Lessons from Gone with the Wind...

lessons for clara

Dear Clara, I just returned from a few days in Atlanta last week.  I don’t think there is ever any possibility of going to that city without thinking of green velvet drapes and feisty tempers.  Margaret Mitchell’s penned classic and Vivien Leigh’s spirited interpretation of Scarlett O’Hara in Gone with the Wind will remain always one and the same with that city for me.  It might be an old story by the time you’re my age, but it will still be a true classic.  Here is what I’ll always remember from it:

  • You can lose everything: At almost any moment.  Scarlett definitely knows a thing or two about loss, but in any story that spans a generation, I’m always taken by how privilege at the start doesn’t necessarily mean so at the end, and vice versa. We’re born what we’re born with, and some of us got it a little luckier, but that doesn’t mean it’s guaranteed.  Anyone’s fortunes could change either by circumstance or by their own foolishness---be prepared to mitigate against both.
  • Sometimes you have to create from what you have, not from what you want: Scarlett’s dress that she fashioned from her drapes is probably the best example in this story, but you’ll find that she does this over and over again.  Sometimes, if not most times, we won’t have as much as we want . . . as new as we want . . . as different as we want . . . at the time that we want it.  But people who are most resilient and most successful look at what they have, and make it fit what they need, not what they want.
  • Life is under no obligation to give us what we expect: When I read Gone with the Wind, I think I must have dog eared at least twenty pages of quotes and words to remember, if not more.  I was a great collector of quotes back in the day, and I think this particular one captures how much we have to be careful about expectations since then we are often disappointed. The one I remember most though, were Rhett’s words about mending what’s broken:  “I was never one to patiently pick up broken fragments and glue them together again and tell myself that the mended whole was as good as new. What is broken is broken---and I'd rather remember it as it was at its best than mend it and see the broken places as long as I live.”  That quote did, and still does, make me nearly cry because I happen believe the opposite.  I think there is room for mending, and room for forgiveness, and I don’t believe that there are things such as permanently broken---but I think Rhett is just expressing the way that many people truly feel.  And you’ll come across people who believe in that strongly sometimes, and you’ll have to know when to keep fixing, and when to let it go because they will never see past the mend.  It's always best not to break in the first place, but we make mistakes, and not everyone will forgive us.
  • People always come back: There is something uncanny about the way characters unfold in Gone with the Wind, and it mirrors life very much this way.  Even though the protagonists go through all sorts of changes and life takes them on many paths, they always seem to run together at different points in life.  Always appreciate people as though you’ll never see them again, because chances are, you will.  When you do, you will be glad that you left on good terms to pick up from; when you don’t, you’ll be reassured that you left with your best foot forward.

All my love,

Mom