Is that it? At the end of the film Blue Jasmine, Woody Allen leaves his beautiful heroine Jasmine (played by the exquisite Cate Blanchette, currently Oscar nominated for this performance) sitting on a park bench talking to herself with nowhere left to go. Come on, any New York City broad decked in Chanel, armed with a coveted Hermes bag and enough chutzpah to pick up the phone and turn her husband in to authorities, exposing him as a crooked financier, wouldn't end up in a Xanax-induced fog... loss of opulent life or not. Is this the redemptive ending we really want? Are we so willing to relinquish our belief in happy-ever-afters? Or does this scenario fulfill some voyeuristic satisfaction as we sit smugly with a bird's eye view watching another's pitiful fall from grace? We want better than that. Where is our rainbow at the end of the storm?
Eleven years after my then husband became the pre-Madoff poster child for Wall Street behavior gone bad, Woody Allen is exploiting a theme of financial hoodwinking that has unfortunately now become so commonplace, we no longer bat an eye. But when my world came crashing down in 2003, it was trailblazing and the media was salivating.
With one signature by a federal judge, our luxury house of cards came tumbling down. I lost everything -- my husband (in handcuffs), my home, my money, my friends and my perceived "perfect life." With a toddler in tow, I didn't have the extravagance (or wherewithal) to sit idly on the sofa feeling sorry for myself. No Blue Jasmine ending for me.
In Allen's film, Jasmine is portrayed as the affluent damsel in distress who goes on to repeat the same unfortunate patterns in between pill popping, gulps of vodka and chronic complaining -- claiming no accountability for the part she played in arriving at this moment. The question isn't really whether she knew about her husband's shenanigans, but rather why had she picked Hal (the film's resident villain) in the first place? Why had she attracted this into her life and what purpose could it serve in the bigger picture? Jasmine remains firmly entrenched in her victim-boots complaining about how she is broke one minute, yet continuing to fly first class the next, dragging around her collection of monogrammed Louis Vuitton luggage -- the last vestiges of her previous life. Forced to seek refuge in the ordinariness of her sister's apartment in San Francisco, she callously remarks how she didn't know how anyone could breathe with low ceilings. We want to root for the home team underdog, yet Jasmine continues to lie to herself and others as she goes on to seek solace in another ill-fated relationship with a wealthy businessman under totally false pretenses. Watching from the sidelines, we want to reach through the screen and grab her by the arm, shake her and plead, "NOOOOO... don't go down that path again." She appears momentarily euphoric as if to say, trust me darling, it will all be ok. If only she had taken a good look in the mirror. While we would love to believe her, we sigh knowing it will only be more of the same 'ol, same 'ol, as she looks to a man to do that which only she can. In her effort to be saved by her Prince Charming, Jasmine forgot to click her own heels (Jimmy Choos of course).
At the end of Allen's film, Jasmine's bright essence peters out, fading into the background as she mumbles pathetic sweet nothings to herself. Where is the paradigm shift -- her come-to-Jesus, "ah-ha" moment?
Like Jasmine, we all fall. After my pity party had come to an end, I was left looking at my own reflection in the mirror asking myself, how did I contribute to it all landing here?
Wanting things to go back as they once were, is a natural first response when the you-know-what hits the fan. Who would want to face off with that when one can choose door #1 and the seduction of having a man make all their troubles melt like lemon drops. Fantasy figures aside, that strategy doesn't work in real life or in film.
Similar to Jasmine, I too, was left talking to myself, but they were questions, not the ramblings of a beautiful mind gone south and subject to substance abuse. The way out wasn't on the back of another man. Play it again Sam. The only way out of this sad story was to write a new beginning, no longer repeating old patterns. Though Jasmine flirted with reinvention she ultimately came up empty-handed... failing to carry through. Reinvention required too much work and a new way of thinking, not a new handbag.
First step, Jasmine -- figure out what those patterns are. Step out of your martyrdom and shift from victim-speak to empowerment-speak. Instead of whining about the past and what others have done to you, focus on what you have done that attracted this mishegas into your life. Why did you marry Hal in the first place? And what are you going to do differently next time to avoid this outcome?
The reality is that a piece of Jasmine resides within each of us, but so does the counter piece -- the part of us we need to tap into and reconnect with -- the intestinal fortitude that prods us to pick ourselves back up. In a cynical world of so much pain and suffering, adversity and ignorance -- we must celebrate the heroine within each of us (she's there!). We owe it to ourselves and to the world around us to rise to meet our greatest potential -- our greatest selves -- to find our own internal happy-ever-after. It is in our control, as it always has been.
Pain is a great teacher. Like it or not, we don't willingly shift from unconscious placation and financial self-medication without dramatic upheaval. When you fall (whether you trip or are pushed), dust yourself off, regroup and carry on. Believe in your ability to dwell in a world of possibility and renewal.
For many years, I didn't want to share the details of my story with anyone. But when we dare to reach beyond our own travails, no matter what they may be, we open our world and create room for grace to step in. If my voice can resonate with just one woman, preventing her from walking down Jasmine's path and instead empower her to pick herself up knowing that no matter what, she can write a new chapter... it was a story worth being told.