Tuesday, January 4, 2011

My Shirley Valentine Manifesto


Once a year, I pull out the Shirley Valentine movie starring Pauline Collins. This 1989 movie details the dynamic growth of a Liverpool housewife who finds herself trapped in a meaningless existence of repetitive household chores devoid of purpose and social contact. Pauline Collins as Shirley talks to the kitchen wall about how her life de-evolved into its present state.

I first saw this movie when I was in my twenties. I saw the original British version which was put out in the art cinemas a few years earlier than the 1989 version. At that time, I was young, in college, and in control of my life. I can even remember my boyfriend who would jump to honor any request I might make. While I thought the movie was amusing I didn’t understand the feeling of being out of control that Shirley experienced in the first part of the movie.

The next time I saw the movie was when I got it for Thursday movie night, as a single parent of three kids. I’d watched the Disney movie with the kids and put them to bed, then, I watched my own movie. This time when Shirley wonders what happens to all the bright possibilities she had for her life while she was still in school I understood. Glancing around at my small living room with its shabby furnishings, I knew this was not the life I had envisioned for myself. My plans included everything from being a park ranger to flight attendant.

Each time, I watched the movie I came away with a new quote or insight. Like so many of us, Shirley bemoans her age that she is forty-two and it is too late to change. When her attitude changes, she is ONLY forty-two and has an equal amount of time in front of her. This was what I needed to hear because too often I thought I was too old or it was too late to start something. How foolish I have been to allow myself to be contained by a number. Suddenly I find myself blossoming like Shirley when she arrives in Greece when I cast aside the age barrier.

Remember how The Wizard of OZ started out in black and white then went to color when Dorothy lands in OZ. Shirley Valentine is a bit like that because all the shots in England are mostly gritty, dark and rainy reflecting Shirley’s unhappiness. In Greece she is framed by blue water and clear sunny skies—who wouldn’t be happy in that environment? Shirley grows by examining herself and what she wants out of life. Even though she knows she will be facing social disapproval by not fulfilling her role as wife and mother she decides to take care of Shirley for a change. The new Shirley grows more beautiful with looser hair, an unworried face and tanned skin. A friend of mine commented that the new Shirley wore comfortable, but colorful clothes.

Why is this movie my personal manifesto? Too often I get tangled up in projects and activities that have little to do with me. I may be completing missions that others started, but chose not to finish. Pretty soon, I lose sight of who Morgan is and what she needs out of life. Often I end up doing things because I think no one else will, which is true. What I fail to see is maybe it needs to not be done. The only thing I get out of it is frustration and exhaustion. Then it is time to sit down and re-evaluate my life. This movie is an excellent reminder to do just that.

It has inadvertently encouraged me to buck the expected. When I started telling people “no,” I gave long winded excuses that left me drained and laden with guilt. Now my no is simply no. Did people hate me because I refuse to be the person who got things done? No, actually it was just the opposite that's when I became more approachable. I give some the credit to plucky Shirley Valentine who gathered up her gumption and went for what she wanted. True, I wouldn’t mind flying to Greece and staying. My Greece is North Carolina and I’m definitely going.

Is there a movie out there that can serve as your video manifesto?

5 comments:

Paisley Kirkpatrick said...

Oh, Morgan, you have hit on a movie that I just loved and related to like you. My daughter and I saw it years ago and we still mention Shirley every now and then. I must see if I can figure out my video machine so I can see it again. I am so used to using the DVDs.

This movie is a classic and done so beautifully. I think it shows that you are personally responsible for yourself, your life and what you give and get out of being here.

Thanks for sharing and reminding me about Shirley Valentine. :)

Mona Risk said...

I never saw that movie. I am going to look for it. Yes, you can change your attitude or anything you want at any time or any age. Isn't that the purpose of New Year's goals and resolutions?

morgan wyatt said...

Paisley,
The movie is available on DVD and I bought mine from Amazon. :)

morgan wyatt said...

Mona,
I bet you could get it from Netflix if you didn't want to buy it. I would even lend you my copy.:)

Joanne said...

Morgan,
I have never heard of this movie, but I'm going to check it out. Thanks for sharing a very heart-felt blog.