ENDINGS - If you want a happy ending, that depends, of course, on where you stop your story.
~ Orson Wells
Usually end-of-year self-scrutinizing comes in the guise of New Year’s Resolutions. However, this year I’ve decided to think of my life in terms of the Seven Deadly Sins. If I’ve fallen into the mire of sin, I'll cleanse my soul and waltz into 2011 with angelic purity.
Note: The sins aren't in the order I found them on the Internet. I alphabetized them. Makes me feel organized.
Anger: A variety of things anger me, and I should let those go as they create stress and might make me sick. But there are two individuals who rile me to distraction. One person is Mark Levin. He’s an evening talk-show host who rails against anything democratic – he's much like Rush Limbaugh, but worse. Mark Levin labels all liberals liars – all of them. I’m a liberal, so I'm a liar. He calls us names, like scumbag, idiot, and dolt. During the presidential campaign, he called Hillary Clinton “Her Thighness.” He referred to Barak Obama as Barak Millhouse Obama, drawing attention to his actual middle name, Hussein, so people would be afraid of him. Whenever a liberal phones Levin’s show, he hangs up on them, saying something like, “You don’t know squat, you moron.” However, he venerates callers who agree with his pro-right opinions. Levin and his cadre of like-minded thinkers seem to take delight in tearing apart the motives of the Left – you know who they are - those liars, those bleeding heart socialists - dangerous Commies who, apparently, have some grand scheme to DESTROY OUR NATION.
When I can’t sleep, I listen to the radio. Occasionally, I switch to Levin’s program to hear what he’s up to, but he agitates me so much I need Alka-Seltzer to realign my stomach.
Then there’s Sarah Palin. Almost everything about her makes me fume, but I became particularly irate when she killed a caribou on her Alaskan TV show. I didn’t see the show, but according to my source, Sarah Palin couldn’t kill the beast right away - she shot several rounds before she hit the mark. Actually, I heard that she gave the rifle to someone else - someone who could shoot straight and kill the poor thing. My research didn't produce evidence of that, so I guess she eventually put the bullet where it belonged all by herself. Then she took the caribou home to her family and showed it off, taking kudos for a good kill.
Sarah Palin insists that killing animals is Alaska’s way of providing food for their families during a winter drought. Makes me wonder how much freezer space Palin set aside for caribou steaks beside her Edy’s Triple Fudge Ice Cream, Ding Dongs, Lean Cuisines, and Green Giant peas.
My vitriol rose again when Palin bought a massive bear rifle so she could protect Kate Gosslin, her eight, Palin’s entourage, the helicopter pilot, and the camera crew from big, bad bears during a tricked-out overnight camping expedition in the cold-drizzle wilderness. “Don’t worry, I’ll save ya,” Ms. Palin sang as Kate shivered under the tarp. I envisioned Palin aiming the shotgun at a charging grizzly before hightailing it out of there, while Kate plus eight and the rest of the troupe high-fived the bear.
Looks like anger will be with me in the coming year. Mark Levin’s mouth and Sarah Palin’s gun-toting run for the presidency won’t be going away any time soon, and I’m not about to change my attitudes concerning either of them.
Envy: I’m envious of people who have nicer or better things than I. And I’ll agree that being envious of having things is harmful to the psyche, causing brain damage. However, I'm envious of all those writers out there who’ve published with the Big Houses. I’ve been writing two novels for a while now. In order to hit the shelves in national book stores, I have to finish one, hire an editor, make revisions, write a proposal, send query letters, find an agent, and land a publisher. Ed, my husband, has accomplished all of this – seven times. Two books and five anthologies. I’m envious of him. I can’t help it.
My writing partners and I self-published two excellent books. Both anthologies; both available on Amazon.com. ( Little Did We Know: Making the Write Impression by Bernadette Adora, Mary Lou Edwards, Carolyn B. Healy, Ellie Searl, 2009; and You Couldn’t Make This Up – Real Stories, Real Life by Ellie Searl, Carolyn B. Healy, Mary Lou Edwards, 2010). I’m proud of these two books (see Pride), and I intend to self-publish more of my writings. But self-publishing, as popular as it has become, isn’t the same as making a name for one’s self with, say, Simon & Schuster, Penguin, Random House, or any other house of the “Big Six.”
Self-publishing is the wave of the future. Some well-known authors can’t wait for their contracts with the Big Houses to be up so they can go the self-publishing route. Because, in self-publishing, an author retains control - on-demand printing, fewer gatekeepers, more profit, and specialized distribution. It gives me hope that well-known authors respect the process of self-publishing. However, I suspect I'll have to break into the limelight of authorship before my self-published books go global. In the meantime, I’ll remain envious of those who are – in the limelight. It doesn’t look like I’ll give up envy any time soon.
Gluttony: A tough one. Gluttony can wreck the body, especially the heart. Overeating is stupid, unattractive, even deadly. But I’m a glutton when it comes to champagne and potato chips. Fill a flute with champagne, i.e., sparkling wine- we don’t buy the expensive French stuff - set it next to a bowl of Cape Cod or Tim's or an unrecognizable brand from Aldi, and I’m good to go. Extra dry ersatz champagne pairs well with a crispy, brown, kettle-cooked chip. That’s a Sunday afternoon feast – goes nicely with solving the New York Times crossword puzzle and watching football with Ed.
I'll try to ease off the indulgences, but I won’t give them up entirely. A smidgen of gluttony will go with me into the New Year.
Greed: I don’t want more things – I have enough “stuff.” That kind of greed I can do without. But is wanting more money considered greedy? If so, I’m guilty. Come to think of it, who isn’t? Doesn’t everyone want more money? The housewives of Beverly Hills have more money than God, but even they say they’re not satisfied with “the little” they have.
Why do people enter sweepstakes or buy lottery tickets or spend hours at a Casino? They want more money, that’s why. I’ve done all of those things - I admit it. Entering sweepstakes is the most disappointing, in my opinion. The chances of winning a million dollars a year for life are slim to slimmer. I stopped bothering with sweepstakes after my first entry. I’ve bought lottery tickets, but the most I’ve ever won was enough to buy another lottery ticket. I participated in a group lottery when the winnings were $300+ million. My $5 in the pool brought me nothing. I’ve tried my luck with other contests and I’ve bet on basketball games. I’ve played video poker at a casino.
I’ve allowed greed to lead me down its precarious path, trying my luck with Coke contests, March Madness bets, and slot machines - winning some, losing more, and getting grumpy.
There has to be one thing I can win, somewhere. Will I give up being greedy? Not likely. Who doesn’t want more money?
Lust: Why is lust sitting in list of sins? Lust? A sin? I suppose if you’re a pedophile or a pervert or a dirty old man, then, yes, you’re corrupt, and you should stop it. However, I don’t think that’s what the writer of the Seven Deadly Sins meant. I think Mr. Sin felt guilty about his overwhelming desire to bed women - or men. Perhaps he coveted someone, or several, in his village - the girl in the town square, his sister's husband, his neighbor’s daughter, the men in the field. His sense of perversion led him to label his sexual longing as nasty. And in order to assuage his guilt, he applied this nastiness to everyone for all time. “If you lust after others,” he probably wrote, “you’re a big fat sinner.” He wanted to add, “like me,” but that would have branded him a big fat sinner, and he couldn't have that, being the Decider of Sin and all.
Lust is a natural sensation and everyone experiences it. I challenge anyone to assert that lust hasn’t entered his or her arousal field at least once. I have lust for good-looking men. Take Chris Noth, the actor from “Law and Order,” “Sex and the City,” and his most recent show, “The Good Wife.” Now he’s one hunk. Then there’s George Clooney and my husband Ed. They’re all hunks. I’m glad sex exists. Can’t imagine life without chemistry. Can you?
Pride: This is one I display a regular basis, and I don’t care. I’m proud of many things I do, and I’ll say so in church if I have to. Sure, there are some things I’m ashamed of, but when that happens, I turn the shame around so I can be proud again. I like to hold my head high, and the only way to do that is engage in behaviors that make me proud of myself. What’s the alternative – walk around like a bad dog with my proverbial tail between my legs after I’ve accomplished something? Of course not, and nor should you.
Feeling pride is a gift we give ourselves after accomplishing a goal – any goal. “Good for me,” we say. Remember Minnesota's US Senator Al Franken when he played Stuart Smalley on Saturday Night Live? He’d look into the mirror and say, "I'm good enough, I'm smart enough, and doggone it, people like me." It might have been comedy, but it sent the message: It’s okay to be proud.
I’ve received compliments from people who like me and enjoy my work. I even have an award named after me at Gurrie Middle School – the “Ellie Searl Writing Award.” Proud? You bet. I place my accolades into a pride bank I carry in my heart. Sometimes I take out a prideful attitude and wear it on my sleeve. And so should you. Yes, pride is a good thing. It’s staying with me in 2011.
Sloth: I don’t approve of people sitting around in their underwear watching TV until it’s time for supper. But I have to confess that it is 11:17 am on a Tuesday morning, and I’m in my bathrobe working on my computer as I watch TV. I’ve had my coffee and breakfast, I’ve checked my email, I’ve brushed my teeth, and I’m writing this portion of my blog. Now, is that sloth? Or is that attending to the important stuff before moving on to the morning routine, the mundane, the boring, like getting dressed so I can look presentable enough to answer the door without embarrassing my family?
I produce a lot of work - I write, post blogs, format books, design web sites - and because I have a laptop, I can do work anywhere. Most of the time I have music in the background for better concentration. But every now and then, I sit in the living room and turn on TV. And so what? So what if I watch it? So what if one of my favorite shows is “The Price is Right"? I know, most of the advertisements are geared to geezers, with their Hoverounds and Depends and AARP Life Insurance. I like the excitement Drew Cary brings to the show, and I can write while the drivel plays in the background. Is that sloth? Or is that multi-tasking? I sometimes watch “Jeopardy” and “Law and Order” and “Two and a Half Men” while I work. There was a time I thought “Two and a Half Men” was vulgar, and I refused to watch it. But now that I’m not in the business of providing a moral example for seventh graders, I have found the show to be kind of funny. Recently I’ve become hooked on “The Good Wife.” The show is set in Chicago, and stars Chris Noth, who is some hunk (see Lust).
Conclusion: It appears that I'll start the New Year as I ended this one, savoring anything and everything that fuels my senses. I refuse to flatline my way through 2011. Those so-called deadly sins kindle my spirit. They’re the spark plugs of my soul, giving me energy, enthusiasm, and eagerness to greet the vagaries of life. Cease being angered by ne’er-do-wells? Stop my progress manifested by envy? Ban the enjoyment of sweet and salty? Lose the fantasy of making millions? Thwart my desire for hunks? Quit patting myself on the back? Never lounge in my pj’s? Nuh-uh.
Seven Deadly Sins? They're not deadly, and they're not sins. They're life affirming - and they're essential.
The Seven Essentials. Welcome 2011.
EVS - 12/10