The Fantasy of Shirley Valentine

The Fantasy of Shirley Valentine

A friend of mine recently went overseas for 10 days to visit some family. Soon after she returned, she confessed that she felt overwhelmed at home. She wanted to go back to Europe and leave her children with her husband.

What it was that made her feel this way?

I also feel sometimes like running away. Small kids, teenager and husband can take its toll. Especially around 5 pm (suicide hour) when everyone wants something from you and it is not all the same thing! 🙂

What is so appealing of running away and leaving it all behind


Let’s say that you run off and leave everyone behind, like in the movie Shirley Valentine. Ok, it worked for her, but why? Her marriage, her relationship with her children, her relationships with her friends were all so meaningless, that she had to find meaning somewhere else.

Personally, I think that is really sad and hectic, to take a life of 40 odd years and realise that there is no meaning in it. I would also run away I suppose. So Shirley Valentine only started living on that Greek island. Her whole life before that amounted to nothing that she valued. The weight of being someone else on a Greek Island was more than her whole life she left behind in England.

So, what is that about? She felt free in Greece, free from the trappings, monotony, and boredom of her life in England. Of course the problem is when she starts to create a life for herself in Greece, would she still be able to give it meaning?

She will be working, and find a partner and go shopping and get stuck in traffic and read books and watch TV (albeit in a different language :)) But still, a life just as she had in England. Friends with which to go out with and play Bingo with. Will she really find herself not talking to a wall again?

Can you really get away from yourself?


You met someone and married and had children and created a career and a life. Is this not hugely meaningful? Do you not have meaning to those around you? Is it not incredibly selfish to leave those who need you and depend on you?

So what is the real problem?

  • Perhaps the problem is not that there is no meaning in your life as it is, but rather that you are unable to see it.
  • Perhaps, you should never have let this happen – allow your life to become meaningless in the first place.
  • Perhaps you had to bash your head against the same wall for years to get to this point of wanting to change.
  • Perhaps you can never be fulfilled – it is not your destiny.
  • Perhaps being fulfilled and happy is not important to you, there are other things like duty that is more important.

So really what is the question? Is it better to start anew if you find your life meaningless, or is it better to take what you have and get meaning from that?

What is your take on it?


Freedom is different things to different people. I am not talking about freedom in the broad sense, but personal, in your life right now.

Do you feel completely bogged down by your responsibilities? Are you being suffocated by your partner, your children, your boss, your life? Is this the reason for your longing for freedom?

Let’s consider this for a moment.

More time to yourself, less responsibility, free to have sex with someone else, free to drink and drug it up, doing only what you want to do, have total autonomy. Please feel free to add whatever you think constitutes freedom to you here.

But just imagine having all that freedom. Would you really be free? No, you would probably not feel free at all, because you would find yourself living a life with no meaning yet again.

Freedom means living a life filled with meaning.


How can you separate who you are from the life you are currently living? Surely it is not a mistake that you are where you are.

You got to this point as a culmination of all the choices (conscious and unconscious) that you have made.

• If you are a fatalist and find yourself here because it just happened, I suggest to you that it is exactly where you should be.
• If you find yourself here because you planned to be here, I suggest to you as well that it is exactly where you should be.

It is not a coincidence that this is your life!

It reflects who you are and what is important to you, and if it doesn’t, reassess what you want and what is important to you. You CAN have it all – freedom and meaning right here.

The road to freedom and meaning is unique for each one of us, it is not captured in a formula and no-one can show you the way. It involves a process of turning inwards to find what is important to you and what you want. Only then can you pursue these goals of meaning and freedom.

Until next time.



If you enjoyed this blog, read Stephen’s blog “Becoming”.

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Comments (6)

  • Kat Reply

    Yeah. The funny thing is, old Shirl finds out that she did have meaning all along – her husband comes to find her, the new lover cannot be new forever… She envies her eloquent classmate who becomes a prostitute and then she is envied for having a family. The grass is always greener on the other side, so sometimes it helps to stand on the other side, but when you come back to yours and it still seems dull… Routine is a crazy soul-deafening tool, I mean you need some but if someone promises you something and you know they won’t follow it up… Or maybe you are just setting it up so you have an excuse to be disappointed, always being easy, submissive and nothing like you thought you would be despite having gotten “all the things you wanted”. Freedom is not like the magic potion everyone deludes themselves into pursuing, there’s no once off solution, you can create meaning all the time, but it has to be a concerted effort and preferably a joint one.

    July 5, 2012 at 6:17 pm
  • michele sellmeyer Reply

    I loved it. Your freedom to be happy and fulfilled is only up to you, we need to strengthen our inner happiness by resolving to be appreciative, grateful and reaching out to others. Inner happiness helps us thru the worst suffering, and we all will meet suffering in our journey.

    July 6, 2012 at 6:03 am
  • Anoop Reply

    Hi Anja how are you? I’m an occasional reader of your pages…

    I see you tried to answer the question “So what is the real problem?”
    When i was a teenager some years back I used to entertain these thoughts in my mind-The Idea of Escape. but I never did it. I think I can talk on behalf of people who think they should do it, but never do.

    As I no longer plan to do it let me recollect what were the motives I had then.
    Clearly I didn’t like what I had. So I was always looking at what others had. I looked around [in movies, stories and some people’s life] and I saw that those who did this escape thing, really came out cool or great. That inspired me to entertain this idea.Of course this finding wasn’t a result of a thorough research. I was seeing what I wanted to see.

    The “escape plan” thing came with the whole package. – Freedom, Meaning, lot of unique experiences, Something to be proud about for the rest of your life. Way too cool. But I never did it. Clearly because what i wanted was a beak not escape.

    In fact I got what I wanted. I got myself back. Sometimes you fall into mental traps and routines so much that you lose yourself. And you can’t even search for yourself because you never knew yourself that much in the first place. In that place the only thing you can think of doing is to RUN….
    Its like you find yourself in a strange forest , filled with strange animals. you don’t remember how you got there. You are going to lose yourself because of fear. Then.. You Run…

    If anybody out there can relate with what I’m saying I tell you “RUN if you want a little clarity, to get a bird’s view. But you will have to comeback for the real fight. As you don’t need to Run if you were free in the first place. You Run because you are trapped and afraid. So gain the freedom you need by gaining knowledge. and come back to the forest as a free man/woman with lot of choices.

    July 9, 2012 at 10:11 am
  • Michael Reply

    Great post and very thought provoking. I particularly like your perspective on freedom.

    July 12, 2012 at 4:30 pm
  • Dave Crossfield Reply

    Hi, I’m directing Shirley Valentine for a production in amateur theatre and would love to use this blog in the programme, credited to yourself of course.

    Would you permit me to use this piece?

    September 14, 2019 at 9:25 pm

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