|English: Abraham Lincoln and his son Tad looking at an album of photographs. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)|
Recovery is a process, we take simple steps one day at a time. We learn how to live sober and we relearn how to work through issues and day to day events, all the while keeping our eye on the goal of maintaining and strengthening our sobriety and mental health. Often when a person is new in recovery they wonder how they will get through the holidays. Recovery professionals will offer suggestions: try to spend special days with your AA friends, volunteer, take a walk, get enough sleep, and maybe even take in a movie.
Movies help us escape and find meaningful relevance…
Who doesn’t like to go to the movies? Certainly children are taken in by the big screen and colorful 3D adventures. Teenagers like to see action movies, young adults enjoy watching romantic comedies or silly fantasies and then every once in a while grand historical productions appeal to many generations. When we take in a movie we feel part of a community, we are sharing something very special with a complete group of strangers. Over this holiday weekend, consider seeing LINCOLN.
If you have read any of the reviews of LINCOLN then you probably know that it has been in production since 2001 when DreamWorks finalized the film rights to Doris Kearn Goodwin’s Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln. You might be surprised to know that Goodwin’s book and the movie cover a very short period of time of Abraham Lincoln’s life, just the last four months of his life. But this production brings to life scenes of our Civil War, our congress, and a remarkably clearer understanding of what life was like for President Abraham Lincoln, his wife Mary Todd Lincoln and two of their then surviving sons.
LINCOLN can school us in depression and hopefulness
Many students of history have written about Abraham Lincoln. Some have discussed at great length that Lincoln suffered from depression, or what was often referred to as his melancholy. Authors also write about Mary Todd Lincoln’s battle with clinical depression and extreme grief, particularly after losing two young children to infectious diseases which were quite common in those days, Edward to tuberculosis just shy of four years old and Willie of typhoid fever at the age of 11. LINCOLN, the movie, doesn’t so much dwell on depression and grief, but the screenplay instead allows the viewer to “feel” these conditions in Lincoln, the man, and how he dared to imagine, dream and be hopeful.
In 2005 Boston’s NPR Terry Gross interviewed Doris Kearns Goodwin and asked her to talk about Lincoln’s depression.
GROSS: Now that we know so much more about depression than we used to, historians are starting to examine how, you know, depression may have affected important figures, including Lincoln. Do you have any new thoughts about what you describe as his, you know, melancholy temperament and how that affected him as a leader?
GOODWIN: I came away feeling that rather than suffering from chronic depression, that Lincoln did have a melancholy temperament from the time he was born. There’s a writer named Jerry Kagan who studied children from the ages of zero to 20 and argues if you look at them even three months, six months old, you can divide them into whether or not they have a melancholy or a sanguine kind of optimistic temperament.
And clearly, I think Lincoln had that melancholy temperament.
But he also had enormous resources all the way along to figure out how to get himself out of his sad moods, humor being one of them, conversation. During the Civil War, he would go to the play when he wanted to. He went to the theater a hundred times during the Civil War, if not more.
He would go to the battlefront when he felt sad over the loss of a battle to talk to the soldiers. He had an acute awareness, I think, of his own needs. And except for two depressions which we know about – one when his first love Ann Rutledge died, which it’s natural for somebody to fall into a depression – and secondly, there were a series of events that took place when he was in his 30s.
His best friend Joshua Speed was leaving town. His political career had suffered a blow. And he had broken his engagement to Mary Todd Lincoln. And he really did feel overwhelmed then by depression, and we have letters that he wrote saying that he was the most miserable man on Earth, and that if everybody felt like he did, there would not be one cheerful face on Earth.
And he actually was so frightening to his friends that they removed all razors and scissors from his room, fearing that he might take his life. But his best friend Joshua Speed came to his side and said, Lincoln, if you do not rally, you will die. And he said I would just as soon die now, but I haven’t done anything yet to be remembered by.
He had this dream from the time he was young that he was so fearful of just dying and turning to dust that somehow if he could accomplish something great – this is the way the Greeks used to think – your name would be remembered after you die. And that powered him through the early losses of his childhood. It powered him through his early days in the state legislature, and it helped get him out of this depression.
And the great thing is that many years later, when he finally signed the Emancipation Proclamation, Joshua Speed came to see him, and he said, well, Speed, remember that conversation we had when I was in my depths? Well, maybe at last, my fondest wish has been realized. I will be remembered after I die.
LINCOLN trailer, not a spoiler
Abraham Lincoln the man knew how hard life could be…he learned this from a very young age. But he worked hard, studied hard, stayed focused and found a great sense of purpose. He loved his family, he adored his children (as did Mary), he was able to reach people by just being willing to spend time with them. He liked to tell stories and he liked to ask provocative questions like: “Do we choose to be born? Or are we fitted to the times we are born into?”
Enjoy the trailer…
If you are having trouble viewing the video, you can see it here.
Wishing you a warm and peaceful Thanksgiving…
Abraham Lincoln understood the importance of a country giving thanks: Thanksgiving was first celebrated on the same date by all states in 1863 by a presidential proclamation of Abraham Lincoln.
So the holiday season is here. Tomorrow many will gather with their family and friends to celebrate Thanksgiving. We will give thanks for life and look forward to the future. It is important to remember that not everyone feels comfortable attending family holiday celebrations. There are good memories, bad memories and bittersweet memories that we all attach to holidays.
We wish our readers a peaceful Thanksgiving. Maybe Lincoln was right when he said: “The best thing about the future is that it comes one day at a time.”