50 Shades of Success


On December 8, 1980, John Lennon was murdered.  The anniversary of his death was 6 days ago.  I should have published this post on that day.  But like everything I do in my life, I am late.  No matter, here goes my story anyway:

First you must know that I have been a huge Beatles fan since I was 7 years old.  And next month that means I will have been a Beatlette for  50 years.  In my opinion that’s a long time.  So I need to tell you what I was doing, thinking and feeling when I heard the news.

Harry and I were living in our first house in Studio City, a  “shack” my father-in- law  called it, but hey, it was south of Ventura Boulevard, just where the terrain started to get hilly and I had a view of the valley from the a window located above the kitchen sink.  We had enclosed the porch and made that space a family room of sorts with the TV and a navy blue couch decorated with peacocks that we bought on sale at Macy’s, I think.  The TV was on and I was doing something, perhaps preparing dinner, when I heard the news bulletin announcing that John Lennon was killed by a man using a gun as Lennon exited a car in front of his apartment building in Manhattan.

Just a couple of days before, I learned I was pregnant with the first of our three planned children.  I was stunned by what I heard.  Then I was very sad. And then I thought to myself ‘how could I bring a child into a world where someone would purposely take the life of someone I considered an integral part of something extraordinary.’  That’s the last things I remember.

Perhaps last week’s anniversary of his passing prompted me to think about some of his songs.  One song came to mind recently, “Woman.”  The song was a tribute to his wife Yoko Ono.  One line in particular has been a brain worm of sorts for me lately: Lennon thanks Ono for “teaching him the meaning of success.”   We never learn the particulars of what Lennon considered success, but this “not knowing” is both unimportant and important at the same time.  It is unimportant because what Lennon considered HIS success could only have be defined by Lennon himself. We don’t really need to know the particulars of why he considered himself successful.  While we maybe curious about those “things,”  they can not necessarily be applied to anyone else in world but him.  There is no “lesson” for the rest of us in knowing, nothing to take “home” as some ideas that we can use for ourselves.  The “not knowing” is also just as important however,  because it is a reminder that Lennon’s view of success applied to him only.  And that is the important lesson for all of us.  We must not let ourselves fall victim to letting other people define what is successful for each of us as individuals. Success is just as subjective and nebulous as happiness.  My therapist’s late father once said, we should simply try to be the best person we can be.  And for right now that is good enough for me.

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