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Archive for the ‘Serious Crap’ Category

The Power of Story

Tuesday, May 1st, 2012

Reality is made up of a system of stories. We tell ourselves stories to make sense of the world around us. We have stories about everything and everyone: our towns, family, coworkers and pets. But the most important stories are the ones we have about ourselves.

As babies, we start life without a story, but pretty soon, our families begin to tell stories about us. Heather always sees the glass half empty, Suzie is smart, and Maureen is the troublemaker. Whether these attributes are the truth or not doesn’t seem to matter. One day a child exhibits certain behaviors, a story is told and quite quickly, the story becomes reality.

While we have to make judgments and conjure stories to navigate reality, humans don’t seem to be very good at changing the stories once they’re written. And because of this, we end up interacting with each other’s stories, not our true selves. If you were raised in a good household, your story is probably more or less truthful and therefore working for you. But in dysfunctional households, stories can be toxic and have lifelong negative consequences.

If you were raised in a dysfunctional household, your story was not made with you in mind, it was made to benefit your crazy parents. Kids in dysfunctional households have been trained to disregard their desires and needs because their pleas either went unheard or their needs upset their parents. Their parents’ denial of their abusive/neglectful behavior trains the children that what they perceive is not the truth; the Happy Family story conflicts with the war zone reality. To survive, the children modify who they are — their stories — to fit their crazy parents’ needs, leaving any sense of themselves behind. While these new stories help them survive childhood, the same stories can cripple them as adults.

When you don’t know who you are, you don’t know what you want. When you don’t know what you want, you can’t ask for it. When you can’t get what you want, your needs aren’t met. And when your needs aren’t met, you aren’t happy. Which is why half of this nation is on antidepressants. Our stories make us miserable.

Thankfully, for me, my therapist is helping me rewrite my story. My problem now is trying to figure out who the hell I really am.

To determine this, I started with what I’ve been told about myself. The stories vary wildly. I’m either a great friend or a flake. (Flakiness is the side effect of a writing career; my true friends know enough not to pin me down.) I’m either the best daughter in the world or the worst. I’m a good wife, a good critique partner, and my neighbors like me. I did great in school and got blackballed at every bookkeeping job I had. I’m either a great writer or the worst in the world, who should be fired and never allowed to write another word. To one reader of CoastViews, I was “a short-fused head job” and “a tightly wound harridan.” When I moved away from living next door to my parents, I was “selfishly abandoning” them. When I took care of my stroke-victim sister, I was a saint. And there are a million more stories just like that. I’m either a great person or I’m Satan, thankfully leaning more towards the former.

The main story that people tell me is that I’m weird. Not only weird — people have described me as wacky, a freak, out there, Janet From Another Planet, the list goes on. I gotta say, this is one story I think I hate the most. None of these terms is nice. Weird is not positive. Weird is derogatory. Most people who call me weird seem to be worried that they might lose their social standing by associating with me. Calling me weird is their subtle attempt to distance themselves from me and therefore, not look bad. For whatever reason people call me weird, I don’t like it. Eccentric would be a better term, if we insist upon labels. But one thing I will agree: I stick out.

After reviewing others’ stories about me, it became clear they were not very accurate. Because I am the only one who knows me. And I have to accept this simple truth: all that I am was given to me. I didn’t choose to hate Indian food anymore than I chose to love toy robots. My only job is to accept who I am completely and love myself as I am. So that’s what I’m trying to do: stop telling old stories and write myself new ones rooted in truth.

My entire goal this year is to be authentic. I want the people in my circle to be there because of who I am, not despite it. However, in order to find the people who genuinely like me, I not only have to figure out my stories, I have to deconstruct the stories of others. In the past, I’ve clung to false stories about friends because I didn’t want to face the truth: normally that someone didn’t like me or was mistreating me. But now, no matter who they are, I have to allow myself to see the truth.

I think it would benefit us all — the healthy and the healing — to determine our stories and our truths. Even if we’ve been brainwashed our whole lives, that little voice in the back of our heads knows who we truly are. Continually reviewing and editing our stories to fit our current truths ensures that the stories help to move us forward and not hold us back.

But the transformation of self is a daunting task. My stories are so rooted in my emotional foundation, I feel like I need dynamite to dislodge them. But they are merely stories and as such, can be edited and changed. And I can’t wait to put my writing talents to work on my personal story. So far, all I’ve got is that I’m not weird. In my opinion, it’s a hell of a start.

© 2012 Janet Periat

Neither A Slut Nor A Whore

Monday, April 9th, 2012

Okay, so I promised myself I wouldn’t write about religion or politics anymore, but this renewed War on Women infuriates me.

The extreme Christian right has recently pushed through laws mandating state-sanctioned medical rape (a transvaginal sonogram) in order to get an abortion in Texas; Topeka, Kansas has decriminalized domestic violence; Republican congressmen want to redefine rape, and Colorado Republicans want to make taking the morning-after pill a first-degree homicide. I’m waiting for the ultra-conservatives to start promoting Christian burhkas.

I was baptized in the Protestant church and was fed their toxic, anti-woman dogma since I was a baby. I received the same brainwashing in school and in society. Gradually, over my lifetime, women’s rights progressed. But now, the extreme Christian right has dredged up all this old toxic waste again, lobbed it straight at us and—in parts of the country—have dragged women back to the cave. And I want to beat them all bloody for it.

What the toxic programming has done to my mind is criminal. No one should have these thoughts about themselves. No one deserves these messages. Pets are treated better. I’ve been in therapy for five years trying to rid myself of the poison. And it’s still an on-going battle.

I was taught that I was dirty because I was a woman. I was taught to be ashamed of myself. That everything was great until The Original Sin when women (Eve) ruined the entire world. I was taught that I was a weak moron who wasn’t capable of doing anything but pressing buttons on a typewriter, a dishwasher, or making babies. I was not expected to do well in math, science or sports. I was not encouraged to get an education. I was not encouraged to take care of myself, only others. If I wore a short skirt, I deserved to be raped. If my husband hit me, it was my fault. I had no value unless I was married, and single women were the most pathetic creatures in the universe. Women were harping, gossiping, shallow, vain idiots who needed permanent guidance—children who couldn’t handle responsibility or make decisions.

I was taught that sex was dirty. If I touched myself, I was a slut. If I had sex, I was a whore. If I used birth control, I was a super big whore because I’d planned on having sex. I was taught that good girls hated sex—even with their husbands. Yet I couldn’t say no because I had no rights over my body, I was my husband’s possession. I was supposed to endure the act, find no pleasure in it, and never respond. If I enjoyed sex or had an orgasm, then I was the biggest slut of all. The only reason I should ever have sex was to have babies. If I got pregnant, I was redeemed, but lost all my power and was sentenced to a lifetime of toil, servitude and hardship. If I had an abortion, I was a murderer and deserved to go to Hell.

Basically, I was taught to hate myself. The only way I could redeem my worthlessness and make up for my shameful womanhood was to sacrifice my entire life by serving a man and having children. Only a man could validate my existence.

As a result of these teachings, I’ve always felt defective and ashamed for being a woman. I’ve always been ashamed of my sexuality. I’ve always felt like I was worth less than zero and had to sacrifice every ounce of my energy and every bit of my soul to reach zero. And there’s no path to positive worth. Simply because I’m a woman.

The sole intent of the brainwashing I received was to warp my self-image and make me more susceptible to subjugation and control. The current agenda of the extreme conservative right serves the same purpose: to make women hate themselves.

So when men like Rush Limbaugh call women whores and sluts for using birth control, and Rick Santorum states that he wants to ban birth control because its “unnecessary”, and that mothers shouldn’t have jobs outside the home, these “Christian” men might as well be taking a baseball bat to Grandma’s skull. Might as well knife their twelve-year-old daughter in the gut. Because that’s the kind of psychological damage they inflict. That’s the reality. Putting their own vile words into God’s mouth is the worst kind of violation. Abusing women in the name of God is blasphemy. Promoting the loathsome view that women are subhuman sex-starved breeding stock who must be tightly controlled by a strict father is the same anti-woman agenda sold by the Taliban, Islamic extremists, and the Vatican.

This renewed War on Women is clearly a last gasp effort of a dying breed of terrified old men who have been in control forever and will do anything and everything to ensure they don’t lose their power. The original He-Man Woman-Haters Club.

Certainly, they are making progress in their current war. Some states might actually ban birth control. Abortion might become illegal. But neither change will last. The future is already in motion. More women than men are graduating from college. More women than men are becoming doctors and lawyers. More women are working today than men. Many young women watched their fathers divorce their mothers, leaving their mother destitute because she’d sacrificed her future to raise her children. And many young women have Deadbeat Dads. Girls today do not want to be like the victims of my generation. And they’re ensuring their lives will be different.

With more money comes more clout. With more women lawyers, there will be more women judges. And if the old white male fear-mongers think those ladies won’t have the self-esteem and resources to fight an anti-woman agenda, they’ve got another think coming.

The extreme right is wrong. The Original Sin wasn’t when Eve disobeyed God and bit the apple of Knowledge, it was when men turned their backs on women.

©2012, Janet Periat

The Picture on the Piano

Saturday, October 1st, 2011

Recently, I realized that I am going to die. No, I didn’t contract a terminal illness; I finally got out of denial. Not only did my 52nd birthday alert me to the fact of my impending death, spending time in my parents’ retirement community drove the point home. I’ve watched as several of their neighbors have gone from sitting next to them in the dining room to having their pictures displayed on the piano in the lobby—which is how all the recently deceased are honored. Mom said, “What you don’t want is to walk by the piano and see your picture on it. Then you know you’re in trouble.” And I know someday her photo will be on that baby grand. Not far behind will be mine. Even with my preventive measures—working out and eating right, etc.—I, like all human beings, will go to that giant Disneyland in the sky. (You have your idea of Heaven, I have mine.)

This realization brought about a great disturbance in Janet’s Force. I finally realized I have very limited time left. That it was imperative to prioritize my choices so I could achieve the most important goals before my picture winds up on the piano.

Luckily, my greatest desire was super clear to me: writing the novels. My passion for the work is blinding and all-encompassing. I am obsessed with the stories in my head. My brain is like a cable TV system: tons of channels and all are full of programming. Writing them down is the feat. Even if I do nothing else—like eat or sleep or talk to people—I will not have enough time to write all the books in my head. Partly because there are so many stories, but mostly because it takes so freaking long to write a book.

Which brings me back to My Giant Realization. Not only did I come to the conclusion that I didn’t I have time to do everything on my plate, I didn’t have the time for many of the things I’d planned to do this lifetime. In fact, I had almost no time to do anything besides the books. I experienced a sort of death of dreams. I voiced all the things swirling around in the back of my mind that I thought I’d do, and one by one, gave them up. No time for learning the guitar and starting an all-girl punk band. No competitive racecar driving. No big cat rescue or zookeeper.

Actually, that was the easy part of my process. Since I hadn’t invested time in any of the activities, they weren’t very difficult to give up. The hard part was quitting current activities. Especially the Good Do-Bee volunteer work. Really pushed me up against the ideas society gave me regarding my self worth.

As a woman of a certain age (I bloody hated writing that sentence), I was not trained to care about myself. I was brainwashed into thinking that doing things for others was, in actuality, doing things for myself. I was trained to think that if I focused on my own needs, I was selfish and not a “good girl.” I was taught that good girls had no needs. Which is stupid and why many women my age are bat-crap crazy. Because our basic human right to live our own lives was taken from us.

While I still enjoy helping others and won’t give up all volunteering, I don’t want my obituary to read: “She was a self-sacrificing person who rarely did anything for herself.” I want the headline: “Famous Author Dies In Own Home After a Long and Fruitful Life.” I am the only one who can write my books. What if Jane Austen, Nora Roberts and J.K. Rowling had never written their books? No Mr. Darcy, Rourke and Eve, or Harry Potter. While I doubt my work will achieve that level of recognition, if I put all my energy into my career now, I’ll have a much better chance for success. When I was freaking out about the decision to self-publish, worried I might fail, a friend asked me, “Have you heard of Doris Masterson?” “No.” “Neither has anyone else because she never put her books on the market.” Probably because Doris was busy being a good girl.

After realizing the Good Girl Trap was part of my problem, I examined and judged each activity by asking myself two questions. Does this further my writing career and personal goals? Or am I doing this to be a good girl? Some activities, while on the outside appeared to be Good Girl motivated, actually turned out to be things I enjoyed. Like hosting the family Christmas party.

But other endeavors revealed themselves to be part of my old pattern. Like the MC gig at the Pescadero Arts and Fun Festival. When I started eighteen years ago, it really fed me. I loved being on stage and helping the kids of Pescadero. But it was a really exhausting job. People assumed I breezed up on stage, spouted a few jokes off the top of my head, and waltzed off to party. Not. Preparation and recovery took one to two weeks. In recent years, I performed because I was needed, not because I wanted to be there. So I quit. While the decision was no fun, I felt no regrets. I felt free.

After that, my decisions came easier. So far I’ve quit three major jobs—writing gigs and volunteer positions—and I’m still not done cleaning house.

I can’t tell you how happy these changes are making me. While I have no idea if I’ll reach all my career goals, there are two things of which I am certain. By the time my picture is on that piano, I’ll have many more books on the market. And more importantly, I will have lived the life I chose for myself, not the one that was chosen for me.

©2011, Janet Periat

On Being The Nail That Sticks Up

Monday, June 6th, 2011

I am noticeable. I am “different.” I am “weird.” I always have been, even when I didn’t express my inner eccentricities through my hairstyle and dress. Someone affixed a sign on my head when I was 8 or 9 that said, “Hey! Over here!” And I started to attract attention, both good and bad. While the sign mostly works for me, it’s been a hell of a journey coming to terms with it. And I’m still not there. While our society touts the “individual” and encourages people to “be themselves,” this is mere lip service. When you’re different, you take lots of crap. Period.

It all started in fourth grade. The same year I encountered my first abusive teacher. I made the mistake of yawning in her class. “I hate seeing a lot of holes in the classroom,” she pronounced, and sent me to the nurse’s office to take a nap. Thank God for the expression of absolute shock on the nurse’s face. She echoed my inner voice, which said, “Your teacher is a psycho bitch from hell.” Fourth grade was also the first time I experienced an attack from a group. Boys from my class began chasing me home from school and spitting on me. When I retaliated, I got blamed. Crazy Teacher sided with the bullies.

From then on, the pattern seemed set. Freshman year in high school, another group of young men followed me around and spat on me. Update: I have since received heartfelt apologies from all the participants. I asked them why they chose me and none had answers. I credit the sign.

Junior year, I found theater and a sense of belonging, but continued to be singled out. Three girls harassed me until I lost my cool and attacked them. My only fistfight. Thankfully, the school sided with me.

In college, I experienced extreme persecution when I accidentally cut off my hair and went punk to save face. I ended up on the cover of the lifestyle section of the paper as “The First Punk Rocker of Gilroy.” Friends and family abandoned me in droves. Going out meant stopping traffic and having people point and stare.

The event freaked me out so much, I grew out my hair and bought normal clothes. But that didn’t stop the abuse — in fact, it got worse. After college, I worked as a bookkeeper and was blackballed at every job. The woman who replaced me at one job told me the actual word “blackballed” had been used. Discouraged, I returned to college and theater. I did well, but also experienced more persecution. I had to quit a project and inadvertently screwed over a friend. I apologized profusely, but my apology wasn’t accepted. Many classmates boycotted my play. Thankfully, mutual friends neutralized the torches-and-pitchforks crowd.

After graduation, I started bookkeeping for the local water company. The treasurer gave me a raise and signed me onto the bank account to make bill paying easier since two signatures were required on checks. But when questioned about her actions by an auditor, she must have thought she’d be in trouble for making the decisions because she lied and said I’d given myself the raise and snuck myself onto the bank account. I was fired and no one believed me because I had pink hair.

By this time, I was thoroughly sick of being persecuted and started cleaning houses. The only job where people were nice to me. And this is when I discovered writing. Perfect job. I could look the way I wanted and hide in my office. And while I receive hate mail occasionally for what I write, it’s much better than having people abuse me in person.

My life is a perfect example of the dichotomy of the messages we receive from society. In America, we tout freedom of expression. We tout the “individual.” “Being true to yourself” is a mantra for our age. Yet we don’t practice what we preach. We live in a super-narrow culture with little tolerance for differences in physical appearance. Or differences of opinion. We fear the “Other.” Which brings me to the unwritten and unspoken rule of our society: If you’re different or noticeable, expect abuse.

Take my recent vacation. After a six-hour-long car ride through sleet and snow, I checked into my hotel and stumbled into the elevator. I found myself surrounded by a bowling team. Background: I am now sporting a pink Faux-Hawk — a Mohawk on top, but with short hair on the sides. One of the yahoos — a guy named Clark — stared at me, then asked, “Were you ever in Billings, Montana?” Confused, I replied, “Once.” Clark responded, “I think I’m your father. Because I f**ked a peacock there once!” And then he burst into loud raucous laughter at his own joke. Because Clark was large and mean, I did not say, “So let me get this straight, my mother’s a peacock and my father’s a rude drunk.” I “laughed it off.” Thankfully, his friends were offended and said so. Unfortunately, everywhere I went for the next few hours, there was Clark. Or one of his friends. “Hey, Peacock Lady!” Heavy sigh.

Later, as I reflected on the incident — and the many previous ones like it — I finally realized that there’s nothing I can do about the Clarks of the world. I will more than likely always attract attention, from nice people and from the Clarks. But all in all, my gift/curse has helped way more than it’s hurt. Instead of running away to protect myself, I decided to accept the phenomenon. I’m going to be proud of myself, embrace who I am, and put myself out there. Take in the good and let the insults roll off.

And now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to go work on my latest mystery novel. It’s about an abusive drunk bowler who’s found dead. Murdered by having a fist full of peacock feathers stuffed down his throat.

© 2011 Janet Periat

The American Nightmare

Tuesday, February 1st, 2011

To achieve the American Dream, you must be successful. But our current definition of success is unattainable for most of us. Just when you think you have everything covered, the rates go up or you are fired or disqualified. Or you have a birthday. And then you become a “loser”. According to the current groupthink, the vast majority of us are losers.

To be considered successful, you must first and foremost make tons of cash. You must have a fantastic, exciting job. You must be CEO or at the very least, Senior VP. You must own a four-bedroom house, a family sedan, a motorcycle and/or a boat, and a two-seater sports car. You must decorate the house with new draperies and furnishings every two years. The house has to be kept spotless and smelling fresh, the latter hopefully through a little plug-in gizmo that spews artificial lemon verbena scent throughout your travertine tile-floored manse.

Your children must be stellar scholars, captains of the football team, chess champions and violin prodigies. You must have good health insurance, belong to a gym, and have a Bowflex in your heated garage. You must send your children to Ivy League schools. You must buy every new gadget on the market within 24 hours of its release. You must take expensive vacations and have a second home in the country—or at the very least, take cruises and own a timeshare in Tahoe or Hawaii.

For women there are a few extra things you need to be successful. Number One, you can’t age. Number Two, you must be a size one. You have to wear the absolute current fashion: nothing with more than a two-month shelf life. High heels are a must. Don’t forget the foundation, stylish make-up, perfectly coiffed and dyed hair, and polished fingernails. You must be tanned, gym-toned, get Botox injections and look perfect at all times. And don’t get caught driving the minivan. So embarrassing!

These out-of-reach goals are even more ridiculous considering that basic survival is hardly achievable anymore. My generation has been spending what’s left of their devastated 401Ks taking care of their elderly parents, putting their kids through college and trying to pay down an underwater mortgage. Health care is unaffordable for the majority. How the hell are we supposed to pay for the new roof or sewer line repairs or the dog’s hip operation?

But the worst component of the devastation of the middle class is that our culture considers us all failures. No matter how hard you worked, no matter if you went to graduate school, no matter if you followed all the rules, if you still came up short, you are a loser.

So where do we go from here? First, we need to realize that we are not losers. We’re experiencing a global shift in wealth distribution, and corporate greed on a scale that hasn’t been seen since the 1920s. The skyrocketing cost of health care is busting the budgets of the self-employed and making it too expensive for businesses to hire people over 50. Jobs are becoming obsolete at record pace. None of this is our fault. All of these factors are beyond our control. But how we deal with these changes is within our control. We need to become much more flexible in the ways we earn our living and how we spend our money. We need to save more. But more importantly, we need to redefine success.

We need to realize that society’s “markers of success” are made up, mostly by advertisers. And that the goals focus on the external. Whatever you do to your body will not bring you deep, lasting satisfaction. You will still age and therefore “fail”. That new Mercedes is used the moment you drive it off the lot. Spending hours of time distracting yourself with TV, smart phones and iPods will only make you feel more isolated. You actually must interact with people face-to-face to satisfy your basic, human need to connect with others. Two-word text messages do not promote bonding. They promote ADD.

Happiness comes from our interior lives, not our outside shell. Happiness comes from finding meaning in our lives. Beyond our basic survival, happiness can’t be bought.

The new definition of success should start with some questions: What will put food on my table and bring meaning to my life? Do I really need to own a house? What do I really need? What do I like? Not what you think you should like, but what you actually like. Work on widening your choices. Due to the current economic upheaval, you may need to change careers or move. Consider everything and everywhere that interests you, no matter what anyone else thinks. Stretch. Try something you never thought you could do. And if you’re broke, don’t be too picky. Do what it takes to survive and forget how you look. People who think lesser of you because you took a food server job after you lost your corporate position aren’t your friends. Besides, you never know where any job will lead. You never know where your next opportunity may come from.

Palliative care specialist Bronnie Ware interviewed many people on their deathbeds. She asked them what their regrets were. The number one response? I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.

When you’re dying and reviewing your life, what will you be thinking? Will you be proud of your McMansion, Gucci slippers and plasma screen TV? Or the hours you spent in a tanning bed? Or the years you spent staring at the tiny screen on your smart phone instead of experiencing the world around you?

The American Dream has been co-opted by our corporate-profit-driven culture and has become the American Nightmare. We deserve better. Our dreams should emphasize emotional fulfillment, not isolate us and make us feel like failures.

©2011, Janet Periat

The Secret To Happiness

Monday, March 1st, 2010

Last night, I watched the movie Julie/Julia. For me it was a shining example of what’s wrong with our current culture and why people are so miserable. For those who haven’t seen it, the movie is a juxtaposition of two lives. A thirty-year-old blogger in New York who, in one year, cooked every recipe in Julia Child’s Mastering The Art of French Cooking, and of Julia Child’s twelve-year-journey to create the cookbook. The movie highlights the differences between two paradigms: our current system-dependent, consumer culture versus a model that focuses on personal fulfillment, discovery and self-reliance, and how the models differ markedly in producing happiness.

Julie is a woman of 30, lost, self-centered, blocked and miserable. She is the epitome of the unhappy, dependent consumer and part of the unfortunate Self Esteem generation, a monstrous creation of parents my age. When we went to school in the sixties and seventies, all the emphasis and attention was on the boys and high-achievers and the rest of us were pretty much ignored or maligned. Our parents were more interested in cocktail parties than parenting. So many of us came out of the school system feeling alone with low self-esteem. We thought over-involving ourselves in our kids’ lives would help build self-esteem and would help them accomplish more. We thought that by giving our kids trophies for “participating” we’d make them feel good about themselves. We thought shoving them into endless Chinese lessons and ballet lessons would make them accomplished. We thought by tethering ourselves to our kids via cell phones and helping them make all their decisions would make them strong.

What we didn’t realize is that we undermined them more. We became a hyperextension of an already flawed paradigm. We reinforced the idea that kids can’t do things on their own. We gave them a skewed version of accomplishment. We gave them inaccurate mirrors of reality. We forgot that our children are individuals with unique talents and gifts that they need to learn to explore on their own. They need to be free to make and learn from their own mistakes. They need to be encouraged and supported in their interests. Not our interests and wants. Not what our consumer-driven, dependency-oriented society wants.

As a result, our kids are even more unprepared for reality than we were. All we’ve done is create an entire generation of deluded people who can’t solve problems on their own. Like Julie.

Julie wrote a half of a novel and because she couldn’t sell it, she never finished the book. She quit because she didn’t get an “A” for participating. For the first time in her life, she faced the real world. She ended up with the message that if you try once and don’t succeed and your parents can’t fix it for you, give it up. This illustrates the basic problem with our society today: the emphasis on dependence on the system. The message that we can’t do anything ourselves. The emphasis on buying something rather than creating it.

We no longer celebrate long-term efforts. Everyone wants to get rich quick. Julie is an example of this. She didn’t go to cooking school. She didn’t work forty hours a week for twelve years writing a book. She spent one year cooking and working a dead end job and whining about it on her blog. And this is what got her a book and movie deal. Why? Because this “accomplishment” resonated with her audience. Many people who saw the film couldn’t see difference between Julie and Julia Child.

Consumption is being mistaken for accomplishment. Which is how a “celebutard” like Paris Hilton has become famous. If you’ve never accomplished something like writing a book, you have zero understanding of the grit, determination and astounding amount of energy and hours it takes. Julie had little appreciation for the work Julia Child did. All she did was whine at the end of the story about how Julia Child wouldn’t recognize HER accomplishment.

Unfortunately, our current culture is producing far more Julies than Julias. It was recently reported that in America, 70% of people are dissatisfied with their lives and jobs. This is because we have ignored the fundamentals of human fulfillment. There is only one way to happiness: discovering your unique gifts and working hard to turn those gifts into mastery, completion and accomplishment.

Because we’re socialized to be consumers, not creators or initiators, America is in decline. We are stuck in a parent/child paradigm with the underlying message that if we’re good girls and boys and follow all the rules and trust in the system, we’ll be taken care of until the day we die. As a result, we have vast numbers of unemployed people waiting for someone to come along and give them a job. They aren’t thinking about creating a new job for themselves or others. They’re waiting for someone to come along and save them. And as most of us have started to realize, no one is coming to our rescue. We’ve been sold a false bill of goods. We are being called upon to take care of ourselves outside the system and we haven’t been given the tools to do it. Which is making us all terrified and miserable.

The movie illustrated this concept perfectly. Julie was whiny, fearful, unhappy and had complete meltdowns during her “year of accomplishment.” Julia Child laughed and loved her way through her entire life. Sure she had setbacks, but she just got up, dusted herself off and got back to work again with a smile on her face and joy in her heart.

We have the power to change our way of thinking. Our country was founded and built by a nation of Julias. And we can be great again. Celebrate your unique gifts. Develop them and share them. Believe in yourself, be in your corner and work hard for what you want. Your happiness and the future of this country depends on it.

©2010, Janet Periat

Death: the Good, the Bad and the Ugly

Thursday, July 16th, 2009

Been thinking a lot about death lately. Probably because about five hundred million famous people died recently. Billy Mays the infomercial guy and that singer dude, what’s-his-name. Michael something. Plus Farrah. And in my circle, someone died that I hated but who was revered by many. All of which has left me with some conflicting emotions. Our current culture doesn’t exactly promote healthy feelings towards death. Neither does my family. Especially when the dead person was Satan to some and God to others. Like MJ and this person I knew.

If you had a healthy relationship with the deceased, you go through a grieving process and then eventually heal. But when an abusive jerk dies, the process is more complicated. Some suddenly revere the abuser and recreate their past with them. Some people won’t let go of their hate, no matter how long the person’s been gone. But most people are torn about their hatred of the dead and don’t know what to do with their feelings.

As for me, when someone who was mean to me dies, I’m happy about it. Very happy. But people get freaked out when I express this. In my experience, most dead people get elevated to some sort of sainthood, even if they were jerks. I don’t get it. If the people were horrible when they were alive, they’re horrible when they’re dead. Death doesn’t erase their evil deeds, nor does it excuse them.

Nor do I understand why I can’t bitch about the dead. “Don’t speak ill of the dead.” Why not? What’s gonna happen? Like they’re gonna crawl out of their graves and return to defend themselves? I’ve been alive for fifty years and I speak ill of the dead daily. None of the people I’ve bitched about have returned. Look, I’ll do it right now. I hated my abusive, sadistic childhood dentist, Dr. Stanton (who also terrorized all my siblings). I was six, he was drilling on a tooth, it hurt, I said so. He told me it didn’t. I started crying. So he latched onto my jaw—digging his fingers painfully into my tender flesh and bone—and put his ugly face about an inch away from mine. With his eyes all bugged out, his teeth clenched and sweat beading on his warty forehead, he growled, “You’re not in pain!” This is a man that deserved to be dead. Like five seconds after he terrorized me. Freakin’ Dr. Mengele, the friendly children’s dentist. So, here I am, incredibly happy that the bastard is dead. The song that comes to mind is from the musical, Scrooge. People are dancing on Dr. Stanton’s coffin singing “Thank you very much, that’s the nicest thing that anyone’s ever done for me!” Now I’ll wait and see if his wormy corpse comes lurching through my door with his arms outstretched, repeating his famous line, “Don’t say ‘ow’, say ‘ow now brown cow’. Nope. He’s not there. See? Nothing happened.

Still, with death, it’s not always appropriate to voice one’s opinion and I’m very careful with whom I share my thoughts. And I certainly don’t speak ill of the dead in front of people who loved them. I may be feisty, but I’m not insensitive.

Which is why this week, I’ve pretty much kept my delight to myself. The only danger I can see with all my secret glee is that it speaks to some unresolved issues. I want to let go of my hate for the person (like I obviously need to do with Dr. Nasty Dentist). I want to let go of all my feelings for her. Because I don’t want to end up like my father.

My father has not let go of any grudge, ever. He bitches about dead people like they’re still in the room, tormenting him. Like my aunt whose been dead for five years. Last week, he spewed out his Holy Grail of grudges against his sister, working himself up to the same level of ferocity he always does when telling the story. His eyes turned red, he shook and sweated and spitted and growled. “She was rotten. Rotten! Spoiled brat. Ever since I accidentally shot her when she was five. We told her, time and time again, don’t play in front of the barrel! But no, she wouldn’t listen, so the gun went off and then she told everyone from then on that I shot her!” Okay, this happened in 1931 when Dad was nine and Jacquie was five. He is eighty-seven, she is DEAD. This is a seventy-eight-year-old grudge. Longer than the average lifespan of most people. This is a grudge that started when Herbert Hoover was president. When Al Capone went to prison for tax evasion. When Charlie Chaplin starred in City Lights. When the Empire State Building was built. Before World War Two.

So while I’m thrilled my evil enemies are dead, I don’t want to go overboard. I want to let it all go. What I want to feel for them is nothing. And I don’t ever want to think about them again.

Which brings me to the best thing about death: the reminder that someday I will die. While I’m making every effort to last until I’m 104 (I recently got an expiration date tattooed on me: Best Before: 9/11/2063), I want to pack as much fun and write as many novels as I can before I leave. I don’t want to waste one more moment thinking about the people who were mean to me. I want to embrace life, not death.

So while I’m tempted to go dance on a certain person’s grave, I think about my father and his seventy-eight-year-old grudge. While I might allow myself a quick jig right now, in the future I don’t need to be ranting about dead jerks while I’m piloting my flying car up to the Starbucks hovering over the Bay. I’d rather be enjoying the view.

©2009, Janet Periat

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