Change #62: The Beautiful and Damned – Is Done & The Question of “The Meaning of Life”

It was close there.

I used my 2 hour car maintenance appointment, my 3 hour hair appointment, squeaked out a couple of stolen nights at coffee shops, and the last 3 consecutive 30 minute lunches in a row at work –  but I made it.

I completed the book. 

I know there will be some that may question my sincerity in terms of completing the book. However, at this point I feel you must trust me.  I can provide you with a detailed account of how each character (Anthony, Gloria, Maury, and Dick – there were others, but they were the main characters that mattered to me) spent approximately the 10 years that covered their lives. I can give away the ending and tell you how the book closes on page 388.  But I don’t want to ruin it for you in case you want to read it.

You must trust me at this point. Why should you, you ask?

Because, I am the girl that skateboarded for 10 minutes, awkwardly, and wrote about it. I am the girl that set the oven on fire making lemon meringue pie for the first time. I am the girl that jumped into Lake Ontario in February for the Polar Plunge, and confessed openly in this blog, that the experience was terrifying.  I am also the girl who built a  10 KM training schedule to train for the hypothermic 10 KM run (that’s THIS weekend!) and proceeded to barely train. And openly admitted her failure.

I am not above failing. I have failed so often in my life I am immune. More importantly, I am not embarrassed.  

Let me just say though, with The Beautiful and Damned,  the title alone gives you an idea of what the book is about. The book reflects an age where beauty, wealth, and prestige rule the world. As such, the characters spend a great deal of the book obsessing over things that are trivial  (to me) such as beauty, money, and prestige.

What I found interesting was the monologue by Maury, about half way through the book, where he discusses his “education” but touches on elements of the lesson to be learned from life.  The timing was doubly interesting: I was perusing a literary journal to check on the status for a short story I submitted, and I saw a request from the literary journal for submissions for stories relating to, “The Meaning of Life.” I rarely submit when there is a specific request, but I thought, Hmmm…that could be interesting?

I can safely say, at 42-years old, I know the meaning of life is…

I don’t have the darndest idea. 

It’s an old question and one that continues to puzzle me. Is it to have children? What happens if you don’t have children, or can’t have children? What does that mean? Does it mean the couple are worth less to society?  Or if you are a woman, you are a failure? (By the way, I don’t have children.)

Is the meaning of life, to travel and learn new things?  Do you learn as much as you can and by the end of your life you’ll be a know-it-all? Is that possible? With a world that is forever shifting and changing, technology and science that bends every few years, is it even possible?

I would say, no. 

Is the meaning of life to be happy? If so, then each person needs to determine what makes them happy. Is it a life where you give back, for example by helping the poor? Or is it a life where you spend it shopping? After all, different things, make different people happy.

I don’t know what the meaning of life is. Maybe for each one of us it’s different. In the movie City Slickers, it is summed up best when the baby calf Norman gets swept away in a river and Mitch races into the river to save him. For Mitch, it’s all about baby Norman. 

I write because I love it. I also write because I hope that I can help others to see a different perspective through my stories, and that sometimes, it may bind us closer together. When I write about grief and loss, it’s a form of healing for me as I have lost my father, my brother and more recently, a very close friend.  But I hope with my writing, I can also reach someone else that may feel the same way and they’ll realize they’re not alone. Grief can be a very lonely experience.

My goal in life is simple: when I leave, I hope I left the world a little better than when I came into it (or at least, I didn’t make it worse). I hope my family and friends know how important they are to me, I showed them, and that they’ll never second guess how much I cared about each one of them.

And for that person I cut off in traffic in my hustle to get to work in the morning because I left late (again), I’m truly sorry, and I hope I didn’t ruin your day.

I don’t think that’s the meaning of life – but for me, it might be.

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