Monday, January 25, 2010

How does one have it all

Reading the paper just yesterday, I noted that another billionaire was going belly up and getting divorced. Apparently this is news. Still, the poor man would be allowed to keep his paltry million dollar a month lifestyle. I probably have the figures wrong, but you get the picture. He'd married his second wife without a pre-nup and now was deep in trying to make sure she didn't walk away with too much, meanwhile he'd managed to make a few understandable mistakes. Didn't pay taxes. That sort of thing. Ran some companies into the ground. Once he had it all. The money, the power, the art collection, the trophy wife.
For a woman what does having it all really mean? You're Meryl Streep I believe. Or you're out in the cold. And therein lies my comparison. Meryl is hands down amazing and has been since I was younger and striving. I'd always tell myself I wasn't Meryl, who could be? The woman was amazingly talented and able to pull off having a top of the line career, being apparently happily married and raising children. How on earth did she juggle all that?

I see her now, apparently sans plastic surgery. She is still amazing, even more so. She opens movies. She has that same family all grown up. She's self effacing and caring and yes, she has it all. She is still the pinnacle. The fact is, it's not exactly crowded up there.

I look back at the choices Amelia and Muriel made. It's quite possible that Amelia had no real interest in parenting, and that Muriel was willing to barter with her husband and eventually achieve a career as a teacher. Both may well have suited who they were. But both were necessary. I look around at my friends and see that we still make the same sorts of choices. We juggle home and career and worry about both. We wonder if we're doing things well or well enough. We put too much on our plate, and tell ourselves that it's a scientific fact that women are born multi-taskers. We hold ourselves up to such high standards.

Do men? I'm not angry, I'm just asking. Is it a product of brain chemistry or how we're raised? Has this generation changed? A little, a lot? I'd like an answer from you and no, I'm not answering for you. My husband's an incredible cook, a wonderful father, a supportive husband, and he works his butt off. This isn't about him, it's about the world around us.

What does having it all mean to you?

12 comments:

  1. What does having it all mean? Good question. I guess I feel like I do...knock wood and spit in the evil eye quick! Good marriage, children who have health insurance and are happy most of the time, enough money to travel to interesting places and not worry too much about paying the bills. Okay, I guess for me 'having it all' means being truly contented with what I have.

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  2. As always, depends on what "it" is. At the Y there's an ad for a support group for "good-enough mothers." Porgy sang about having "plenty o' nuttin' ". So not everyone strives to have Everything, if that's what "it all" means. The word that trips us up is "having." It's more about "being" ... as Hallie said, contented; happy; not afraid.

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  3. I totally agree with Ursula. I was never interested in marriage or children, and that's freed me to lead a rather unconventional life that's been rich in experiences while operating on a shoestring budget. I wouldn't trade my life for anyone else's.

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  4. There are days I don't remember to breathe, but on the days I do, then I can see that I'm lucky. That this is all good. But the real problem is remembering to take that breath, to give myself a chance to step back and gain some perspective. I do wonder about all the pressures we put on ourselves, internal and external. And I do think with fondness of Leonard Cohen's years in a buddhist monastery.

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  5. I agree with Hallie's point that "having it all" probably translates to "being happy with and understanding the value of what you have." I think that if anyone ever thought it meant being the best at multiple pursuits at once, they quickly found out that it's not doable. This makes me think of what I got out of reading Sue Miller's "The Good Mother." To me, she was saying "You can be 100% lover or 100% mother, but not both at the same time." I'm happy with a balance of family/work/time to space out, but the right mix is different for everyone.

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  6. Every so often Newsweek or the like does a survey of the happiest people. I've never seen the questionaire but more than once the category of people most happy were the disabled. According to the Happiness Hypothesis this feeling is generated in the gap between what we have/are and what we want to have/be, i.e. if you've got it (like winning the lottery) you're in trouble. I've been pondering that. Ive also found that when you ask people to stop and measure whether they are happy most of them say yes and indeed have good reasons to be. I think you are addressing somethign else that makes noise throughout the day. I've met very few people without such noise; I am, though married to such a person and I've taken to deleting the word should as often as I can from my inner vocabulary. So I don't get up very early in the morning...but hey. One further thought; for me there is a bottom line of what I need to be happy, which I'd have to say is time. If I had it "all" and no time to call my own the latter would cancel out the former. So, maybe some people focus more on the minimal requirements and everything else is gravy (maybe introverts are like that? and others need the wide space to move into even if at times it feels like a burden.

    Must say its nice to see that your surrounded by so many happy friends. I'm a big fan of the chemistry argument these days. But chemistry feels so very real when you hit menapause.

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  7. you need more gay friends!!! :)
    I just had this conversation with my coworker who is gay. I mentioned that I felt that management of logistics was a woman's talent, and that i felt ashamed every time i drive a logistics project to completion. Clearly, i'm only good at the "non-important" stuff...
    but my coworker said that he enjoyed the same stuff. SO why should i feel stigmatized for that? what is so "womanly" about getting a job done, however it happens, or manly for that matter? i'm me just because-- because of the life that molded me. sometimes i'm metro', sometimes i'm girly, sometimes i'm masculine. anyway, evolution is upon us. stigmas are becoming a thing of the past. all the colors & gender biases are running together, running downstream away from us.

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  8. Gender bending. Let it begin.I've always preferred wearing men's clothes, albeit semi seductively. I'm a huge fan of so called boy flicks. Get me to Spiderman and I'm happy. Batman more so. Darker, grittier, violent, that's fine with me. Go figure. My fiction is gritty and that seemed to be a problem at times. Yet I persist, I am who I am, right? It's really what I like about figuring out who Amelia is, because she made gender bending into an art form.

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  9. My friend Suzanne gave me "The Good Mother" just as I'd given birth to my daughter. I read it with one hand and eye, holding daughter with the other, for hours, hormones crashing. My impression was that the title was ironic onlyin that the definition of a good mother was wavery. I Think that made me feelbetter.

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  10. Another billionaire gone belly up- what an apt description. I've always been befuddled by the folks who seem to have it all and are desperately unhappy. It definitely gives one pause in the pursuit to having it all, and what exactly constitutes "having it all" means is a great question- probably the best question that can ever be asked. The answer has changed for me over the years, and continues to change. I love Amy's comment that one indispensable ingredient in having it all is to have time. I also treasure the exquisite occurrence of free time when it occurs in my day. I read on a website of a woman named Nirmala recently "Alone time is my most valuable resource." This really stuck with me. Speaking of what having it all means to women in particular, I would recommend one of my favorite books of all time, it's called "Ordinary Women, Extraordinary Wisdom" by Rita Marie Robinson. Thanks for a great post Naomi, and I love Meryl too, she was awesome in the laptop scene in "It's Complicated."

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  11. Ooops- the above post by "Mary" is really by Colleen- I didn't realize my daughter had her email signed into the computer.

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