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Monday, March 06, 2006

In Light of the Oscars...

You know every year I watch/don't watch the Oscars with a mixture of interest, excitement, bitterness and dread.

You know, maybe it's just me, but I find it difficult to be entirely gracious about other people's success... Not because I necessarily begrudge them success. I mean I would love it if it were possible if everyone could somehow be successful, or at least work in their chosen profession and love their job. But face it folks, it's not. Don't let the new agey thing fool you, win-win is not always possible.

I have thought a lot about this of late because of my new found status as a loser. That's right, I have decided to embrace reality and see what it's like. Oh, I spent plenty of years with a cheery positive outlook, a never give up sensibility. But frankly that didn't get me anywhere. "But you never know when success will come," you say, "You can't give up," you say. Well true and true. But the reality is that up until this point I have been a loser. By my definition that means that I have had no tangible success in my career or personal life. (Children are barred from said discussion so I don't want to hear about the most successful thing I've ever done, blah blah blah.)

When you think about it, I am in vast company. Most people, by my definition, are losers. Most people don't succeed on some level. If we did we'd all be movie stars, lawyers doing commentary on CNN or feted surgeons with their own article in the New Yorker, or the like. Face it, the winners need us losers! Without the perspective of us, their lives are really just a lot of hard work! If we were all winners, winning would be so difuse as to be meaningless.

So, will I stop writing, no. Will I stop trying to be creative and do something with it, no. Will I stop hoping that someday I can find an affordable babysitter so that I can do some acting again, no. Will I give up on my personal relationships, no. Of course not. That is entirely not the point. The point is there is only room for a certain number of successes and if your ticket doesn't get called then you are, by default, a loser. If there are so many of us then certainly we cannot all be shiftless and unfocused. I know plenty of people with stark focus and a Protestant work ethic and they are not "successful". I know lots of people like that who are. No one group is any more worthy than the other.

You see, my aim is not to beat up on myself. My aim is to try to find the worth in the reality of my life. I am a loser. I am just as worthy of success and happiness and wealth as anyone else and the fact that I don't get those things does not make me a bad person, lazy or worthless. But doesn't something in you feel suspicious about that statement? Doesn't something just jibe wrong when you think "I'm worthy". Isn't your next question to yourself, now come on admit it, "Well if I am so worthy then why haven't I got ---- yet?!" It's not a natural or by any means comfortable thought or feeling but I suspect a lot more of us experience it than are willing to admit. Why do we feel this way? There is so much focus on 'success' as story, in media of all kinds, that failure fails to regularly make the front page. It's as if the only interesting stories are success stories. But I doubt if that is by any stretch true. All my friends are interesting, no matter their bank account, promotion possibilities or FICO score! Some of them are very successful and some are not. But haven't we been brainwashed to believe, just a little bit, that if you are just a 'good' person and going about life in a 'normal' way or only 'striving' and not yet 'there' then you are somehow less than?

I bring this all up because each year, as the Oscar/Awards season rolls around I am plagued by confusion and irritation. I want to watch, I don't want to watch. As I do watch the Oscars and part of me screams "I should be there!" because that is my chosen profession. But you know what? The reality is, I am in Palm Desert, not even near, both literally and figuratively, to being there. Why? No, not because I didn't work hard enough, not because I am not talented enough, maybe because I am not young enough but that's a whole other rant, but because I am just not. Think how many thousands, nay millions of actors, writers, editors, cinematographers, directors, etc. feel that same feeling each year. "I did good work this year" they scream silently or "I was so close" or even "I am so far from there but I want to be there". And you know what? They are not there. Just because they aren't.

I remember hearing from adults when I was a kid "Because, that's why" and I always thought it so unfair, that response. There must be a reason! But I find myself saying the same thing to my toddler. There still isn't a reason. It is all just because. And of course it is not fair. Success never has and never will be doled out based on merit or on fairness. And yes, it sucks. But wishful thinking and/or bitterness (I can actually have both at the same time) neither make a difference. Should we all throw up our hands and give up? I don't really think so, though I have, on numerous occasions, wanted to... The only thing you can do maybe is just do what you like and try your damndest not to worry about the outcome... but then, really, who can do that? Someone without an imagination maybe... or the Dahli Lama... though he's pretty successful so he's one to talk.

7 comments:

Anonymous said...

I think one must always look at the life we have chosen and learn to love or at least appreciate what we have...because it's chosen and because it's now. Because we are a blip in the existence of this universe and we better fucking enjoy it or get the fuck off and make room. Indeed, there is so much that we cannot control. However, I don't believe one is successful or a loser based on the outcome of those choices. We are simply a product of those choices, the randomness of nature and even a little luck or lack of it. Though I respect the examination of failure or even futility ...enormously, I feel (based on personal experience) that it is quite dangerous to call ourselves names. It plants a seed of self hate that can easily grow and grow. The same goes for success. For if you think it was all your talent and charm that got you there...watch how fast the mighty shall fall. I have pangs of self pity when I watch the Oscars, but they are very small. Mainly because I see how the above plays into the "success" of some, just as it plays into the "failure" of others. As if Reese Witherspoon could not have done that role in her sleep. OR perhaps she just makes it look easy...ah...that got me thinking. What REALLY comforts me are the has-beens. I truly get great comfort and fear simultaneously seeing photos of actors I'd long forgotten and who everybody else has long forgotten. Then they show up on a red carpet and you remember them...for that instant...but they're not working, they havent' for a while and then I remember: choices, luck and nature. It makes me cheer when they get a job or make a comeback or show up on a reality weight loss program and I am grateful again for my obscurity; it's safety. Here, I can fail in private.

1) Live in California
2) Live in LA
3) Ever think of returning to Texas
4) stay with a man longer than I should
5) Have children...oh, wait
6) pay off my students loan (I just MIRACULOUSLY managed to handle one, still have the big one)
7) LOVE beer

-Arianna

Yella said...

Yes on Reese. Remember Julia Roberts? She got an award for wearing fake boobs, like she couldn't have done that in her sleep! The male portion of the academy kept that VHS tape in the VCR just a leeeeetle too long I suspect.

On luck and nature: I suppose this is like the debate about nature vs. nurture in raising children. Having now had two sprung from my womb I can definitely attest that they have personalities FULLY formed. That is luck of the mixture of genes and nature for sure.

It is all about the idea that when opportunity knocks you must be ready. And I think the only thing we really control is getting in the path of opportunities... and even that fails on a major scale for most people.

It's a good thing for the successful that most people fail. So what does it do for the unsuccessful then? That is the question. My search is how to not put life on hold 'until' things are accomplished. You know how women put happiness on hold till they lose weight?

Can we say Mercedes Ruell?

Anonymous said...

LOL! So true. -A

Anonymous said...

Just had to send you this. From the LA Times obituary on Dana Reeves. She and her husband gave a commencement speech.

"Several months before her husband died, the couple gave the 2004 commencement address at Middlebury College in Vermont.


Some of the choices in life "will choose you," she said. "How you face these choices, these turns in the road, with what kind of attitude, more than the choices themselves, is what will define the context of your life."

I think even I needed to hear that. - Arianna

Yella said...

And see how random and unfair it all is? She wasn't even a smoker and she died of lung cancer... that was the saddest thing. I really feel for their son... Cheery outlooks aside that is rotten, rotten luck to lose both your parents before you are grown. No one can convince me to put a positive spin on that...

demondoll said...

-Some of the choices in life "will choose you," she said. "How you face these choices, these turns in the road, with what kind of attitude, more than the choices themselves, is what will define the context of your life."-
Thank you for that quote.
It's so awful for their son, what a horrible thing...

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