GUILTY PLEASURES

Revenge

Elizabeth Willis Barrett……………….May 2015

On Sunday May 10th, with an expectation of separation anxiety,  I DVRd the final episode of Revenge—the last of eighty-nine episodes played out in four seasons.  That’s eighty-nine hours or almost a solid half week—-half a week of my life muddled in the revengeful Hampton drama of Emily and Victoria and all their cronies.  Half a week that could have been used for practicing the ukulele, taking dinner to a new Mom or going to the gym.  (Not that that would ever happen!) And it was delightful!

Because Sundays are quite busy and probably not the best day for blood and vengeance, I would usually watch that week’s episode on Monday.  Rather, I always watched that episode on Monday.  I couldn’t wait any longer to see what was going to happen.  After Brad left the house for the Welcome Home Ranch or to meet with NAU interns, I’d fix myself something delicious like toast and peanut butter and strawberry freezer jam.  Then I’d shut all the blinds, partly so I could see the TV screen better but mostly so any unanticipated visitor wouldn’t catch me in this guilty pleasure and assume that I watch murder and mayhem in all my free moments.  Then I would watch without taking my eyes off the TV.  I didn’t want to miss one word said by Nolan or one movement made by Margaux or any of the other characters who played their parts to perfection. Living in these times has a lot of perks and re-winding might be close to the top of the list.

I made an exception for the last Revenge episode since I waited till Tuesday to watch it so a group of friends could watch the finale together.  The delay was hard but worth it. Having friends to share interest, insight and emotion just made the last Revenge chapter even better.  Unlike the disappointing final episode of Lost, my last and only other marathon series except for the essential Downton Abbey, the writers of Revenge ended their extravaganza of retribution in a completely satisfying way and even added a touch of schmaltz.  I loved it!

If time and family and other goals had no bearing on my life, I would start at the very beginning and watch the whole thing all over again while eating Flancer’s “It’s About Thyme” sandwiches and Paradise Bakery’s macadamia nut cookies.  Now that would be a mega guilty pleasure!

And as long as I’m confessing to guilty pleasures, I could add that I love to read People magazines where I get my hair cut to see what the stars are wearing and doing.  But I probably should just keep that to myself.

HOW DO YOU FEEL?

Jack Benny circa 1959 © 1978 Glenn Embree

NEW YORK, NY - JULY 18:  Deepak Chopra attends The Chopra Well Launch Event at Espace on July 18, 2012 in New York City.  (Photo by D Dipasupil/WireImage)

Elizabeth Willis Barrett……………..May 2015

When I was in High School I played the violin in the school orchestra.  I don’t think I was ever first chair but perhaps I had that honor for a week or two.  Back then not many were taking private violin lessons so the competition wasn’t so great.  Our foreign exchange student Rafael from Italy played the violin, too.

One day Jack Benny came to town.  For those of you much younger and unknowledgeable about historic stars, Jack Benny was a comedienne and entertainer.  He died in 1974 so you might have missed him.  In some of his acts, he played the violin, albeit badly, for comedic effect.  For some reason Rafael and I were asked to have our picture taken with him because we, too, played the violin.  Perhaps because we didn’t play so well, either.  I don’t know.

I wish I were a rememberer of details so I could tell a more accurate and spellbinding story.  But I don’t remember where we were for the picture.  I’m sure Jack Benny didn’t come to Westwood High School for this marvelous opportunity.  Unfortunately I don’t remember much about this significant event in my life except that I was having a bad hair day—which is always a thing to remember—and that this picture made it into the Mesa Tribune, the local newspaper.  If I were in total control of my faculties and scrapbooks, I would scan the picture for you.

But most of all—and this is what my point is—I remember how Jack Benny made me feel.  He didn’t smile.  He cared nothing for Raphael or me.  He wasn’t interested in us.  We were the little people and he was the star and he was putting up with this photo shoot because for some reason he had to.  For all the times he had made people laugh and for all of his fame and most likely great wealth—although he always joked about pinching pennies—he didn’t know how to treat the people that didn’t matter to him.

Just last week I had a similar experience.  I was very lucky to be able to attend an event where Deepak Chopra was the keynote speaker.  For those of you who haven’t heard of Deepak Chopra, he is a prolific writer, speaker and New Age guru.  We were also in the pre-luncheon group that met for a question and answer session with him.  His answers were wise and insightful as he stood before us in his loose jeans, red tennis shoes and Indian shirt which may or may not be called a kurta.  Since we were at a ribbon cutting for a wonderful new drug rehab facility, some of the questions were asked by concerned parents of newly reformed drug addicts.  Dr. Chopra knew so much and talked about the importance of ………..of……………  I don’t remember what he said!  And maybe this is why:

That night was a final gathering with wonderful food and company.  I saw Dr. Chopra sitting at a table surrounded by adoring fans.  When some of them left his side and it looked like he might be uncomfortably alone for a moment, I hesitantly approached him to ask my question.

“Dr. Chopra, do one of your books address the problems of addiction?”

He looked at me like I was intruding on his transcendental  meditation.  Without a smile, a greeting, or any gesture of welcome, he simply answered in a very dead pan voice:

Overcoming Addiction.”

There was nothing for me to do but say a meek “thank you” and go stand in the non-alcoholic cocktail line.

Maybe I was asking too much.  Maybe I had looked forward to meeting him for too long and had imagined a much warmer encounter.  Maybe I am just way too sensitive.  But the guy has written approximately eighty-two books with titles that include The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success and The Ultimate Happiness Prescription.  Don’t you think that in all of that research and all of that writing he would have picked up some pointers on how to make others feel accepted and welcomed?  Has he not learned how to treat the little people who have bought his books and attended his seminars and brought him to his great success?

Maybe I caught both Jack and Deepak in the “off” position.  No one can be “on” all the time.  But even the big guys should know that “you never get a second chance to make a first impression.”

If I’m ever in a “star” position—and it’s looking a little late for that—I hope I’ll remember how I want to make people—all people—feel.  And truly, at one time or another, we are each a “star” to someone.

Carl W. Buehner has been credited with saying, “They may forget what you said — but they will never forget how you made them feel.”

He was right—you never forget.

CLIFF NOTES

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Elizabeth Willis Barrett………….April 2015

“Stay away from the cliff,” Mama called to Charlie for the 426th time, but Charlie didn’t listen even though he pretended to.  He’d heard those words so many times that they just bounced off his hard reward-centered brain like a ping pong ball and got imbedded in the walls with all the other words he didn’t like hearing.

“Don’t go near it or you’ll fall off!”  Mom’s voice got hysterical as it always did but Charlie grinned and promised again that he’d never get close enough to fall over its edge.

“Silly Mama,” he nearly added as he put a slight shake in his head and continued his exit through the kitchen door and out into the inky blackness.  As usual he called back:

“Just lookin’, Mama.  Just checking it out.  Trust me.  Don’t worry.”

Those words: “Trust me” and “Don’t worry” had become for Mama a red flag that was heaved and waved and blazed with the words “Don’t trust me, Mama, and you’d sure as heck better worry.”  The flag waved so close to her in her waking hours and as she tried to sleep that it was hard to see anything else—-the pride of Marie’s straight A report card, the thrill of Margo’s piano recital.  “Don’t trust me, Mama. Worry.” had become an unwelcome and constant mantra.

It was a dangerous place to live Mama knew, but they had tried other places.  And those had had their own cliffs and dangers.  Was there anywhere in the world that didn’t have a unique set of perils?  The four other children didn’t have a problem with the cliff.  They stayed away and found activities that kept them from even looking in the cliff’s direction.

But Charlie was different.  For some reason, known only to the Creator of all mankind, his focus was riveted on the cliff and no matter how many times Mama told him to stay away, there he was just teetering on its edge.  Mama begged and pleaded and bribed but it didn’t make any difference.  She might as well have been attempting to teach math to a cougar.  It didn’t stop her from trying though.  Somewhere in her vast vocabulary, there must be just the right words she could say.  And in all of her abundance of great ideas there must be one that would finally illuminate Charlie, make him see the error of his ways and get him back on the path leading far from the edge of the cliff.

On a particularly terrifying night Mama heard Charlie calling from a distance and knew at once what had happened…finally happened….inescapably happened.  Mama jumped out of bed and grabbed the rope she kept nearby for this anticipated emergency and ran out into the night barefoot and nightgowned.

“Charlie,” she called.  “Charlie?” more insistent.  “Charlie, Mama is here.  Tell me exactly where you are so I can help you.”

Mama ran along the edge of the cliff forcing her eyes to slide away the darkness so she would know where to throw the rope.

“Here, Mama.”  Finally a faint call and she heaved the rope over the edge.

“Grab it, Charlie.  Grab it.  I’ll pull you up.  Grab it, Charlie.”  Her voice was choking.  Her eyes were streaming.  What if she wasn’t strong enough to pull him up?  What if her hands slipped?  What if he was too heavy for her and he pulled her down over the cliff instead?

And that’s what happened.  Mama gave one futile tug and  Charlie’s weight—bloated with defiance, selfish arrogance, stupidity and disregard for her well-being and safety—pulled her down over the cliff and she landed with an agonized crumple on top of him.

“I’m sorry, Mama,” whispered Charlie when he could finally speak.  “I’m sorry, Mama.  I won’t go to the edge again.  I won’t.  You’ll see.”

Hope eased into Mama’s battered limbs.  “This fall was worth it,” she thought. “At last he will stay away from the cliff and we can all pay attention to other things.”

After Mama and Charlie were ceremoniously and painfully rescued, Charlie kept his word—for a time, a short time.  Then the old pattern blasted back ready for battle.  Charlie spent even more time at the edge of the cliff and Mama spent even more time trying to keep him away.  The other children felt neglected.  The Disneyland fund was spent on a protective—but ineffective—wall.  The money set aside for a new bathroom was spent on classes for Charlie.  In them he was supposed to learn ways to stay away from the cliff. But he didn’t learn them and he didn’t stay away.

Mama never ventured far from home since she needed always to be ready to save Charlie from himself.  She was missing out on a lot of things she had planned on doing at this stage of her life.  But isn’t that what mothers do? Sacrifice? She adored Charlie.  She’d give her life for him.

Her saving attempts forcefully wrenched her over the cliff so often that she had lost count of the times and the bruises and Charlie’s whispered and insincere promises ceased to make the fall worthwhile.

One night while lying in the muck at the bottom of the cliff with Charlie’s assurances rattling around in her despairing mind, other words came to her that she had heard over and over:

“You have to let him go.”

“You are as addicted to Charlie as Charlie is to the cliff.”

“He will never stay away from the cliff if you keep rescuing him.”

At last those words made sense to her.  Here at the bottom of the cliff, wallowing with her beloved son, those words finally made sense.  And something happened.

It had tried to happen before but Mama just hadn’t been desperate enough.  Perhaps she hadn’t hit the rock bottom that all the experts raved about.  She had thought the rock bottom analogy was for Charlie’s necessary change.  But maybe rock bottom applied to her, too.  And she had hit it.

“No where to go but up,” she thought.  And saying nothing, she walked away, ignoring Charlie’s calls of “Mama, Mama.  Where are you going?  You’re not going to leave me down here all alone.  Mama?”  At last Mama found a way to climb out of the gloom and home again.

After that, Mama lived her life.  After all, if she didn’t, who would?  And Charlie lived his.  It wasn’t the best life to be wished on a son, but it was his life and little by little it started getting better.  When Charlie finally understood that Mama wasn’t going to be his savior anymore, he started reaching down into his own rescuing options and found that he had a few to choose from. With tedious effort, he eventually turned from the cliff and explored paths that held greater promise.

For Mama, life became doable again.  Joy invaded the cracks made by everyday happenings and peace left its calling card much more often.

The cliff, the looming hated cliff,  seemed to dissolve into the horizon and Mama, just like Charlie, gladly turned her back on it and followed safer paths.  Sometimes she even followed Charlie—but not too often and not too close.

ANOTHER AGING VENTILATION

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ANOTHER AGING VENTILATION

Elizabeth Willis Barrett…………..March 2014

 

The other day Brad and I drove separate cars to a detailing shop so Brad could leave his car there to be detailed.  There was a slight problem owing to the fact that  Brad hadn’t brought the shop’s address or phone number and thought he could just find it.  But he couldn’t.  It was sort of my fault that he couldn’t find it because there was heavy traffic on Baseline.  Because Brad knows how much I hate to turn left when there is even a moderate amount of cars whizzing and honking by, he turned right which was very thoughtful since I was following him.  But that put him in unfamiliar territory as far as the detail shop was concerned and he couldn’t remember if it was closer to Broadway or Southern.  The lack of knowing made for several turns and backtracking.

Finally I called him (thank goodness, he remembered to bring his phone which isn’t always a given) and said I would just park somewhere and he could tell me where to find him after he knew exactly where he was going.  Trying to follow him in tight circles behind the wheel of a potential weapon didn’t seem like a very safe thing in my opinion.

“No,”  he said.  “It’s here somewhere.”

Finally he did find the detailer after stopping a couple of times and squinting at the road sign to see if it said Broadway or Southern.  And, by the way, which comes first—Broadway or Southern?  It’s funny how things like that escape your mind at times.  Again, I will take some of the responsibility for getting lost.  No, I will take a whole bunch of the responsibility, since my left turn phobia made him come at the shop from a different angle.  What’s a little more guilt added to the great weight of guilt that I insist on carrying everywhere I go?

When he finally left his car with the attendant and got into mine he was very frustrated.

“I don’t want to be old,” he said.  “That’s what an old man does: wanders aimlessly and slowly and shuffle-y looking for things.   I don’t want to act like that.”

“Neither do I,”  I said as I pawed through my purse, forgetting what the object of the pawing was.

“See,” he said.  “That’s what your mother used to do.”

“What?” I asked.

“The rummaging.  The rifling through your purse. That’s what your mother used to do.”

He was right.  I felt just like her as I pawed with seemingly no purpose.  A definite sign of aging.  What a pair we are, Brad and me!

“Aaaaaaaaaaa!

The drawbacks of the aging process  hit me once in a while and I just have to vent.  I feel like Diane Keaton’s character in the movie And So It Goes when she splays her arms and says with an emphatic grimace, “I’m sixty-five.  Uuuuuuuuuu!!!”

I do not like growing old.  There must be a better way.  I know, I should be glad to still be here on this fabulous earth and I should enjoy every minute and relish the now.  But aging is a big deterrent to relishing the now.

The other day I found a hair on my chin.  A dark hair!!! What was that doing there?  I have always been blond.  How long had it been growing?  How many people saw it before I finally did?  What would make a hair grow on a chin that has never had a hair before?  Weird things happen as you grow old.

Another sign of my own aging happened when I bent over to pick up something off the carpet.  I couldn’t tell what it was and I turned it over and over until I felt my mother slipping into me again.  She had done that action often in her old age, turning something over and over in slow motion trying to determine what treasure was indicated by a scrap found on the carpet.

Slow motion is becoming more of a companion to me and not an amiable one.  What happened to my drive, my focus, my hitting the deck running?  And weight that used to roll off without much trouble has become attached to my middle and it seems to delight in giving me a backache.  Arthritic thumbs add to my annoyance.

If age was honored and respected and not snickered at, it would help a little.  This might be a good time to move to old-people-loving China.  Hopefully, Brad will go with me.

NAPOLEON DYNAMITE??

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NAPOLEON DYNAMITE??

Elizabeth Willis Barrett………..January 21, 2015

The first time I saw the movie Napoleon Dynamite was in Rexburg, Idaho, with my husband Brad, and my two youngest—Kyle and Allison—who were in Rexburg going to school.  We had traveled all the way from Arizona for a short visit and had some hours to kill.  And they were definitely killed in my opinion.  Shot through.  Kyle and Alli had seen the movie already and couldn’t wait to watch it with us.  There had been so much hype about it that I was ready to have a great experience with half my family.

It turned out to be a very slow day at the movie theater.  We got in our seats after the film had started and since we were the only ones in that particular theater, they started it all over again just for us.  Kind.  If they had started from the ending and played the whole thing backwards, it would have had the same effect on me.  I was completely unimpressed and once again my lack of humor sense was made manifest.  That was truly the dumbest movie I had ever seen—up to that point.  I think Nacho Libre would create a very close race if the two should run a 1/2 marathon together.

Kyle and Allison kept looking at us to see our reaction to this very unorthodox film.  Most of the time they could hear Brad’s reaction because he was laughing uncontrollably.  If there had been anyone else in the theater they might have asked him to keep it down.   But I must have seemed like a matronly Queen of Hearts at a quilting bee.  Not a guffaw, not a snicker, not a smile escaped my pierced lips.  I think my left eye brow was raised during the whole pitiful showing.  The movie wasn’t funny.

Again, as I have been made very aware of on many occasions, I was most likely in the minority.  I think I am in a perpetual minority.  I would be standing practically alone in a group of 1000 people if we were to choose sides of a room according to our likes and personalities in a variety of categories.

“All those who like chocolate go to the right side of the room.”  I’d be left alone on the left.

“All those who prefer Barbra Streisand to blue grass music go to the right side of the room.”  I’d be left alone on the left.

“All those who love to stand outside and chat rather than clean out a closet, go to the right side of the room.”  Again, I’d be left on the left.

This would not be a good thing to do on a boat.  The weight wouldn’t be balanced.

As we came out of the theater at the end of N.D., the sweet girl at the candy counter asked how we’d liked the movie.  In answer, I turned around and waved a bemused hand at Brad.  He could barely walk because he was bent over in hysterics with Kyle and Allison laughing, too, mostly at him.  He loved Napoleon Dynamite.

When attributes were being handed out in the pre-earth life, I believe Brad was first in line at the Sense of Humor counter.  He can roll into a belly laugh quicker than anyone I know and at the slightest provocation.  I was probably queuing up for other qualities (I’m not sure which, at the moment) and totally missed out on the Humor distribution.  My Dad and sister are wonderful at seeing the funny side of things.  They must have been in that humor line.  You’d think they would have let me have cuts or something since I probably wasn’t patient enough to wait behind 4,376,000 other humor wanna-haves.

I wish now I had put in more effort to obtain a sense of humor because laughter can imbue the soul.  Maybe a little humor blew off the counter in my direction, though, because I do love to laugh with friends and family.  And even though Napoleon Dynamite did nothing for me, I once laughed right out loud in Three Amigos.

GET OUT OF MY MORNING!

Person_Stretching_under_the_Sun

Elizabeth Willis Barrett………….January 13, 2015

I love mornings.  Not that I have gotten up early enough lately to claim their full benefits.  When I’ve had to catch a very early flight to Seattle or Salt Lake or take someone to a 5:00 am job appointment, I realize how much I am missing by not getting up at 5:00 every morning.  Getting to bed in a timely manner to allow a 5:00 am reveille hasn’t happened for a while.  But it really is a shame to miss those early hours when the sun is beginning to stretch and blaze its promise across the sky.  It is so beautiful and renewing.  To me, morning is when the vital doings of the day must be done. As the day moves along toward sunset, it seems to collapse and press down on all the remaining minutes leaving them rather unproductive.

If I had my way, I would wake up to an empty house with all other occupants hard at work somewhere else.  I wouldn’t need to help anyone find a missing phone or satchel or point out that the peanut butter is right where it has been for at least the last 10 years.  I wouldn’t hear the radio blaring out heart deflating accounts of kidnappings and murders and political sniveling.  My psyche is so fragile that an overheard bit of bad news acts like a stiff scrubbing brush to my good humor and sense of well being.  And although I really love to hear new insights on religion and the way of the country gained by deep spousal study, morning is not the time to pour any new found truths into my brain.  In the morning, the mixer of my cerebrum is whirring with other ingredients and extra bits and pieces are likely to get flung aside, my congeniality with them.

In the morning, I’m trying to concentrate on my weekly list.  It is a very long to-do list that I usually write out during Church on Sunday. I want to get on with the day and that list without any interruptions.  That is probably a very selfish desire.  But I’m just trying to put on my own breathing mask first so I can help others put on their breathing masks, so to speak.  And to me, that means getting certain things done in the morning.

For instance, if I don’t “stretch with Jane” before 8:00 am, the opportunity for that particular get-it-done item will be gone for the day. Without this stretching (which I have tried to do every morning for about 30 years since I discovered the wonderful DVD of Jane Fonda called “Start Up”) my aging body will just quit moving all together, and what help would I be to anyone then?

Next, I need to be totally ready for the day—showered, dressed, blown, curled, contacted, made up.  It is very deflating to look in the mirror at mid-day and realize that several of these points didn’t get addressed.  Of course, by then even the addressed items must be re-addressed.  If someone wants me to do something—after my morning, of course—I want to be ready.

There are about ten things I really want to get done each day and morning is the best time to do them.  Without distractions, I could easily get them all done by ten or eleven and then I would be eager to get on with the interaction and saving of others.  Not that anyone will need saving by then or want to interact either.

Again I find that I am not only thinking outside the box but outside the universe of my family and friends who are ready to engage way before I am.  Maybe they’ve already secured their own breathing masks and they are trying to help me with mine.  As usual, I could use some help. That universe has tried for years to teach me that warm, wonderful people are far more important than crossing items off my lists. So, come back into my mornings and my days and my nights and I will try to be more discreet as I’m making a list and checking it twice.

CHRISTMAS—–AGAIN!

Christmas Nativity

Elizabeth Willis Barrett…………December 9, 2014

Well, it happened again. Christmas arrived before I did with it’s carols and lights and trees and store hype while I am still back in flags and fireworks and patriotism.  Christmas just seems to be on a faster track than I am.  I need time to allow the great Spirit of Christmas to seep in slowly so I can adjust and clear my head of incidentals like bill paying and house dejunking and family crises and Church callings.  But Christmas doesn’t tip toe in quietly and slowly raise the blinds until you can get used to the light.  No, it jerks you awake with a thunderbolt of hoopla which I never seem to be prepared for.

Part of the problem, perhaps the biggest part, is that Thanksgiving came a week late this year.  A whole week!  There should be a law against that.  Why can’t Thanksgiving be on the 3rd Thursday of November, not the fourth?  That would help immensely.  Then as soon as Thanksgiving is over we could be more attuned to Christmas and its incredible hustle and bustle. Actually, I think we’re all trying to do the H & B all year long and just accelerate the moves in December.

Last year I made a great attempt to be ready spiritually and physically for Christmas, trying to do something every day in its honor.  I was inspired by Scrooge’s classic sentence, “I will honor Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year.”  I sort of petered out by June but I was more ready for the season when it came barreling down the calendar and blasted into December—or rather, October.

But this year I can’t gather the warm blanket of Christmas wishes around me tight enough and I’m rather hanging out of the season’s joy.  Here it is December 9th.  Many of my neighbors’ lights are twinkling like little Christmas giggles and their trees are triumphant in their showcasing windows.  But our house stands in unlit shame and the Christmas tree still needs to be dragged from its year long cardboard entombment across the dry grass of the back yard and into the house that has just been scrubbed clean by the God-sent cleaners.

The many “So, are you all ready for Christmas?” inquiries made by well-meaning OCD individuals, who are just looking for conversation, embellish the problem.  They make you feel that if you are haven’t lit, hung, decorated, bought, wrapped, baked, read, visited, photoed, written and sent by the day after Thanksgiving, you might as well not bother.

This is about when my yearly mantra chimes in, “I will just make it through this year’s celebration and do better next year.”

But wait.  I can change that.  I can fling that sentence out of my head’s storage of useless jabber.  The years are thinning out for me and to miss the full joy of even one irretrievable Christmas would be counter to a life well spent.  So ready or not, it will not be hard to fill my mind and my soul with these sentences instead.  They can bring peace not only to me but to all:

And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.

For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.

What else matters?  Merry Christmas!