Days after watching THE CURIOUS CASE OF BENJAMIN BUTTON, after leaving the dark, escapist theater where I shed more than a few tears, after returning home to pick up the kids, do homework, dinner, dishes and bedtime, I still suffered from a lingering sense of melancholy. I knew it was just a movie, a movie based on an impossible conceit no less, but I was disturbed by how watching a man age in reverse made me feel about my own life.
I’d heard of people who came close to death and returned with a new appreciation of living; their priorities simply and suddenly in check. Benjamin, having been born old and frail, was like one of those people. He had an unusual perspective that allowed him to understand early on the fleeting nature of the journey. He drank life in the way his tugboat captain drank his liquor. Daisy, on the other hand, had a less illuminated purview. She, like me, like most I presume, lived in denial of the finite while living very much in fear of it.
She wasted time, focusing on the frivolous and the immediate, fighting off the specter of death with each impulsive, life-affirming pleasure. While Benjamin walked, taking in all of what life had to offer, Daisy ran her race in a constant state of want, never opting for a moment of peace.
When I was young, I couldn’t wait to be an adult. When I was just out of college, I couldn’t wait to find a soul mate and success. After I had babies, I couldn’t wait for them to grow older. I always focused on what came next, hoping it would be there that I would finally be satisfied. Older people warned me I would miss the days I so often bemoaned, advising me to find happiness in the present. But like Daisy, I didn’t listen. I didn’t know how.
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