Laura Dern looks likely to win an Oscar this Sunday at the 92nd Academy Awards and I decided to mark this milestone by finally watching her short-lived HBO series Enlightened.
The critically acclaimed comedy drama follows Amy Jellicoe (Dern), a woman whose mental health deteriorates following a number of emotional traumas.
She receives treatment at a luxury facility and returns to the pressures of the modern world, determined to put her healthy new attitude to good use.
In most episodes, Amy gives a short monologue in the form of a voiceover, always delivered delicately and beautifully by Dern herself.
I found several of them genuinely moving and felt compelled to write them down to read and reflect on in the future.
For those who haven’t seen the show, it comes highly recommended and is available on DVD as well as to stream on NOW TV.
Episode 2: Now or Never
Context: Amy attempts to use her newfound positive attitude to reform the corrupt company she works for. Despite coming up against seemingly insurmountable opposition, she remains determined not to give up.
Change will come. Maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow. But, it will come. You have to believe. I close my eyes and see a better world.
People there are fearless and connected. They are my friends. I’m there, I’m free. And this Earth itself is healed and where nothing suffers.
Episode 3: Someone Else’s Life
Context: Struggling to sleep at the middle of the night, Amy’s mind drifts to thinking about those she deems more fortunate than herself.
Sometimes late at night, visited by dread and shame, I lie in bed and think of somebody else’s life.
I imagine the love that they’re getting and the relief that comes from being really known. The private pleasures they share. The friends they have and the pressures they don’t. Their sense of importance, the satisfactions of their work.
I imagine how fulfilled they are. How rich their life is. And in these moments, I feel empty and wanting.
Context: Amy spends time getting to know a lonely colleague.
Sometimes I think about someone else’s life. I imagine all the love they do not have. I see the passion that’s missing. The friends they don’t know. And the awful pressures that crush them.
In those moments, I realise how much I have. And how much I have to give.
Episode 4: The Weekend
Context: Amy goes on a weekend break with her ex-husband, with whom she shares many painful memories but a complex love still remains between them.
My first love. My husband. My heartbreak. My pain. It feels so easy now. Here you’re not the cheat and the liar. I’m not the nag and the shrew.
We’re not old. We’re young. There’s no bitterness or illusions. No need for fear or hope. We’re just spirits drifting through this perfect Earth together.
We can be free of our sad stories. They float away ’til they’re like memories of a dream from the night before. Shadows under the water.
And what’s left is pure life. Life is the gift.
You can try to escape the story of your life. But, you can’t. It happened. The baby died. The dog died. The heart broke.
I knew you when you were young. I know your heart broke too. I will know you when we are both old and maybe wise. I hope wise.
I know you now. Your story. Mine isn’t the one I would have chosen in the beginning. But, I’ll take it. It is my story. It’s only mine. And it’s not over.
There’s time. There is time. There’s so much time.
Episode 5: Not Good Enough Mothers
Context: After being caught in the pouring rain with no coat or umbrella, Amy boards a bus and people treat her with contempt.
Some days you feel like the world is against you. And everyone around you seems so mean and ugly. There are times I just burn with hate. In those times, I’m ugly too. I don’t want to hate. I want to be kind and awaken the kindness in others.
Context: Amy reflects on her relationship with her mother, who has frequently withheld affection and seemed uncaring, particularly after her father’s death.
I’ve lived in a world full of not good enough mothers. Imperfect, bad mothers. But the mother is a child too. She’s a child.
I will stop waiting for you to be the perfect mother. I will be patient with you. I will be tender. I will be the mother I wanted you to be.
Episode 6: Sandy
Context: Amy is reunited with a friend she made while being rehabilitated.
Every once in a while, fate takes pity on you and sends you a friend. Someone who really gets you. Who sees you, every side of you. Someone who can even reveal yourself to you.
You are not an alien. You have found your kind. Your words weave with their words into a blanket that holds you both. And you are safe. Even in conflict, you feel safe.
The connection is so deep, you almost don’t see that sliver of space between you. You are finally gotten. This is special, don’t let go.
Context: After her friend lets her down on two important occasions, Amy’s thoughts race with questions about the person she once felt profoundly close to.
Are we connected? What do you say about me? Was I mean to you? Were you to me? What do you think of me deep down? Am I ridiculous? Or sweet? Or decent? Are we friends? Do you care? Let it go.
Episode 7: Lonely Ghosts
Context: Since separating from her husband, Amy has been alone for a long time and is left to ponder whether love is still present in her life.
Life can be like a bad dream sometimes. We all want comfort. A little love to get us through the long nights. Nobody wants to sleep alone. Everyone’s afraid of the dark.
But, I will not be afraid. The light is always there. It is all around me. Nothing is missing. I am not waiting for the sun.
Episode 1: Pilot
Context: Amy returns to work after receiving treatment for depression, with a healthy new attitude and a determination to improve the world around her.
I’m speaking with my true voice now, without bitterness or fear. And I’m here to tell you: you can walk out of hell and into the light.
You can wake up to your higher self. And when you do, the world is suddenly full of possibility. Of wonder and deep connection.
You can be patient and you can be kind. And you can be wise and almost whole. You don’t have to run away from life your whole life. You can really live. You can change and you can be an agent of change.