Harper Lee was not for Me

Ok, she finally died at 89!   She was apparently a one-hit wonder and a Southern gothic recluse whose one literary friend was Truman Capote – at least for awhile.

I don’t think we need to fall all over ourselves praising TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD.  It was fine, it was a good piece of Southern life, but in the end it was kind of middle of the road schmaltz.

All the pictures of Harper Lee suggest that she was a closed off, tight assed woman.  Perhaps she was gay, but probably never ever “out”.

There is just something about the Harper Lee/Mockingbird cult that doesn’t sit well with me.  We can congratulate ourselves for thinking that she (and by extension the reader) are pushing the envelope in race relations.  But really, are we?

GO SET A WATCHMAN was a mess and never should have seen the light of day.  Who and what went on with this poor woman late in her life?

There is a very sad book about Harper Lee waiting to be written.  Alas, Truman has passed on.

Just saying.

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PREAMBLE

And as I approach nearly 70 years of life on this planet, I pause, because I can, and contemplate, what have I done? what did I want to do? why did I want to do it? What relationships have I had? What was or is important?

So much of what we do is what we are expected to do. Have I had real joy? experienced real love? Have I been hurt? experienced real pain – emotional and physical?

I’m finding I’m more cynical than I thought I was and yet more hopeful and romantic. I’m looking for wholeness, authenticity, honesty, something real.

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REAL PRO LIFE

WHY FAMILY PLANNING AND BIRTH CONTROL SHOULD BE A TOP PRIORITY

Whenever I begin to think through various social problems, at some point I find myself face to face with the fact that if we had less people our problems would be fewer. Just numerically it stands to reason that if fewer people need health services, education, food, transportation, jobs, fulfilling these needs would be easier.

And yet, there are no political leaders who are willing to stand for what I see as an overriding necessity. The reason all the old conservatives long for “the good old days” is because things were simpler then — WE HAD A LOT FEWER PEOPLE!

We have made a lot of strides forward scientifically. Health care, although cumbersome and expensive, is better. We are curing diseases and coming up with procedures that extend life and make the quality of life better. Scientific advancements have helped us increase the food supply and we are beginning to make some of the difficult decisions that help us preserve our natural resources.

Information and media is omnipresent and nearly omniscient — good or bad it is a step in global communication. We know a lot more about what we know and what we don’t know. We have access to information that is unprecedented.

But we still we have children that are not being taken care of. We allow underage, sick, drug addicted women to give birth to children they have no hope of taking care of physically, mentally or emotionally. Then we expect the schools to make up for children who can’t learn because their health care and nutrition is so poor. And we wonder why so many of these children become drug addicted offenders and clog our outdated and inadequate penal systems. They were doomed from the start.

Ask any astute teacher and chances are she will tell you that she can spot who will and won’t be a contributing citizen as early as kindergarten. The signs are all there, but we keep thinking we will beat the odds.

Some do beat the odds. Some kids find mentors and sponsors who assist them out of the gloom and doom of poverty. Some children with disabilities overcome many obstacles and lead productive lives. But, why do we think this is heroic? Is it not better to eliminate the need for such heroics?

I had my first child at 39 years of age. I had all pre-natal tests available. I was an educated, employed professional who was married to an educated, employed professional, and we knew that we could not risk trying to raise a disabled child. We knew we could not make that sacrifice and we were honest enough to say that we did not want to. Is this selfish? I think it is more selfish to bring a child into the world with a lot of strikes against him.

Birth control and genetic engineering are nearly at the point where this DOES NOT NEED TO HAPPEN. Babies do not need to be born to crack-head mothers. The public can have the will to stop funding this behavior.

If you don’t have the resources – time, money maturity – to care for children — you should not have them. And, if you have children anyway, the public is not obligated to assist you. Public resources should be available to assist all parents who can work with health care professionals and educators to ensure the best for growing children.

Several years ago I met a nurse from California who told me that she had established a small foundation. In her work as a pediatric nurse, she often was involved with crack addicted mothers and babies. Her foundation provided funds for these mothers to be sterilized, have their tubes tied. She paid for the procedure and she paid them to do it. In this way she felt she made a difference. At least these same women would not be back giving birth to another addicted baby. People I tell this story to are horrified. We have no right! But who really cares more for those afflicted babies?

As in most things preventative action is the best way to deal with a problem. Don’t bring unwanted children into the world. Take the pill. If you can’t remember, get a patch or an IUD or get your tubes tied. We should not only provide birth control, we should encourage it and, in some cases make it mandatory. We have to. Where are all the fundamentalists who protect the rights of the fetus when the needy child is actually here, living, walking around. That’s real life! That’s real pro life!

We are living longer and the population explosion is also at the other end of life. Here too we must have the will to stop prolonging life that has no quality. A friend’s dad took his son aside after landing in the hospital and said, “No more tests.” He was in his 80’s, he knew he was failing. He was ready. Yet, conservatives warn of “death squads” and scared older people shudder.

Save our resources for those who can best use them to make the world a better place and make the world a better place by eliminating some things that do not need to be. We have the way — we need the will!

TRAIN WRECKS FOR ATTENTION

ON MIA & GWYNETH

Recently I have been fascinated and repelled by on-going stories in the media revolving around two Hollywood stars – Mia Farrow and Gwyneth Paltrow. Both women really pushed my buttons, and aside from the overall general coveting of their wealth and fame, I was determined to think this reaction through.

As a former actress, I very much understand that people who need attention are drawn to this line of work. Not all performers are exhibitionists, but often they are people who need validation and adulation.

Mia Farrow is my generation – her gamine 60’s face of Rosemary’s Baby is an icon of the era. She is Hollywood royalty – the daughter of actress Maureen O’Sullivan, best known for playing Jane in the early Tarzan films, and John Farrow, a film director and professional Irishman. She grew up surrounded by famous people and their children, and entered show business, the family business, by default.

Ms. Paltrow is at least 25 years younger and the daughter of stage and film actress Blythe Danner and Producer Bruce Paltrow. Her earliest work was alongside her mother. She too grew up knowing everyone in Hollywood and joining the family business. Blonde and fair, like Farrow, she has the distinction of having a Best Actress Oscar from nearly her first leading role in Shakespeare in Love in 1998.

Farrow has had the more flamboyant life; she’s been around longer and has had more opportunity. She famously married Frank Sinatra when he was in his 50s and she was 20. That marriage ended quickly when Farrow asserted that she intended to keep working. She then married British composer/conductor Andre Previn with whom she began her life-long acquisition of children. They had two (twins) and adopted others. She went on to her well-known, long-term semi-relationship with actor/director/writer Woody Allen. Alone and with Allen she gave birth to two more children and adopted more. The grand total of children is 15 with two already deceased. She is in the news lately because of allegations of sexual abuse against Allen with one of their daughters and his famously marrying another of her adopted daughters. Their son (or the son of Frank Sinatra depending on who you believe) Ronan (nee Sachel) Farrow, a child prodigy and Rhodes Scholar recently received his own show on MSNBC- Ronan Farrow Live.

Gwyneth’s life has been somewhat less scandalous. Although she had a number of high-profile suitors and fiancees such as Brad Pitt early in her career, she settled down with Coldplay frontman Chris Martin in 2002. They had two children, Apple and Moses, and recently announced their separation, nee Compassionate Un-Coupling.

Both actresses are outspoken and politically/socially involved. Mia Farrow’s adoptions have centered on children from developing countries with disabilities and she is passionate about raising awareness of neglected children throughout the world. She serves as a UN Ambassador and serves on several boards for children. Ms. Paltrow is more involved personally in her website Goop where she gives advice about being the perfect wife and mother.

So what is the thread that runs so through with these two women? Both are “hot messes” when it comes to seeking attention and engaging with the media to maintain high profiles – for their causes, their children, their friends and their lifestyles. I guess Paltrow is the new age version of Farrow – she attempts to white wash all her linen for the press. Farrow seems to be focused on airing all her dirty linen in public. Changing times?

VANITY FAIR magazine, that harbinger of the current pop culture zeitgeist, has profiled both women. Most recently, VF attempted to write a piece that may or may not have been critical of Ms. Paltrow; she contacted all her powerful entertainment friends who lobbied the editor to cease and desist. He did.

What fascinates me and what is so polarizing about these women, I believe, is their need for more and more and more. More causes, more children, more books, more lovers, more friends, more influence and affluence, more mentions, trending, column inches, more notoriety. More awards, more advice, more money. More respect – more love.

There is a new psychological syndrome called Histrionic Personality Disorder (HPD). A newish personality disorder that is characterized by attention seeking, impulsive, unstable and manipulative behavior. Well, of course, some of us are guilty some of the time. But people whose lives seem to be governed by this behavior may need to step back and learn to be more genuine and cooperative.

As you grow and learn, hopefully, you realize that you can’t ALWAYS be the star of your own or anyone else’s show. Indeed, older women are often marginalized because the bloom is off the rose. Both Mia Farrow and Gwyneth Paltrow are beautiful women at whatever age, whose life achievements and blessings are to be envied. Enough! Sit down and shut up already. You damn near have had it all. Stop rubbing it in and asking for more. Learn to listen to yourself, to love yourself and calm yourself and just Be Yourself.

Be grateful please.

IS THIS THE LAST TIME?

January 2016

Ahh, the Holidays again and all the “stuff” comes out of the closets. The china and the unique dishes, the ornaments honoring the kids and the pets. I have always enjoyed this trip down memory lane. The kids used to like it, but now they are far flung and I can only post pictures of the Advent Calendar we have had for 27 years.

Trying to keep traditions alive, this year I had personalized ornaments made for our newish dogs – George and Harry. I look at the tree and see quite a bit of my life illuminated.

And then I think of the countless Estate Sales I frequent where old Christmas decorations and china and crystal abound. All these objects once had great meaning for someone. Now they are leftovers.

I flashed this year on the thought that as we get older (I’ll be 70 in 2016) we have fewer and fewer of these trips down memory lane. I think of the many seniors living in homes or alone who don’t bother to put up a tree. Some have truly forgotten all these memories – others may have bad memories or simply feel nothing.

I, on the other hand, wondered how many more times I will have to enjoy these memory trips and cherish personal items before they become forgotten and meaningless.

To be sure, I hope to pass some things on to my children and I plan to do so casually, incrementally over the next years.

The process of aging is letting go – of the need to get and spend, to be important, and yes to not need material things. I may reflect too much, but I seek synthesis. What do all these things mean about the life I live – lived?

We know that death is inevitable, but we do not know when it will come and this can give our lives opportunities to cherish each day and honor all we do AS IF it might be the Last Time.

Happy New Year!

The Considered Life

WHAT RETIREMENT SHOULD BE ABOUT

Life is about doing things. We are all so very busy. I remember as a single mother trying to get my two kids to two different sports practices at the same time — the car pools and the snacks in the car.

And work/family/home balance always loomed over me. Was I doing enough at work? Was I showing up enough for the kids? Was the house neglected, dinner at the table? Come on!

Ok, everyone knows the drill. I’m an organized person and on some level I relished trying to keep all the balls in the air. Indeed, it is a badge of honor to be busy in today’s society.

ergo – if you aren’t busy do you have any worth? If you aren’t solving problems in the workplace and at home are you contributing? If you aren’t contributing, what are you doing?

Blogs regularly admonish how to keep busy in retirement. How to find volunteer jobs. I think we all may be missing something.

where I believe that the human spirit needs goals and hope for the future, I do not believe that work and busy work should be the answer – especially in retirement.

SO maybe this is Mindfulness for the retiree. The considered and reflected life. Perhaps there is no Jesus to meet you at the Pearly Gates and say “Well done thou good and faithful servant.”, but can one validate oneself?

Thinking is a greatly underrated skill in our society. Just thinking Not brainstorming, not working on a team project, not devising a plan. Just thinking. And in our 20s and 30s and 40s and even 50s we had so little time for thinking. It was all about moving, going, getting and spending.

Now I have time to think. To muse. To read something and think about it.

If I could find anyone interested, I now have time to talk about ideas and what life means and has meant to me. I don’t have to concentrate on logistics all the time.

And our technology – perhaps contrary to public opinion – can assist in this meaningful pursuit of reflection. At one’s fingertips are all the great thoughts by all the great thinkers thru time.
USE MR. GOOGLE for more than shopping. USE FACEBOOK to really connect with old friends instead of looking at stupid videos and sharing pithy but meaningless catch phrases.

Here are some of the questions I believe we should consider in our golden years.

We read to help us understand the human condition and, by extension ourselves.
We go to movies, plays, concerts, museums to help us understand the human condition, ourselves and the nature of art, creativity and expression.

We make things – create art, crafts, gardens, food to help us learn about ourselves and the world around us.

In our Golden Years we should have more time to explore these things. To take time to read and re-read to discuss and understand.

Don’t rush thru life doing what you have to. Or at least when you no longer have to rush to make a living – don’t just think in terms of work. Think about enlightenment.

Social media may be antithetical to help us know each other better. People seem very careful to not actually talk about anything that is important. Oh sure you have a few right or left wing people who post all sorts of political information that let you know what side of the aisle they are on. and pics of vacations and family do give a bit of information about what people are doing.

but rarely do people talk about themselves. I would love to know what my old high school friends have really been doing. I would like to share seminal experiences. Social media is probably not the place- SUPERFICIAL TO A FAULT1