During the week of Christmas, my wife and I went to see Mary Poppins Returns. I was skeptical.

As a baby boomer who watched the 1964 original in a drive-in theater, Mary Poppins is Julie Andrews. I listened to records of the music as a kid and loved the movie.

Now, as a man in his 7th decade, I did not want memory spoiled by Disney’s drive for a hit movie during the Christmas rush.

So I went…reluctantly. It changed my viewpoint.

Without giving away the movie, the Banks children are grown, and Michael faces the distress from a tragically altered life. He becomes confused, sad, and lost. That’s why he needs a return visit from the person who gave him stability, Mary Poppins.

I have reflected on the movie and its themes since I left the theater. The residue of lessons lingers after the movie magic and credits fade to black.

These are three ideas everyone, no matter what their age, needs to remember to get through the good and challenging times of life.

Gone is Not Forgotten

Everyone faces losses in life, whether financial or emotional. We fail to see them clearly.

In one sequence, the children reflect on the death of their mother. (I saw the movie on the date my mother passed away 15 years before, so it hit directly.) She is gone.

No one is immune from this feeling. Theodore Roosevelt lost both his mother and wife on the same day. Even the old “Bull Moose” knew the black void and the questions it raises.

Yet, the message left with the Banks family is gone is not forgotten. Just as spring hides under the snow of fields, things you cannot see do not “disappear.” They go where the lost things go.

For the children, and their father, their mother, is in their eyes, their words, and their love.

Never forget, some things are not lost, they are merely out of place.

In times of tragedy, the recognition that “gone is not forgotten” is powerful medicine.

There’s Nowhere to Go But Up

The movie’s closing sequence did not feature kites but a dawning insight. In times of difficulty, there’s nowhere to go but up.

Everyone has those moments when it cannot get any worse and then does. It is mirrored in the red ink of a bank account, the pink slip of a layoff, or the gray X-ray of a doctor’s office. It is at those time, despair sets in.

It happens to everyone. Elvis Presley drove a truck long before he was “Elvis.” When trying to join a singing group, they bluntly told him he could not sing. “You ain’t goin’ nowhere, son. You ought to go back to drivin’ a truck.”

Life will never be comfortable all the time. We may grow angry, sullen, and depressed. It is just going to get worse.

That’s a perspective of looking down and not up. After all, once you are at the bottom-most rung of life’s ladder they only place to go is up. Instead of despair, look at possibilities. Rather than depression, make a plan and take a single step in the right direction.

In the worst of circumstances, the only way to go is up.

You Can See Differently

In the movie, Meryl Streep plays a strange friend afflicted with “turning turtle.” In that condition, everything gets turned upside down, like a turtle on its back.

Life gets “turned turtle” occasionally. When children are born, life turns upside down. There is a “new normal” in those situations.

But the baggage of change is a lack of perspective. Life doesn’t look the same.

Bob Charland, a 45-year-old mechanic, was beaten and left with severe brain damage. It was bad enough for the doctor to tell him to prepare for his death.

Charland wanted to die, even wondering about physician-assisted suicide. On this “back” he noticed others and started building bicycles for underprivileged kids.

While are trouble may never rise to Charland’s severity, life puts us on our back. Our spiritual and emotional gyroscope gets knocked off balance. We fall into self-pity and the “poor pitiful me” syndrome.

The advice of Mary Poppins helps right the upside down turtle of life.

As lyricists Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman penned,

When You look at life from a different angle, you see different things. When the world turns upside down, turn along with it. When you change the view from where you stood, the things you view will change for good.

When confused, change your view of life. What can you do even when you feel little like doing?

Gain some perspective to see life better.

I suspect Mary Poppins Returns will become a standard for a new generation as the original Mary Poppins did for mine. Regardless of your age, its lessons are timeless.

  • When you’ve lost someone, they are gone but not forgotten.
  • When you are down, there’s nowhere to go but up.
  • When confused, you can see things you could not see before.