Friday, January 04, 2008

Living Life to the Fullest?

This morning I was reading the San Francisco Chronicle while waiting for my bagel to toast when I came across this review: Her Last Death: A Memoir by Susanna Sonnenberg. The following paragraph caught my attention (not easy, since I've only had one cup of coffee):

"Daphne is a formidable figure; her behavior inexcusable, shocking and, ultimately, irresponsible. A compulsive liar, an incorrigible cheat, a promiscuous siren with an insatiable sexual appetite and an addiction to cocaine and other drugs, Daphne can quite rightly be viewed as the mother from hell. But Sonnenberg doesn't paint her as pure evil. She also portrays her positive side, her charm, her grandeur, her capacity to live life to its fullest. No one else was quite like her, and no one else made Susanna feel special the way she did." (emphasis added-Ed)

It occurred to me that the only time I hear or read the highlighted phrase is if the person described is otherwise a wild person: an addict, an alcoholic, sexually promiscuous, unable to form long-term commitments. Will Sean Preston or Jayden James Federline someday describe their mother, Brittany, as having "lived life to the fullest"? She looks pretty pathetic to me right now. And the more I read of the review of Ms. Sonnenberg's memoir, the more I wondered if she thought her mother "lived life to the fullest" or if the reviewer was putting words into her mouth. (I also wonder where the adults were in Ms. Sonnenberg's life, but the review doesn't ask that question.)

Does "living life to the fullest" really mean spending your money on booze, drugs, and men while neglecting your children? Is travel really broadening when done while your brain is in a fog? Is this really the kind of example we want for ourselves and our children?

Not me.

Personally, I think JPII lived life to the fullest. Or Mother Teresa. Or my own mother who lived through the Great Depression, WWII, was married to the same man for almost 50 years, raised six kids on a single salary, sent those six kids to college, and loves to read and to travel. She might have slowed down, but she hasn't stopped. She's still planning ahead, still looking forward. Still living until she dies.

That's living life to the fullest!