Saturday, December 5, 2009

Jolly Me of Yesteryear

Hello! Where are you, Christmas Spirit? Why haven’t you touched me yet? Where’s the festive me, the one that usually resembles the girl pictured above this time of year, the jolly me of yesteryear?

Okay, granted, I still have time, (it’s only the fifth), but we had better kick into
Merry Merry gear pretty soon. Not one decoration has been hung, no pretty tree, no sparkling lights, and no welcoming wreaths in sight. I haven’t bought one present, hung one stocking, or sent out one holiday greeting card.

I guess it’s difficult to let you into my aching heart,
Christmas Spirit. Losing both parents in December, (Dad just last year), must have tainted the season for me. I need to get into the swing of things, sit down and watch White Christmas, go in the kitchen, bake and decorate a few batches of cookies and butter tarts, set up the tree in the living room, enjoy an eggnog (laced with rum and nutmeg) and hang some of my cherished shiny ornaments. Soon, I will, soon.

All Rights Reserved. © 2009 by Elizabeth Bradley.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Childless, or Not

In my last post I wrote about leaving your mark. Those of us with children usually feel that our offspring are our biggest contribution to the betterment of the planet and mankind in general. But, what about those that don’t reproduce? Is their role in the overall scheme of things any less worthy?

The Husband and I know, and are close to, several women and men that intentionally set out not to have children, for differing reasons. Here’s an excerpt from a study I nabbed off the Internet:

Objectives. Rapid growth in the size of the childless elderly population has prompted concerns about the negative effects of childlessness on psychological well-being. This study adds to this line of inquiry by examining the effects of childlessness on two important dimensions of elderly persons' psychological well-being: loneliness and depression.

Methods. Using the 1993 Asset and Health Dynamics Among the Oldest Old data set, the authors estimated logistic and ordinary least squares regression models of psychological well-being for a nationally representative sample of people aged 70 and older (N = 6,517).
Results. Childlessness per se did not significantly increase the prevalence of loneliness and depression at advanced ages, net of other factors. There also was no statistical evidence for the hypothesis that childlessness increases loneliness and depression for divorced, widowed, and never married elderly persons. Sex, however, altered how childlessness and marital status influenced psychological well-being. Divorced, widowed, and never married men who were childless had significantly higher rates of loneliness compared with women in comparable circumstances; divorced and widowed men who were childless also had significantly higher rates of depression than divorced and widowed women.

Those that have children tend to pity those that do not, and those without children resent being pitied. I ask you this: is it an accomplishment to reproduce?

Twelve notable women (childless) that left their mark in a significant manner on society as a whole in one way or another:
--Amelia Earheart
--Emily Dickinson
--Mother Teresa
--Oprah Winfrey
--Frida Kahlo
--Katherine Hepburn
--Edith Warton
--Susan B. Anthony
--Queen Elizabeth
--Zora Neale Hurston
--Marilyn Monroe
--The Duchess of Windsor

I offer these childless gentlemen equal representation:
--3 U.S. Presidents; James Madison, James Buchanan, James Polk
--Dick Cavett
--Leonardo Da Vinci
--J. Edgar Hoover
--Truman Capote
--Andy Warhol
--Hans Christian Anderson
--Lord Byron
--Montgomery Cliff
--Cole Porter
--David Hockney
--Sir Francis Bacon

Most of us set about living our lives, unaware of our personal impact on people and the environment around us. Like George Bailey in “It’s a Wonderful Life”, we can’t possibly know the ripples our very being is sending out to the universe. Every human being is essential.

The desire to judge others by our measure of what constitutes a live worth living is strong. Perhaps, when one assumes elevation over another, it serves to feed the ego. I say, different strokes for different folks. If you don’t want to have kids, then don’t have kids. If you want only one, that’s cool. If you want to have five—have five! I’ve been ridiculed (especially in certain circles in Los Angles) for having so many kids. Hey, my Irish Catholic grandmother had 15! When I had my fifth, she called me up a few days later, and said, “Elizabeth, you’re a third of the way through.” “Ha!” I replied. “I’ve gone and shut the factory down.”

When my dad lived in the memory care facility, many of his friends had children that they couldn’t remember, (right up till the end Dad knew he had children, he might mistake us for someone else, but he knew he had three kids), and those that didn’t have children existed in virtually the same state as those that did. Like they say, we come in this world alone and we leave alone.

Do our relationships with our fellow man define us? I’ve known reclusive people that prefer to be solitary, more in tune with nature than people. Introspective sorts. I don’t believe their lives are any less meaningful because they don’t seek the company of others.

I’ll leave you with a couple of quotes:

I don’t want to get to the end of my life and find that I just lived the length of it. I want to have lived the width of it as well – Diane Ackerman

In solitude we give passionate attention to our lives, to our memories, to the details around us –Virginia Woolf

All Rights Reserved. © 2009 by Elizabeth Bradley.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Leaving Our Mark

We met my son, his wife, and my little grandson last weekend, and while we were out walking I snapped this picture. Some brave, (talk about precarious), ambitious soul, decided to take the rocks on the jetty and manipulate them into a manmade sculpture, of sorts. I see these stacks of rocks everywhere. There are many examples along highway 38, which leads to Forest Falls and the back way up the mountain to Big Bear Lake. Huge stacks of rocks.

People have, and always will be, compelled to add their two cents into the mix. We can’t just go out in nature and leave well enough alone. Now, I admit the stacking of rocks, or the gathering of twigs and fashioning them into representations of witches and such isn’t necessarily destructive, not like littering or removing materials from pristine environments. It would seem; us human beings are keen to leave our mark.

I’m no different. Putting aside, (but never discounting), the hugest, most meaningful mark I’ve left on this planet, creating five human beings, (mind you, with the help of The Husband—his seed responsible for 3 precious children, and an unnamed sperm donor—his seed responsible for 2 precious children.) As we drive through different towns here in Southern California I’ll say to The Husband, or my kids, or whoever else might be stuck in the car with me, “Look, there’s the pool table store I designed.”

Passing through Beverly Hills, I cry out, while pointing to the hills dotted with grand houses, “I once bid on a project up there that was designed to house four complete kitchens! And ten bathrooms! Can you imagine needing four kitchens in one dwelling? One of them was to be in a pool pavilion. I didn’t get the job though, lost out to a conglomerate.”

One day, we exited the freeway, searching for a place to go to the bathroom, and ended up in a seedy part of town, “Oh my,” I said, “I’ve been here before. I sold a kitchen to a truck driver and his wife in that neighborhood right over there. The place was a disaster area. My briefcase got hopelessly stuck to the table; it was so sticky. And live wires hung from the ceiling. They had four little boys. The cutest boys you ever saw, stair steps from about age two to eight or nine.” I sighed, thinking of the woman who had claimed that she was going to be a better housekeeper, once the new kitchen was finished. But, we had to return two weeks after the job was completed, to install a range hood that had been on back order, and the new kitchen was well on it’s way to resembling the former, only the cabinet doors were still clinging to their hinges and bare wires weren’t hanging from the ceiling, yet.

My big dream is not only to have books I’ve penned sitting on the bookshelves at the bookstore, but to walk into a public library and find those same books available for some special someone to check out, for free. As a child I got a head rush whenever I brought home a stack of books from the library without being required to spend a red penny. The process always seemed miraculous to me. What a gift!

How do you intend to leave your mark? Or have you already left so many marks you've quit counting?

All Rights Reserved. © 2009 by Elizabeth Bradley.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

How To Daydream 101

Do writers and artists daydream more than others? We do, we reside in one long daydream. Our inspiration begins with images, impressions, no more than fantasy, really. We craft these fantasies into stories, or art, our way of organizing the chaos of reality into something informative and entertaining, of expressing what some might find inexpressible.

I wonder if we ever know ourselves, truly know
our own selves? How do we gain that distance, the perspective necessary to detach and observe objectively? Is this why artist's are compelled to paint self portraits? Maybe it's an attempt to look inward that drives the writer. Could it be, are various characters representative of facets of our own psyche on display, on the page? Count me out—you might say. I don’t behave the way my characters do! I would never act like that, not in a million years! But, maybe you could—under the right circumstances. Maybe.

Even the most beautiful among us look into the mirror and see flaws.

Charitable types often come to resent their own propensity for selfless acts that offer no visible benefit.

The most sure-footed stumble.

Many rich men never believe they have accumulated enough wealth.

An aloof woman talks down to people but deep inside feels vulnerable and unloved.

A spur of the moment decision can change the course of one’s life forever, for good or bad.

Where is she going with this? You might ask. I guess I’m thinking out loud. Rambling. Feeling my way along. Deciding what to do with these wild imaginings of mine. Crafting unruliness into order, word by word.

I have taken on a
huge project. I am not at liberty to divulge just what IT is at this time. But, I will say this; I sure do have my work cut out for me. Whenever I attempt to bite off more than I can chew I remind myself that every daunting task I’ve ever taken on caused me to feel so insecure I felt like a fraud, inept and incapable of pulling it off. And yet I came through. So I let my Cheerleader Self take over. You go girl! Cheerleader Self says! Rah, rah, rah! Cheerleader Self cries. I have learned that she’s somebody I should listen to.

Let me take this opportunity to encourage all of you to bite off more than you can chew. It’s exhilarating.

If you’re willing, give an example of how you’ve stretched yourself and come out ahead. I love it when you share!

All Rights Reserved. © 2009 by Elizabeth Bradley.