later, Felipe would tell me how he had seen me that night.  He said that I seemed so young, not in the least bit resembling the self-assured woman he’d come to know in the daylight world.  He said I seemed terribly young but also open and excited and relieved to be recognised and so tired of being brave …”

The difficulties of reconciling her life plans with his situation soon raise their head and, a few pages further on, she asks:

“So what will become of me and Felipe?  Now that there is, it seems, a “me and Felipe”?  He told me not long ago, “Sometimes I wish you were a lost little girl and I could scoop you up and say, ‘Come and live with me now, let me take care of you forever.’  But you aren’t a lost little girl.  You’re a woman with a career, with ambition.  You are a perfect snail: you carry your home on your back.  You should hold on to that freedom for as long as possible.  But all I’m saying is this – if you want this Brazilian man, you can have him.  I’m yours already.”

I’m not sure what I want.  I do know that there is a part of me which has always wanted to hear a man say, “Let me take care of you forever,” and I have never heard it spoken before.  Over the last few years, I’d given up looking for that person, learned how to say this heartening sentence to myself, especially in times of fear.  But to hear it from someone else now, from someone who was speaking sincerely …”

Now, that all sounds very nice.  I’ve got that part inside me too, but I think I know where it comes from, and I’m not sure I should listen to it too much because I know that it’s a double-edged sword.  Yes, it’s wonderful to be looked after and nothing wrong with looking after people.  But it creates a vertical dynamic in a relationship – that of parent and child – which is all very well in times of crises and extreme need, but I am not sure that I wouldn’t chafe under such a dynamic if it was the dominant force in my relationship because most of the time I prefer to be an adult rather than a child and I am a bit sceptical about men who choose relationships with much younger women.  There’s too much potential for it to turn into a controlling relationship, and, ultimately she wants to be adored too much, to be Daddy’s Girl, and I hope he doesn’t get sick of the role that assigns to him too.

It’s interesting that the film of the book does away with an obvious age difference between the two main characters.  Julia Roberts is actually two years old than Javier Bardem who plays Felipe.  It makes the film a nice fantasy, somewhat different from reality, as fantasy always is.

This is another gem from Eat, Pray, Love, courtesy of Richard from Texas.

“But I wish me and David could—“
He cuts me off. “See, now that’s your problem. You’re wishin’ too much baby. You gotta stop wearing your wishbone where your backbone oughtta be.”
This line gives me the first laugh of the day.
Then I ask Richard, “So how long will it be before all this grieving passes?”
“You want an exact date?”
“Somethin’ you can circle on your calendar?”
“Lemme tell you something, Groceries – you got some serious control issues.”
My rage at this statement consumes me like fire. Control issues? ME? I actually consider slapping Richard for this insult. And then, from right down inside the intensity of my offended outrage comes the truth. The immediate, obvious, laughable truth.
He’s totally right.
The fire passes out of me, fast as it came.
“You’re totally right,” I say.
“I know I’m right, baby. Listen, you’re a powerful woman and you’re used to getting what you want out of life, and you didn’t get what you wanted in your last few relationships and it’s got you all jammed up. Your husband didn’t behave the way you wanted him to and David didn’t either. Life didn’t go your way for once. And nothing pisses off a control freak more than life not goin’ her way.”
“Don’t call me a control freak, please.”
“You have got control issues, Groceries. Come on, Nobody ever told you this before?”
(Well…yeah. But the thing about divorcing someone is that you kind of stop listening to all the mean stuff they say after a while.)
So I buck up and admit it. “OK, I think you’re probably right. Maybe I do have problem with control. It’s just weird that you noticed. Because I don’t think it’s that obvious on the surface. I mean – I bet most people can’t see my control issues when they first look at me.”
Richard from Texas laughs so hard he almost loses his toothpick.
“They can’t? Honey- Ray Charles could see your control issues!”
“Ok – I think I am done with this conversation now – thank you.”
“You gotta learn to let go, Groceries. Otherwise you are gonna make yourself sick. Never gonna have a good night’s sleep again. You’ll just toss and turn forever, beatin’ on yourself for being such a fiasco in life. What’s wrong with me? How come I screw up all my relationships? Why am I such a failure? Lemme guess- that’s probably what you were up at all hours doin’ to yourself again last night.”
“All right Richard, that’s enough,” I say. “I don’t want you walking around inside my head anymore.”
“Shut the door then,” says my big Texas Yogi.

[More from Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert]

Supplementary …

The author is in an Ashram in India – a place where she went to meditate and find herself and God through Yoga, and is having a particularly difficult time that day. She has made a friend there, Richard from Texas, and right now they are at the dinner table together, talking.

“What’s got you all wadded up?” he drawls, toothpick in mouth, as usual.

“Don’t ask” I say, but then I start talking and tell him every bit of it, concluding with, “And worst of all, I can’t stop obsessing over David. I thought I was over him, but it’s all coming up again.”

He says, “Give it another six months, you’ll feel better.”

“I’ve already given it twelve months, Richard.”

“Then give it six more. Just keep throwin’ six months at it till it goes away. Stuff like this takes time.”

I exhale hotly though my nose, bull-like.

“Groceries [he calls her Groceries, how AWESOME is that?!],” Richard says, “listen to me. Someday you’re gonna look back on this moment of your life as such a sweet time of grieving. You’ll see that you were in mourning and your heart was broken, but your life was changing and you were in the best possible place in the world for it – in a beautiful place of worship, surrounded by grace. Take this time, every minute of it. Let things work themselves out here in India.”

“But I really loved him.”

“Big deal. So you fell in love with someone. Don’t you see what happened? This guy touched a place in your heart deeper than you thought you were capable of reaching. I mean you got zapped, kiddo. But that love you felt, that’s just the beginning. You just got a taste of love. That’s just limited little rinky-dink mortal love. Wait till you see how much more deeply you can love than that. Heck, Groceries – you have the capacity to someday love the whole world. It’s your destiny. Don’t laugh.”

“I’m not laughing.” I was actually crying. “And please don’t laugh at me now, but I think the reason it’s so hard for me to get over this guy is because I seriously believed David was my soul mate.”

“He probably was. Your problem is you don’t understand what that word means. People think a soul mate is your perfect fit, and that’s what everyone wants. But a true soul mate is a mirror, the person who shows you everything that’s holding you back, the person who brings you to your own attention so you can change your life. A true soul mate is probably the most important person you’ll ever meet, because they tear down your walls and smack you awake. But to live with a soul mate forever? Nah. Too painful. Soul mates, they come into your life just to reveal another layer of yourself to you, and then they leave. And thank God for it. Your problem is, you just can’t let this one go. It’s over, Groceries. David’s purpose was to shake you up, drive you out of your marriage that you needed to leave, tear apart your ego a little bit, show you your obstacles and addictions, break your heart open so new light could get in, make you so desperate and out of control that you had to transform your life, then introduce you to your spiritual master and beat it. That was his job, and he did great, but now it’s over. Problem is, you can’t accept that his relationship had a real short shelf life. You’re like a dog at the dump, baby – you’re just lickin’ at the empty tin can, trying to get more nutrition out of it. And if you’re not careful, that can’s gonna get stuck on your snout forever and make your life miserable. So drop it.”

“But I love him.”

“So love him.”

“But I miss him.”

“So miss him. Send him some love and light every time you think about him, then drop it. You’re just afraid to let go of the last bits of David because then you’ll be really alone, and Liz Gilbert is scared to death of what will happen if she’s really alone. But here’s what you gotta understand, Groceries. If you clear out all that space in your mind that you’re using right now to obsess about this guy, you’ll have a vacuum there, an open spot – a doorway. And guess what the universe will do with the doorway? It will rush in – God will rush in – and fill you with more love than you ever dreamed. So stop using David to block that door. Let it go.”

“But I wish me and David could —“

He cuts me off. “See, now that’s your problem. You’re wishin’ too much, baby. You gotta stop wearing your wishbone where your backbone oughtta be.”

[From  Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert]

My doctor, my GP, was a very wise woman.  She still is, I’m sure, but she’s not practising any more.  She was my doctor for almost twenty years during which time I saw her about fifteen times.  Her impact on me was out of all proportion to the time I spent with her.  She was a no-nonsense doctor, prescribing the gym rather than expensive treatments or painkillers, offering me work space in her surgery if I wanted to re-establish myself in legal practice, telling me I would have died in childbirth if I had been living in Africa, and, most of all, telling me that I had to make sure that my relationship with my husband came before my relationship with my children because that was the rock on which all other relationships would be built.

I’ve never forgotten her saying that and her words have always nudged me at appropriate times, at difficult times.

It easy to see families where this cardinal rule has not been appreciated.  Sometimes I think whole continents are populated by families where the oppposite rule prevails, but I think my doctor got it right because this is what I think happens when the rule is ignored.

Take a man who believes that he is superior to his wife.  And feels the need to insist on it.

His wife’s self esteem will naturally be affected by constantly being given the message that she is inferior.  Nobody can bear being in this position in their primary emotional relationship without some detrimental effect on their self-worth.

She may to some extent bolster her opinion of herself by communing with other women, but she lacks something essential to a healthy couple – mutual, reciprocal self-regard.

Chances are that he still holds his mother up to be the perfect woman, and measures his wife against her.  Perhaps he also has a sister whom he outwardly adores and against whom the wife is measured and falls short.

What is the wife to do?

She could leave, but she is unlikely to do so, especially if she has children.

Odds are that she will, unconsciously, seek to find fulfillment in her children.  In her sons.  In her younger son if she has more than one.  Or in her older son if the next child is a way away or is a daughter.  Feel sorry for him now for he has no idea where he is being led.

In addition to needing to know that in someone’s life she comes before all others, she also needs to define herself in relation to the Other, and daughters don’t cut the mustard.   She is female only in relation to male.  This two needs are normal, natural, essential.

But the way she finds of meeting them is disastrous, for it perpetuates the cycle.

The son is too young to be the bearer of his mother’s emotional needs.  He will feel swamped and, underneath, angry that this has been put on him.  This will be mixed with his love for his mother, his primary carer, and the resulting mix is toxic.  It breeds narcissism – that horrible combination of shame and grandiosity that wrecks the lives of so many people.  It is a terrible thing to do to a son, however understandable the mother’s behaviour is.  No wonder he grows up angry, full of rage.

In order to salve his shame, and unable to do so himself, he will seek a woman to make him feel better.  He might be obviously full of his own importance, in which case he will be easier to spot, but he may well appear shy, but charming.  She’ll probably be the sort  of woman who was ignored by her father at home.  Very possibly a daughter from a family with this narcissistic germ in it.  She’ll be keen to please, kind, self-sacrificing, full of praise (never having had any), encouraging, nurturing, mothering (having had to mother herself).  She may well be able to see the shame of the little boy on the inside and desperately want to rescue him.  Who would not feel sorry for him?

Though initially he is attracted to her and he hopes she will save him from his shame, she will push his red panic buttons big time – his fear of being smothered by his mother.  And so he will, sooner or later, distance himself from her.  He will never allow true intimacy to develop, though there may be sufficient tantalising glimpses to keep his wife hooked in and assure him of his narcissistic supply.  She may or may not be able to see what is at the root of his discomfort, but it very unlikely that he will see it, or allow himself to see it.

His wife will feel lonely.  After all, her emotional needs are not being met.  She will, subconsciously, realise that this man is hollow at his core.  And she will be desperate for food, like the rat seeking comfort in the cage of intermittent reinforcement.

And the cycle starts all over again, especially if she has sons.

It’s possible to break the cycle at any point.

The husband can recognise his ambivalence and seek help to resolve it.  He was a victim when he was a child and it was not his fault, though his behaviour now is his responsibility.

The wife can recognise her enabling behaviour and stop.  The relationship will almost certainly fail, but it’s possible the husband might join her in counselling.

The son can recognise what has been done to him, and seek help to ensure that he does not repeat the pattern.  The hardest part will be facing up to his relationship with his beloved mother and, if she continues to place emotional demands on him which are inappropriate, dealing with those and the fall-out in their relationship.

The daughter can acknowledge what she has been denied and seek help to ensure that she does not find herself in a similar relationship to her parents.  She will have to face up to her feelings of not having been loved, and will have to develop the strength to deal with her family members without giving up too much of herself, and she’ll probably have to go through several relationship with men like her father before she recognises that there is a pattern.

I wish my doctor was still around to speak to every young woman like me, getting married or having her first child – to give her such good advice.  I was so lucky not to find myself married to a man like my father.  It seems like a miracle, considering, and I am endlessly thankful for an opportunity to break the cycle with our family and our daughters.  I am grateful that my mother-in-law did not smother her son.

M: So, what did you think?

F: About the film?  Well, it wasn’t exactly a bundle of laughs.

M: No, but about her, about what she did?

F: I don’t know.  I suppose I felt angry with him, for having all the power and for using it against her.  It was vile.  I mean, OK, she’d had an affair, but that doesn’t give him the right to rape her.  Physically and morally, I mean.  He made sure she had nothing except her clothes.

M: Not forgetting her lover.

F: Yes, and her lover.  He was quite cute, actually, but then he’s an actor, not really a bit of rough.  But he wasn’t much use when it came to buy food in the supermarket or filling the car with petrol, and, anyway, it was still about what was between the husband and wife.  That’s what had caused the rift.  He was just an incidental.

M: Who says?  We don’t know.  The film doesn’t show us.  It looked as if she was, as her husband said, like “a bitch on heat”, just looking for some rough sex.

F: You don’t leave your family for rough sex, though.  You just have the rough sex and come home, don’t you?

M: You do if you are a man, perhaps.  But she wasn’t.

F: No, I had noticed.  Flat-chested, but definitely female.

M: Heartless, too.  No remorse, apparently.  One expression of regret and that was it.

F: I agree, and she didn’t get my sympathy because of that.  Then again, it would be difficult to feel sorry for someone who had just raped you.

M: But he didn’t deserve to die, did he?  She had other ways out – like heading off with her lover towards Spain and finding a physio job elsewhere.  Don’t tell me there are no physio jobs in France or that her husband controlled everything everywhere.  Besides, didn’t she owe it to her husband to try to sort things out with him?

F:  Of course she did.  But we weren’t shown a woman who had options.  She was shown as a woman possessed, who couldn’t do “autrement”, when she did have choices and could have acted differently.  She was very selfish, when it comes down to it.  I don’ t think she was thinking about anyone except herself, not even her lover.

M: But the switch from companionable long-lasting love, to hate.  That was horrible.  It’s like there are two sides to the coin.  Love and Power and if you flip the coin over, you get the ugly side, the anger, the desire to hurt the other person.

F: It’s easier to hurt the other person than to feel the hurt yourself.  Anger keeps you going.  At least for a while.

M: So the husband used his anger to stop himself feeling hurt.  Wouldn’t the hurt have crept in eventually?

F: Sure, except she killed him, so it never got to that point.  And, for some people, the anger never does give way to a more realistic picture.

M:  I can think of a few …

F: No, but for most people, after a while, when the anger has gone, most people – except the narcissists, of course, can see that there were two sides.  And narcissists don’t wait to be left.  They do the leaving.  So most people do see that they contributed to what happened, which is not excuse it, but to begin to understand.  And all the family crap, the baggage too.  Which I guess everyone has to some degree.  I don’t think, in real life, that something like this comes out of nowhere.

M: She looked a lot like Felicia and Angela, sort of combined.  I kept imagining that it was them, all the time.  It was uncanny.

F: Do you think they have had similar experiences?

M: Felicia, perhaps, so they say.  Angela?  No idea.  But I can imagine that Felicia’s husband might have used all his power to get her to come back, given her a few more swimming pools and walled gardens, and I cannot exactly imagine her packing melons, not for anybody.  What gets me, though, is if the boot had been on the other foot and the husband had had the affair and left … he would have ended up with his lover and the money.

F: Ah, yes, but then she would have used her power.

M: What power?  She didn’t have any.

F: Not in this plot, no.  But reverse it so she’s the one left at home.   She had the children.

M: Yes, you’re right.  But he had the children in the film too, and he didn’t use them, not until the end.  The man uses his wallet and the woman uses the children.  Bargaining chips when the love has gone.

F: You cannot blame them.  You just use whatever you have.  Like Tony saying he’d leave the country if Anna asked him for money after she left.  Or Kathryn saying that Richard had hit the children after he left.  She should have stayed.  It wasn’t reason enough to leave.  Should have been a Meryl Streep in Bridges of Madison County ending.  Except, come to think of it, she was terminally sad afterwards, wasn’t she.

M: God.  Horrible, isn’t it.  Makes you shudder, what people do to each other.

F: When we allow ourselves to be vulnerable.  Which is why it is such a good film.  I mean, look at Nick sitting in the audience with a new girlfriend.  I bet he’d heard almost every line in that film, and he ended up with the bum deal.  His wife left him and hooked up with a rich man and he’s got nothing.

M: Yup.  But that does happen, doesn’t it?

F: Yes, because she hooked up with a man who had more power than her husband had.  Like Diana, leaving Paul for Mark R.

M: No.  In that case, she already had all the power, because the money was hers.

F: Unusual.  But it happens.  Makes me feel sick.

M: Not pretty, I agree.

F: I felt sorry for the lover.  He was so powerless.  Surprising he didn’t turn round and bite her really.  She ruined his life and I think he loved her.  She should have left him alone.

M: Oh, come on.  He’s an adult.  Not a victim.  He probably couldn’t believe his luck.  What else did he have going for him?  Some dead-end building job, crappy one bedroom flat in a dump of an HLM, seeing his daughter once a month.  She was a fantasy, a diamond in a life of concrete.

F: Blood diamond, more like.  Actually, come to think of it.  The diamond round her neck was the one constant in her wardrobe.  I’d like one like that, nestled just in the dip in her clavicle.

F: Hmmm.  Interesting interviews.  Noticed that she used “terrible” in an English not a French way?  Can you do that? Interesting how she latches onto the woman discovering “desire” as if she’d never experienced it before.

M: I agree.  Puts desire and financial security in opposition to each other.  Can’t they exist together?

F:  Not as she describes it, because she’s talking about women who are unhappy in their marriages but have to stay because they don’t have any choice.  They might have financial security, but, sure as hell, they are not going to experience desire in that set-up.

M: Why not?

F: Well, because there was no love.

M: Didn’t look as if it was love that was driving her in the film.  More like lust.  Animal passion.

F: Perhaps.  But she felt desired, and she desired in return.  It was mutual.  It has to be mutual.  It won’t work if there is a power imbalance.

M: Not sure about that.  What about a situation where a man has all the power.  What does the woman feel then?

F: Abused?  Exploited?  Used?  Gone far enough down that road, I think.  But I challenge you to find one realistic love affair where there is no equality.

M: Done.  I take issue with you on one thing.  You said she felt desired and felt desire in return.  It didn’t look like that to me.  Not in that order.  OK.  So he kissed her.  But what about her behaviour packing up all the stuff, right at the beginning.  Big come on, wasn’t it. Who desired who first?

F: Ah, you’ll have to watch it again to see.

M: Brilliant film though.

“In the midst of winter I found within myself an everlasting summer.”


For a beautiful version sung by Bette Midler, go here:

Some say love it is a river
That drowns the tender reed.
Some say love it is a razor
That leaves your soul to bleed.

Some say love it is a hunger
An endless, aching need
I say love it is a flower,
And you it’s only seed.

It’s the heart afraid of breaking
That never learns to dance
It’s the dream afraid of waking
That never takes the chance

It’s the one who won’t be taken,
Who cannot seem to give
And the soul afraid of dying
That never learns to live.

When the night has been too lonely
And the road has been too long.
And you think that love is only
For the lucky and the strong.

Just remember in the winter
Far beneath the bitter snow
Lies the seed that with the sun’s love,
In the spring, becomes the rose.

To let go does not mean to stop caring,
it means I can’t do it for someone else.
To let go is not to cut myself off,
it’s the realization I can’t control another.
To let go is not to enable,
but allow learning from natural consequences.
To let go is to admit powerlessness, which means
the outcome is not in my hands.
To let go is not to try to change or blame another,
it’s to make the most of myself.
To let go is not to care for,
but to care about.
To let go is not to fix,
but to be supportive.
To let go is not to judge,
but to allow another to be a human being.
To let go is not to be in the middle arranging all the outcomes,
but to allow others to affect their destinies.
To let go is not to be protective,
it’s to permit another to face reality.
To let go is not to deny,
but to accept.
To let go is not to nag, scold or argue,
but instead to search out my own shortcomings and correct them.
To let go is not to adjust everything to my desires,
but to take each day as it comes and cherish myself in it.
To let go is not to criticize or regulate anybody,
but to try to become what I dream I can be.
To let go is not to regret the past,
but to grow and live for the future.

To let go is to fear less and love more
To let go and to let God, is to find peace.