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Just Another Point of View: Life may be good - but it's not that good

The other person who lives at our house said something last week that struck me as practically profound. It got me thinking, anyway.

“Can you imagine what it would be like if every dumb little thing you said or did ended up on the news?” she asked, shooting me a look from her end of the kitchen counter (where the phone sits) to my end of said counter (where the napkins and the mug full of pens are).

The inspiration for her observation, of course, was something on television. I don’t remember if it was the president or the governor or just some celebrity who is always followed around by hordes of media people — but we quickly agreed that it would almost certainly be comical if it involved us.

“As you see in this video, Mr. Kelly left for work again today with his lunch on top of his car, proving once again that he is indeed such an idiot. It was also confirmed later this morning that he forgot he was supposed to go to Milwaukie Elementary School, where he reads with kindergartners and first-graders in the SMART program, requiring him to take a roundabout route and come back to the school a different way. Back to you in the studio.”

The pressure must be so intense to look good all the time, to appear to know what you’re doing, where you’re going — you know, to be in control of your destiny.

That’s got to be SO HARD.

And not only are they following you around all the time, asking what you’re doing, then telling everybody about it on the nightly news, there also is an expectation that you should have purpose — you’re going places for a reason, perhaps because you’re full of big ideas, with plans for action, changes, improvements, bigger and better things.

Certainly our leaders are supposed to have their minds on such things. We also expect entertainers, artists, creative people — all those folks we admire and look up to — to have ideas for their next screenplay, record album, motion picture, symphony, novel or visual art project.

Who does that really?

I’m doing good to figure out what I’ll wear to work tomorrow, and I know for a fact that the other person who lives at our house gets tired of deciding what we’ll have for dinner once I do come home from a long day of staring into a computer screen.

I used to work with a person who said she got so weary of trying to plan a meal for every day of the week she just started following the meal guide published in Woman’s Day magazine. And even though she was an intelligent and talented professional, she said she just let the magazine do it for her, adding, “I’ve been doing it for years.”

I can promise you that what I’ve been doing for years would not make interesting TV viewing. After about the 10,000th report that I twice drove across the Sellwood Bridge today, once TO work and again in the evening on the return trip home, I’m pretty sure members of the general public would be flinging themselves off that very same bridge, just to keep from hearing it again.

There would be a certain amount of uninteresting reporting, I imagine, on the things I worry about — such as my garage door being out of adjustment so there’s a 4-inch gap at the right end, the mole that’s already digging up my sorry excuse for a lawn, the improvements we need to make involving windows, floors, the fence, the roof, the furnace, etc. — as well as on my personal thoughts (half-baked column ideas, new songs, what book I’m gonna read next, this summer’s class reunion, etc.).

I’m pretty sure that it was this intense scrutiny by the public (and its nosy media) that led to Michael Jackson becoming a, well, whatever it was he became.

Thanks to that same white-hot spotlight, we’ve seen a governor resign from office. We’ve seen certain peculiar movie stars and novelists go into hiding and never come out.

As a society, we’ve shown ourselves to be unable to look away from the likes of Beyonce, Oprah, Britain’s royal family, Justin Bieber, Tonya Harding, Tom Brady, Dennis Rodman, Miley Cyrus, the Kardashians — although in the case of many of them, we have no clue why we care.

Compared to many of these folks, my own lack of greatness is hardly notable. And I am exceedingly grateful that I come nowhere near the dilemma borne by Shakespeare’s King Henry IV, who lamented, “Uneasy lies the head that wears a crown.”

The other person who lives at our house often says, “Life is good” — but she doesn’t really mean it. I, on the other hand, do believe it, in spite of the fact that it (life, that is) is so terribly ordinary.

Former managing editor of several community newspapers, including the Woodburn Independent, Lake Oswego Review and the Times papers, Mikel Kelly is chief of the central design desk for Community Newspapers and the Portland Tribune, and he contributes a regular column.


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