All life, even the cruelest drama and most absurd comedy, is a form of show business, a kind of performance, and I have been lucky enough to have created the moving picture show of my own life. I have starred in it, produced it, written it, directed it—even financed and distributed it. What’s even better is that I get to rerun it now and then, to see things I might have missed back then. In this third act of my life, much has become clearer. So much is over, and I am over so much.
I have learned to ease up on worry, scheming for films or roles, planning for better surroundings, and feeling anger at all our leaders who operate politically rather than humanely. Yes, I am over all that. I’m over listening to advertisements, the latest fashions (I never was much for that), events I should attend in order to be seen, red carpet madness. I’m getting more and more free from the expectations of the external world. In fact, the one worry I can’t seem to give up and get over is a lingering fear that being a reclusive, happy, older woman may not be entirely healthy. But who says so? I’m not interested in parties, new outfits (only comfortable ones), being socially acceptable, and whether I’ll be on anyone’s so-called A-list. My goodness, what a way to live!
I’m not over going to the movies, seeing live theater, hearing symphonies, eating a good dinner (I’m learning to dine out alone), attending a worthy charity event (for half an hour), visiting a sick friend, or taking treats and toys to the animal shelter.
I am over what other people think (I got over that a long time ago), and trying to persuade them to come around to my point of view about anything.
One thing will always be a constant with me. I have a guiding sense of curiosity. I will never get over asking Why. This questioning has been with me all my life. It is my sustenance, my inspiration, my joy, and my intellectual food and color. I will never be over my search for the Big Truths. And I’m not the only one. Most people I’ve met around the world believe we are not alone in the universe but will not talk about this openly because they’re terrified of being humiliated publicly for their beliefs. Some scientists, academics, and movers and shakers I’ve met were even reluctant to discuss it privately because of how they might be perceived. (Just another reason I revere the brilliant and fearless Stephen Hawking!)
Everywhere I’ve traveled in the world I’ve found that people are looking for something to fill the loneliness inside them; they are after what I think of as “The Big Truth.” It doesn’t matter how wealthy or well situated they are; after surface talking, joking, eating, Hollywood gossip, and cultural politeness, the conversation always turns to why are we here, what is the point of life, is God real, are we alone in the universe? That’s because, like me, most people have realized that money isn’t the answer to their emptiness. In fact, it sometimes contributes to it because the management of money (or the fear of not having enough) distracts them from any real examination of what is really bothering them.
So I’ve concluded that for us to get to the Bigger Truths, there is much for us to get over. I’ve had a good time exploring what I’ve finally gotten over and what I will never get over . . . from the ridiculous to the Big Sublime.
I’m glad I am in the third act of my life. I have loved my ride and am now appreciating relinquishing the reins and looking back. Sometimes I feel an unbearable ecstasy of loneliness for some of my past, wishing now that I had been so much more present then. Sometimes I feel it all happened to someone else, and I long to get the “me” of it all back. How could I have done so much, been so many places, known so many people—and now it is all past, gone, memories of colorful stories like little movies attached to the celluloid of my brain tissue. Every now and then the little movies turn themselves on, wanting to be rerun. What didn’t I see then? What deeper meaning did I miss? Where are those actors and actresses and politicians from my past now? They are still with me, in all the things they taught me, the memories of the times we shared. Fascinating and talented people, mind-expanding conversations, and curiosity about the future—those are things I will never get over.
On with the show!
© 2011 Shirley Maclaine
And Other Confessions
I'm Over All That
And Other Confessions
At a certain time in life, we all come to realize what is truly important to us and what just doesn’t matter. For Shirley MacLaine, that time is now. In this wise, witty, and fearless collection of small observations and big-picture questions, she shares with readers all those things that she is over dealing with in life, in love, at home, and in the larger world . . . as well as the things she will never get over, no matter how long she lives.
Among the things that Shirley is over: people who repeat themselves (“when you didn’t care what they said the first time”); conservatives and liberals; ill-mannered young people; the poison of celebrity (“Why do so many people want to be famous when they see how it can destroy your life?”); being polite to boring people (“If they won’t stop talking, I go into a trance and meditate”); getting older in Hollywood (“How peaceful it is not to have to look particularly pretty anymore or to wear a size 6”).
In the opposite camp, there are some things Shirley will never get over: good lighting (“Marlene Dietrich taught me how to light myself”); gorgeous costars (“The vanity of male actors is an impossible wall to scale”); performing live (“Yes, it is better than sex”); and above all, brave people with curious minds (“Fear is the most powerful weapon of mass destruction”).
Along the way, she recalls stories of some of the true greats she has known—Alfred Hitchcock, Elizabeth Taylor, Frank Sinatra, the two Jacks (Lemmon and Nicholson)—and ruminates on the state of Hollywood past and present. She recollects her relationships and romances with politicians (including two prime ministers), scientists, journalists, and costars.
An unabashed seeker of truth and unrepentant free spirit, Shirley looks squarely at a world that can irritate, confuse, and provoke her, but that can also delight her with its beauty, humor, and future promise. Reading I’m Over All That will make you feel you have been reunited with an old friend who tells it like it is but never takes herself too seriously.
Shirley MacLaine may be over all that, but this irresistible book ensures that we will never get over her.