There is so much talk of what one’s goals in life are or ought to be. Should one desire to be successful, wealthy, happy, obedient or to make the world a better place? This examination is entirely appropriate and commendable, but while watching Downton Abbey my mind turned to the less-examined topic of entirely pointless, yet momentarily satisfying and amusing, life goals.
Illustration of my point requires a spoiler of a very small component of the final episode of series 5 of Downton, but if you haven’t seen it by now, you’re even slower than I am as I’m sure it aired in the UK at around the same time as the show is set, and has just taken the intervening 90 years or so to reach television screens of those antipodeans too lazy/ fiscally conservative/ late in adopting new technology to download Netflix (a class of which I am a proud member). If you are in the same class and have not seen the episode and would like to, avert your eyes from the following four lines!
*LOOK OUT, SPOILER AHEAD* Tom made a comment to his sister-in-law, Edith which disclosed that he knew that the child she had recently adopted as her ward was in fact her birth daughter. Edith, wanting to keep up the pretence in the face of Tom’s insight, said to him “I don’t understand what you mean”. He replied in an understanding and gentle fashion, “I think you do.” *END SPOILER*
In that instant, I demanded to know from my poor husband (who just likes to watch television without my incisive commentary) why it was that people on television were always saying “I don’t understand what you mean” and being met with the swift response “I think you do”, (I’m sure it happens at least twice a series on Downton), yet I have never once had such a conversation in REAL LIFE in which I have been in that rarefied position of ascertaining a person’s secrets and then skilfully confronting my subject and being able to say, in response to their trepidation, the soothing and or confronting words, “I think you do”. My wise husband did not suggest why it might be that I had never been in that position, but listened in patient silence while I declared THEN AND THERE that my new life’s goal was to be able to utter those words in that particular context. Fervent resolutions as to my future over, we nestled comfortably back into the world of the Crawleys.
Later, I listened to episode 12 of Annabel Crabb and Leigh Sales’ entertaining podcast, Chat 10 Looks 3, in which Sales described an interview conducted by Hamish Blake with Hilary Clinton some years ago where Hamish had asked Clinton if she’d ever had the occasion to say to anyone, “You’ve just made a very powerful enemy”.
It made me wonder what phrases other people wish they could utter and have, in a moment of questionable grasp of perspective, determined to make it their life’s goal to say at some point in their lives.
I then reflected on other unconventional life goals – the kind that make no real difference other than for the purposes of amusing oneself. I’m not talking about regular bucket-list items- jumping out of planes or running a marathon or helping orang-utans in Malaysia, but more akin to Miranda Hart’s Miranda-esque goals eg to see human galloping become commonplace in society including for businessmen, or a fully grown woman possessing a bed with a slide and a ball-pool at the end.
Here are two of mine, make of them (and my sanity) what you will:
- To somehow morph into a combination of Helen Richey, judge from “Dancing with the Stars”, and Dame Helen Mirren (they are basically the same person, so that part of it is achievable) once I enter my autumn years- basically, to be an older lady of immense grace and elegance. If you know me and my older relatives, you’ll know just how unlikely this is.
- To solve a mystery, Hercule Poirot style, while on holiday, where I explain my detailed reasoning to all present in a room before masterfully confronting the culprit. Of course, the mystery must be completely trivial in nature eg “The Great Mystery of the Last Tim Tam” (think Liz Lemon in the “It’s Never Too Late for now” episode of 30 Rock).
I am yet to determine whether achieving pointless life goals such as the above results in any greater satisfaction or happiness than the more traditional, serious kind, but I’ll let you know once I (looking like Helen) confront a perpetrator of a misdemeanour protesting their lack of understanding with the words “I think you do”.