Downton Abbey has taught me a lot of very important lessons this year.
1. Evolve or be irrelevant.
This lesson applies to me as a psychologist and as the mother of adult children.I learned it by watching Lord Crawley relinquishing Victorian mores just as his mother, Violet, clung to them.He embraced a servant, the handsome Irish driver, Tom, as his son-in-law (who wouldn't?); accepted his daughter's out of wedlock child; and is comfortable with his irritating daughter, Mary, taking over the management of his estate with Tom.The head butler, Carson, is also becoming irrelevant though his wife, Mrs. Hughes is pushing him into the modern era. I want to regain my learner's mind at sixty and open myself up to new knowledge and experiences.And with the kids, it seems an ever-changing dance of novel moves I have to learn to avoid stepping on toes and to keep in rhythm. Sometimes, I need to move closer and sometimes further, and often I'm just watching on the sidelines cheering.
2. Form a relationship by acknowledging your vulnerability.
Mr. Molesley had a horrible first day as a village teacher lecturing children who were completely out of control.I empathize. Many of us had these moments in teaching.When he is advised to divulge that he is a servant to the children instead of dreading them finding out, he forges a genuine bond.The children are fascinated that he has reached the heights of being a teacher when they, themselves, are the children of servants. Here is a role model and an inspiration.Then there is the great cost to Lady Edith of her not disclosing to Bertie sooner that Marigold was her child. Embracing our hardships, our imperfections as important to our identity and not feeling shamed is so important to being able to connect and have compassion.
3. Maintain your relationship with your siblings even if you don't really like them.
Much to our surprise Edith suddenly appears for sister Mary's wedding.Last time we saw the two together (about 10 minutes before), Edith said quite matter-of-factly "You're a b___h"*. .Not content to ruin your life, you're ruining mine."The following is from the penultimate episode.
Edith: Now you're happy again, you'll be nicer... for a while.
Mary: If that's what you feel, then why are you here?
Edith: Because, in the end, you're my sister and one day, only we will remember Sybil [their deceased sister]... or Mama or Papa or Matthew or Michael or Granny or Carson or any of the others who have peopled our youth... until, at last, our shared memories will mean more than our mutual dislike.
Now that I'm seeing more clients my age, I realize how complex sibling relationships are as we navigate parental illness, death, and estates together.Old rivalries and mistrust percolate to the surface.Who appoints themselves to be in charge and what resentments does that bring?Who is a good child, a loved child, and who isn't? The possession of things seems to signify our status. .In the end, as Edith says, these are the only people who traveled with us our whole lives and remember the people we loved. I'm lucky because I really like my sister and brother and admire them a lot.I don't know if I'll ever be done with sibling rivalry but it has spurred me on to do great things like write a book.Our parents did a superb job of loving us all even though we know they liked Meryll best based on a comparative photograph count.
Thank you, Downton Abbey, for many timely lessons--- now if I could only have a few choice wardrobe items that I've been coveting, but I guess I'll have to be satisfied with the memories instead.
* The term, "B____h" was permitted in Downton Abbey but prohibited in my blog post by the powers that be who may still think they are living in the time of Lady Violet.