Saturday morning, as I was flipping channels and doing my wake-up routine, I came across an episode of Inside the Actors' Studio hosted by eminent interviewer James Lipton. It was a special episode, the 200th and the format was a bit different.
Like most "special" episodes for this type of show, it was a clip show with selections from many of the previous 199 shows covering a 14-year period. What made it really special was Lipton was in the right-hand chair being interviewed instead of interviewing. Filling in, and filling in well, for Lipton in the left chair was Dave Chappelle.
Among the interesting topics the two covered, and the one that struck me the most, was the fact that many of our most famous actors have lived through great personal pain and suffering. Most of this pain came in the form of their fathers hitting the road and not looking back (Chappelle and Lipton's included).
And this is when it struck me: I'll never be a good writer or artist since I haven't had nearly enough pain in my life. Of course, by saying this I'm just inviting the Fates to screw me over like some character out of Greek mythology. Oh well, nothing I can do about that now.
I was talking with a friend last night who's had more than her fair share of difficulties in this life, making me all the more aware of just exactly how normal mine has been.
In my time, I've lost two people I love, both of them to cancer, but neither of their deaths was wholly unexpected. Among my parents and brothers and sister there is a total of 97 years of marriage...and not a hint of divorce. I have five nieces and three nephews and two more nieces scheduled to make their debut sometime next month (and not a minute too soon for my sister-in-law, I'd say).
As a reporter, though, I've covered my fair share of death. Traffic accidents, murders, drownings, death penalty verdicts (five times), fires, plane crashes, and for one very special week in April 2004 when Shane Goldman's family allowed me into their lives after the 19-year-old Marine was killed during his third tour in Iraq. After his casket arrived late in the evening at the funeral home in Orange, Texas, his mom, Jan Manshack, one of the strongest women I've ever hand the honor of meeting, asked the gathered crowd of more than a hundred to join her in singing "Happy Birthday" before the clock struck midnight and her son's 20th birthday ended.
Do these count? Or have they, over time, merely immunize me to other's suffering? (Currently, I'm leaning toward B, but I'm hoping to change that.)
I've lost a job, been fired actually, and at the time it seemed like the end of the world. But it really wasn't. In fact it freed me up so six months later I could take a job I really.
I've lived through or covered more than a dozen hurricanes, but never suffered a loss in the wake of one of these storms. In fact, after 2005's Hurricane Rita, I think I was the only person in Southeast Texas who didn't lose anything and wasn't eligible for any assistance from FEMA.
My cars have been broken into twice, but all I lost were a radio and some tapes. The second time the thief was even kind enough to lock the door on his way out. I don't think this counts as personal pain. Annoyance maybe, but not pain.
Perhaps the only place I've had a bit of uneven luck is in the dating world. I've been lucky enough to love and be loved in return, but like many of us I'm still searching for that one special girl I want to spend a bunch of time with (and, of course, she with me).
Which brings us, finally, to the point. What I've been wondering is this: Can you lead a ordinary but, at the same time, extraordinary life?