Boy did I pick the wrong week to binge watch “The Leftovers” – the HBO show that concluded its first season earlier this past Fall. Feeling a tad “leftover” myself these days, it might not be everyone’s first pick. Maybe something a little more holly jolly would be better served but I can’t help myself. That show got under my skin so I had to let it ride and see where it took me. And that’s really the point of this post. It’s not about the show. It’s about where the show moved me.
So, last night – after spending an afternoon with Colin & Aria chasing down some holiday errands and then decorating gingerbread houses – I tucked them tight in their beds and settled down on the couch to screen the season finale. I wrote a little bit about this on my Facebook wall, but figured I’d share here too.
See – I got HBO a couple of weeks ago as I was burned out on the Netflix movie selection and had already run through their series of note. In a perfect world, we’d have a la carte television. I don’t watch a ton of TV BUT I am a fan of Orange is the New Black (Netflix), Parks & Rec and Hannibal (NBC), and Fargo and The Americans (FX). I’ve also been jonesing to dive into Homeland (Showtime) along with True Detective and The Leftovers (HBO). The rest (aside from my Patriots), I could take or leave. Thus, a pay-as-you-go salad bar approach would be amazing BUT we don’t live in that perfect world – YET!!! So for now, it was time to say goodbye to Netflix and catch up on all those great HBO and Showtime shows.
I burned through True Detective the week after Thanksgiving and then decided to dive into “The Leftovers” (seems fitting given the time of year). The first too episodes were a cool, chilly, fascinating, infuriating slog. It just didn’t grab me initially – which was disappointing as I’m a fan of author Tom Perrotta and am one of the rare Damon Lindelof apologists who grooves to his particular brand of world-building. In short, he’s a guy who is great at taking familiar character archetypes, throwing them together in a mysterious situation, layering in tantalizing teases at a big umbrella mystery AND then daring us to take the eye off the ultimate prize and instead focus on the day-to-day. He’s all about the journey; less about the final destination.
Over the years, I’ve found that so am I. Hey, I’m a former X-Files nut. I LOVE debating what I think is going on when you find a show that hits that geeky mythological button so well. Remember, I’m the guy who wrote a ‘Lost‘ Blog on this very site for years devoted to pulling on every thread, determined to unravel the grand mystery. But somewhere along the line, I realized that I don’t really care as much about the end as I do the following the map along the way. For one – after the end – what else do we have? That’s all folks. It’s the part in the middle – those meandering paths these shows follow – where such glorious sites are seen; presuming the show-runner actually has a plan. Or some semblance of a plan. I’ll even take 12% of a plan.
After all – that’s life. That’s where the good stuff is found for all of us – in the new experiences and memories we forge along the way. Sure, we’re all curious about the end BUT really – who the Hell wants to get there? What rational person is in a hurry for that. As a guy who is decidedly non-spiritual, certainly not me. I’d rather enjoy things on this side of the grass-roots while I’m here. Carpe diem, mofos!!!
So, ‘The Leftovers’ ultimately paid off in some substantial ways even if it was a tough nut to crack initially. I’m usually a fan of the slow burn BUT this one is so damned sad and despairing at the beginning – that it was hard to really connect to in the first two episodes – or maybe that air of melancholia was hitting a little too close to home for me. More on that in a moment.
This show is insidious – really getting below the skin – and by the third episode, I was hooked.
That brings me to the second-to-last episode “The Garveys at Their Best” – where show runner Damon Lindelof takes one of his tried and true tropes from his days overseeing ‘Lost’ and uses it to devastating effect. Without treading too deeply into spoiler territory, we open on a sunnier, happier time BUT don’t know what time it is. Is it before the catastrophic event that opened the series (the sudden departure of 2% of the world’s population)? Is this much later when everything is right with this world? The answer comes quickly and what follows is an hour where every perception we’ve had of the show’s principals are completely challenged and up-ended. That’s some staggering, scary, empowering, inspiring, heart-breaking stuff jammed into that hour.
Simply put, it leveled me. One of the more heartbreaking touches was seeing the teenage daughter Jill, who as we have known her through 8 episodes is a blunt, bruised and broken girl – completely ambivalent about her surroundings while also lashing out at it. In that 9th episode, we see that on the day before the world changed – she was a goofy, giggly teenager. She was easily the sunniest, happiest character on this show in the days before the Departure. To see that same person go from that hopeful Point A to a completely hopeless Point B just levels you.
The Leftovers is a show that you have to work at to like (in the very beginning) but it becomes one that strengthens and deepens everything. It touches everybody. It haunts in the best way. It makes you really think and reflect. It becomes that mirror unto us.
So, there’s that old saying about time and place. It works two ways – right time and place or wrong. On paper – and knowing where my heart is on this day (5 days before Christmas, you could argue I picked the wrong time and place to watch this show. Like I said above, for the first time in my life (and certainly post-divorce), I’m feeling a bit “leftover” as we march towards the big day.
Well – up until a week ago, I hadn’t given much thought as to what I was going to do on Christmas Day. An invitation always comes from somewhere. That’s the way it’s been my entire life – with me ultimately choosing one and having to politely and graciously decline so many others. Or – I’m hosting things and get the privilege of sending out the call to all those I love so deeply.
In my married life, we traditionally hosted Christmas Dinner – and had the same family members troop out to the pioneer wilderness of South Central Massachusetts year-after-year. A handful from her family. A handful from mine. And then usually my buddy Sean – who may not hail from these parts (as neither do I) but he does have relations in the Auburn area and thus he could come out for his big family Christmas and pop down to toast a pint or two with his bestie of almost 25 years.
It was tradition.
Post divorce, we decided to keep things status quo for a year or two to help ease the kids into the “new normal”. So, for the last two years, the same plan has been followed. We’d open gifts in the morning and then prep for dinner – hosted at the house. Some of the regulars have changed as that’s what happens when the world moves on. Some things remain the same. Some things change. But overall, Christmas Day had a similar look and feel to so many other part Christmases.
And while it was a little strange holding on to that same tradition while everything else has adapted to the new world, it felt right to do that for the kids’ sake – knowing that everything changes in time.
This year, I received the invitation to pop in if I didn’t have any plans (as they are still hosting dinner) BUT I know that you can’t just hold onto the old because it feels comfortable. So, I politely declined and offered up my very honest reason for doing so. She’s working on building her new life. I’m doing the same. Or, that’s the plan anyway.
Still – that left me with a dilemma. What the Hell was I going to do on Christmas Day? I’m a social creature by stock in trade. I LOVE this holiday season for the very reason that I get to see so many friends and family. The weather outside is frightful but I couldn’t care less when the warmth inside their homes is always so delightful.
Now, it’s not a total bust this year. I’m not completely flying solo and have plenty of things to do, people to see and places to be. My new tradition of having the kids stay with me Christmas Eve is completely intact. We’ll get together that evening for a wonderful Christmas Eve celebration at my former in-laws who remain dear friends. Then the kids will travel back with me and get to wake at my place – where Santa has left a preliminary stocking (there’s another one and ALL those Santa gifts waiting back at the house). So, we’ll quickly get dressed, gather up all the presents I’ve got under the tree and head over to the house where we’ll share in the wonder of watching Colin & Aria rip into their bulbous bounty of gifts. Cap that with some coffee, cocoa and breakfast and then – in a change of pace from years past – I will bid them all a nice, warm and wonderful Christmas Day and let her enjoy a holiday with her kids (so rightfully deserved as I had the same pleasure on Thanksgiving. It’s only fair.)
As for the remains of my day – well, I am going to pop into a friend’s house that evening to toast the holiday with a festive cocktail – and that will just completely warm my heart. For the afternoon, I had cobbled together an impromptu plan that unfortunately unraveled once we discovered that NOTHING is open on Christmas Day (or – at least – nothing within close enough striking distance).
But everything is totally fine.
I mentioned feeling like a “leftover” at the outset of this. That’s true – partially. There is a part of me that feels so foreign and lost from time-to-time. It’s because around me I see so many people who have that thing I want most – but that you can’t just buy or manufacture or even really make with your own hands. It just sort of happens. I haven’t had it happen yet.
I know I get impatient begging the question; when does my new life really start?
I know what you’re thinking – why does my new life have to be defined by someone being in it? I don’t know how to answer that question. I don’t know if there is an answer to that question. It’s just how I feel. I measure myself by the people I let in. By that tally, I’m living large – BUT – I ain’t on top of the world. Not yet.
So, this holiday will be the first one where I’ll say goodbye to my kids a little sooner than I have in the past AND much too soon than I’d like to admit. That notion is enough to put me in a slightly off mood. A contemplative mood. But it’s a temporary mood.
And yes, I could go and do what I’ve done in years past. I’ve scored the official invitation. Or I could travel far to visit some other family members. But that being said, I’m telling myself NOT to be there. I HAVE to NOT be there. Those traditions are a remnant from an ancient world. There were some good, pleasant, holiday memories forged in the past. I know, without a shadow of a doubt, that I’ve got some good, pleasant holiday memories awaiting me in the future. They’ll come – in time.
Hell – I’m making some already – this very season.
It’s just that measly 4-5 hours in the middle of that random Thursday afternoon where so much importance is placed and I realize that it’s necessary for me to be able to weather a silence too; knowing that it is only temporary. That someday – hopefully soon – my entire Christmas Day will be so full of life; from the moment someone drags my sleepy head out of bed until the second that newly weary but blessedly contented noggin returns to its former place of slumber. I know that’s out there for me. OK – nobody knows everything – so I’ll leave it at a fond hope that it awaits.
But it’s not here yet and that’s totally fine. I can wait.
After all, that’s the type of thing Christmas wishes are made for.
P.S. I debated whether I should write this but ultimately I decided to do it. Nobody wants to feel sadly for anyone – certainly not at the holidays – and I didn’t want anyone who might stumble upon this to feel sad for me. NOT MY INTENT AT ALL!!! That said, this is sort of like my digital diary. I certainly don’t share everything BUT I finally felt good enough about this to write a few things down. I think “The Leftovers” pushed me over the hump.
Now – that said – this post and my last one sort of share a theme SO my Christmas Gift to all of you is an end to this “oh, woe is me” despair. I refuse to become the Eeyore of the Internet. Next week is all about the New Year – as I reveal my 4 Resolutions for 2015. It’s nothing but positive hope from here on out. 🙂