Laying on the couch yesterday afternoon I realised that watching Mad Men was a bit like chicken soup for me. It had been another tough day in a succession of tough days. I needed to take a break from it. The solution was firing up the iQ and watching a couple more episodes of the last series of Mad Men, patiently sitting there for occasions such as this.
As always I found myself quickly slipping under the spell of the show. I was transported back to that different time and place. It’s an alternate world I am drawn too, but even as I am seduced by it I never lose sight of where I am – and that’s somewhat the point. Though it’s a piece of fiction, and in a world set far my own, there is much in it I can reference back to this time now, and in many ways, my situation.
This is something I’ve commented on before. I’ve written at length about the character of Don Draper. He’s such a complex, enigmatic character that there is no end of fascination as he goes about his life. On the surface he seems so much in command, an object of desire and occasional reverence. He is often glib, dismissive, arrogant, but scratch the surface and revealed is the deeply flawed, often very troubled soul with much more than his share of baggage. It’s that contradiction and conflict, that yin and yang of self that makes him so compelling, and which I find myself drawn to every time.
The story lines play out in different times, but much of the drama is pretty commonplace, staples of entertainment for centuries. They are entertaining – I especially enjoy the insights into the advertising industry – but it is the characters that take us in. I’ve come to realise that my sense of fellowship with Don is less about the common themes in our lives and behaviour – though there are many – and more simply based upon the complexity of his being. For all his male force he is a man who is acted upon. Things happen to him, and things develop, much so than for others, because of the dark complexity of his personality. We may be complex in different ways, but what I feel, and am drawn to in his character, is the knowledge that we both battle onwards subject to these hidden things within us.
I’m going through a scary, torrid period of my life. Sometimes it feels more than just a period. It feels as if this is what my life has come to, and I don’t know how to change it – though I battle mightily. This has permeated my blog in recent times, which is only reasonable – but what I write here is a fraction of what is occurring. No matter, some have commented on the tone with concern, and fair enough.
I don’t have any answers having watched Mad Men yesterday. It was a couple of hours of great entertainment. It reminded me of the things I have described above. The one thing it did do for me, momentarily, is give me some perspective. I’ve watched Don wrestle with his internal contradictions and weaknesses for seasons now. You realise that they will never be properly resolved, and realise that’s life really – managing all the elements, internal as well as external. We are those things.
I’m those things too, different in me than in others. Right now I am struggling with a huge and forbidding situation. For all my resistance and fight I will likely succumb to it. The situation now is that seems 95% certain – I’m still working on the 5%. For now it is overwhelming, and somewhat terrifying. Watching a TV show might seem a strange way of dealing with it, but Mad Men works for me. I see something of myself in Don. And in his struggles year after year, season after season, I am reminded that I am not done yet. He’s navigated one crisis to the other, and returned each time for next years season. Sure, I know, it’s a piece of theatre, not real life. There’s truth in it though to. Time flows. It has no regard for what we wrestle with. It’s indifferent to our angst. It drags us forward with it as the backdrop shifts and the sets change. There are things that come before, and doubtless things that will come after. Bottom line: I’ve got more seasons in me.