Monday, April 26, 2010

On what makes Amelia Earhart Amelia, and of course Meryl Streep

I'm sure that men feel guilty about the choices they make. I'm sure they spend time regretting the road not taken. And I know that I'm no Meryl Streep. Or Amelia Earhart. I've written about this before, but I don't think the subject is one that can actually be exhausted. I wish we would all stop apologizing for our lives. They are what they are. And we have done our best with them. We can continue to try new things, hey, as long as we're not dead or debilitated, and we can grow. We can become better citizens, better writers, and pilots, and parents. Life goes on. It's time to let go of the regret already.

This was brought home to me again as I listened to several women talk about their lives and the formation of self. I think that many women who choose to forgo a career, or stop it midway and focus on their children feel apologetic about it. And I think that others who have chosen a career and have no interest in being parents feel defensive. Enough. The fact is there isn't world enough and time to do everything well. Who said we had to. Let me go back to the part about men here. Do they really agonize about this the way women do? I'm having my doubts.

I think back to my own parents; my mother couldn't bear that she wasn't good at everything. And I mean everything. Her cooking was horrid. Her vegetables were unrecognizable, her meat tough enough to break a tooth on. Yet she wanted to hear what a fine cook she was. I was thrilled that she was a doctor, a woman doctor! Wasn't that enough? No. She had to be the happy homemaker too. She had to be able to juggle successfully. Frankly, I think juggling is overrated. It's beginning to give me brain freeze. And I can't be the only one out there.

So let's can the guilt. Let's look at who manages to do what and how. We aren't all Meryl Streep, and god knows she's marvelous. As for Amelia, a lot was made about how she decided not to have children. How she said she didn't have time for it. She didn't, how about that. There wasn't enough time. How refreshing that is. She chose and chose honestly. But still people talk about her regretting it. That she wasn't fulfilled because she couldn't have a family and a career. Maybe she wasn't, if so she suffered from the same misguided notions we all suffer from. That we can have it all and do it all.

Which brings me to Chris Rock, he said something funny on Bill Maher. I'll paraphrase. Most people are mediocre at what they do. He wasn't being mean, just honest. It's true and if we manage to be a little better at one thing, then hey, that's pretty damn great. So women stop berating yourselves for the road not taken.

There, my rant for the day.
Now back to finishing up with Amelia.


  1. I doubt that AE had any particular regrets about the lack of children. Not everyone needs to have a family and children. If you tend to self-sufficiency by temperament and are immersed in meaningful work you enjoy, then you're fulfilled. She shows every sign of being that sort of person. I know Muriel commented at some point that Amelia had wanted kids, but I think Muriel was just being a little defensive. (As in, I may not be a famous pilot but at least I produced children, which my famous sister didn't.)

  2. She certainly didn't seem to have regrets. I wish we'd all catch up in that department. But it's hard I guess, so much pressure from the outside world to be everything to everyone.

  3. I like the breezy flow of language in this post and the restful message of "you don't have to be everything." Why be miserable for imagined deficiencies of life experience? That does seem to be a waste of time.

    I like where you write, "Frankly, I think juggling is overrated. It's beginning to give me brain freeze. And I can't be the only one out there." You aren't! I have the juggling-to-the-point-of-brain-freeze syndrome too. I came across a phrase by Gerald May that is intriguing, "the power of the slowing." (from his book The Wisdom of the Wilderness)

    The power of the slowing for me is the power of quality over quantity. I may not do 200 million thousand things today (lazy me), but I want to focus on the quality of the moment over quantity of stuff done. Your post emboldens me to "can the guilt" and to not view the amount of living I do as somehow deficient (according to whose yardstick?). Thank you for an uplifting post!

  4. Hey, thank you Colleen. I'm in the mood, go figure.

  5. I laughed outloud several times while reading this post. Hopefully, the older you get, the more you realize that your goal should be fulfillment, not meeting anyone else's criteria about what you should be doing (I never understand the criticism that somehow a woman owes it to the world to have kids, as if earth isn't populated enough). The point about men is interesting, but a lot of the time I think it's not a bad tradeoff questioning your choices some, as long as you have a rich inner life!