Elizabeth Willis Barrett


In Barbara Walters book Audition, she makes this statement:

“Young people starting out in television sometimes say to me: ‘I want to be you.’ My stock reply is always: ‘Then you have to take the whole package.’”

That thought has made a major change in my thinking.  Whenever I make the mistake of wishing I had what someone else has, I remember: “Then you have to take the whole package.”

Being a famous actress used to sound enticing.  I did get to play Maria in our town’s version of “Sound of Music” years ago.  It was a great opportunity and I thought I was pretty good at the time, but looking back I know I wasn’t.  I don’t need show business in my life and I know I would never want the “whole package” of an actress.  Their lives are often bedraggled and difficult.  For one thing, think how hard it would be to memorize lines day after day.  Who would want to do that?  I can hardly memorize a short poem that I have written myself.

For another, most of their family lives are less than golden.  In some cases, there is more than one person in the family vying for the spotlight and when the light dims, the ensuing shadows must bring on deep despondency.   It’s hard enough for regular people to ward off depression without needing to depend on a public’s reaction for feelings of self-worth.  Having the paparazzi zooming in on one’s every move rather sullies the package, too.

In considering those who have received honors for their fine service to the community, I often think that it would feel good to be highlighted occasionally.  But when it is someone I know and  I am aware of their greater “package,” I know that I wouldn’t want to trade places.

For a long time I wanted to be a renowned speaker, telling huge crowds how to live and be happy (like I know) or how to avoid some of the gaping potholes I have stumbled upon myself.  But after thinking through “the whole package” deal, I don’t think it would be worth it.  I was almost on my way to speechdom when I was asked to deliver words of wisdom to a group out of town.  But the speech time was when one of my daughters was coming here with her family and so I declined.  I didn’t want to miss my daughter’s visit just so I could have thirty minutes of glory.  When I have my children and grandchildren around me, I ask myself if I’d rather be off somewhere giving a speech.  The answer is always “no.”  Famous speakers must miss lots of time with their families.

I’ve always wanted to be a great writer.  But I just listened to the book Dearie, a biography of Julia Child.  She paid a huge price of time, effort, sacrifice and emotion to get Mastering the Art of French Cooking published.  I think she had a wonderful life but she never had children and her husband had a stroke later in his life that caused Julia much sorrow.  I wouldn’t want to take on her “whole package.”

I also just listened to Dan Rather’s book Rather Outspoken.  He’s had a magnificent life of fame and fortune as he has fulfilled his reporting dreams.  But again, his whole package would be rough to unwrap.  I’m sure he wouldn’t want my whole package either, of course.  Can you imagine?!

I don’t think anyone would really want my whole package just like I wouldn’t want anyone else’s.  I’d like the best of one person’s package and the best of another’s and the best of another’s.  But life doesn’t work that way.  It’s the “whole package” or nothing.  That being the case, I’m keeping the one handed out to me.   It contains some pain and some heartache, some doubt and some worry.  But it is also full of delight and happiness, triumph and testimony.

Therefore I will hold my own package fiercely to my un-ample bosom until my soul is squeezed of envy, leaving room for only gratitude and joy.


2 comments on “THE WHOLE PACKAGE

  1. Doreen Payne says:

    Well thought out Liz. You have a gift of saying things just the way they really are. We need to be grateful for our own whole package. Love you!

  2. Nancy says:

    You said it perfectly!

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