The character of Maude in the 70s cult film, Harold and Maude, has been an incredible inspiration to me over the years.
I saw the movie for the first time when I was a young teenager and I didn’t really get it. I couldn’t really understand what was so interesting about a young man in his late teens or early twenties falling in love with an 80-year-old woman. But about 10 years later, after having lived a little more (and experienced more of life’s ups and downs), I saw it again and things really clicked.
Watching how Maude lives her life with no inhibitions, and how she completely transforms this young man from a morbid, lonely pathetic kid, to a happy-go-lucky, banjo-playing appreciator of life, made me realize how much I was holding back.
In the film, Maude has decided to take her life on her 80th birthday, because she says she wants to leave with dignity. She has seen it all; a concentration camp survivor, she had experienced the cruelest and the brightest side of human nature; a life fully lived.
Throughout the film, Harold and Maude develop an unlikely, yet incredible friendship and love for one another. At the end of the movie, Maude overdoses on sleeping pills and when Harold finds out, he drags her to the hospital to try to save her.
On the way to the hospital, while in the ambulance, he says, “Maude, please don’t die. I couldn’t bear it. Please don’t die….”
With her response, Maude continues to teach Harold about letting go.
“But, Harold, we begin to die as soon as we are born. What is so strange about death? It’s no surprise. It’s part of life. It’s change.”
Harold says, “But Maude, you don’t understand. I love you.”
And then Maude poignantly replies, “Oh, Harold… That’s wonderful. Go and love some more.”
Go and love some more… that line continues to play in my mind and my heart.
Seeing Harold and Maude a Second Time
The day after I saw Harold and Maude for the second time, I was working as a groundskeeper at a private estate in Greenwich, Connecticut. It was the middle of the winter and there had just been a huge wind storm, so my job was to walk the property and pick up all the branches that had fallen. Reflecting on my life and comparing it to how Maude lived, I cried my way through every inch of that estate.
What was I waiting for? I knew I was a person with so much love in my heart that it would overwhelm me at times, but I held back from expressing it when I wasn’t sure what the response was going to be.
Why would I do that? What was I protecting? Yes, I had been hurt in my life. My heart had been broken many times. But would I have chosen not to have those experiences that made me love so much that my heart could break? NEVER. Those were some of the richest experiences in my life.
So, why was I reluctant to express the things I was feeling? The only answer I could come up with was that I was afraid to be hurt. A perfectly reasonable reason, and yet, when I reflected on my life and the things that were meaningful and memorable, this approach didn’t make sense.
Taking a Lesson from Maude
I made a pact with myself that day that if I ever noticed myself holding back from expressing love or appreciation to stop and ask myself, “What would Maude do?”
I started testing this out. I started sharing all sorts of things that I would normally keep to myself. And guess what?
All sorts of crazy loving started coming back. And I mean crazy in a good way! People who I thought, “oh, that person would never be interested in me,” or “they probably hear that all the time” responded to me in ways that led to some of the most profoundly beautiful experiences I have ever had and even changed the course of my life.
So, now I ask you the same question I asked myself: What are you waiting for?
Whether you’ve been hurt or someone close to you has passed away or you think that you’re not lovable, just try asking yourself, “What would Maude do?” And I can tell you that the answer is probably going to be “go and love some more!”
So let’s go and love some more!