What do Marie Antoinette, Jean-Dominique Bauby and Hester Prynne all have in common ? They all had an early life similar to thousands of others; struggles, achievements and love… but they never stood a chance, they were all pretty done for, cut off at the knees. Unbeknownst to each of them, life would bring terrible change. Perhaps in an instant, perhaps over time, but an irrevocable shift, a change in the wind, and their lives were torn beyond recognition.

Marie, of course, we all know, and most of us love. Who cannot help adoring then pitying the beautiful child who was dressed like a doll and presented to the king of France, becoming the Dauphine and eventually, the Queen of France. She ended up vilified for participating in a life and culture she had no power to change, and was executed under the ravings of a madman, hated nearly universally. Even the most common phrase attributed to her, “Let them eat cake”, was actually said 100 years earlier by Marie-Therese, the wife of Louis XIV.

Jean-Do had a more charmed adolescence and career. He was the editor of French Elle at the age of 43. He was riding high on his accomplishments when, on Dec 8, 1995, he suffered from a debilitating stroke which completely and permanently paralyzed him. He lived as a victim of “locked-in syndrome” until the following summer, when he finally succumbed to his injuries and died. Luckily, he did live just long enough to see his book published, the book he “wrote” using a complicated series of blinks to signify letters as well as words. He had young children, a beautiful lover, was a success in every sense of the world, and it was all dashed away from him in an instant. He showed tremendous spirit up to the bitter end, and I reread his book often, my eyes glistening with tears for the utter unfairness of it all.

I feel a bit wonky about including Hester Prynne, the fictional character of the dark, American novel, “The Scarlett Letter”, in this list. I do it not to mock the seriousness of the lives of the other two, but to portray how art imitates life, which imitates art… In reality, we cannot escape the possibility of a rapid downfall, neither in our leisure reading can we always find the light at the end of the tunnel. Love, crime, betrayal and revenge are the dishes served in this unique play between internal vs external selves. The psychological price paid for living outside the accepted norm was brutal, while the nature of guilt is deeply explored. All of this, for an act of love…

There are enough examples in modern times as well as literature to hammer home my point, but you are not here to read a dissertation on the subject. Suffice it to say that the human condition is one of love, pain, loss and rebirth. We cannot escape that, no matter our beliefs or lifestyle. Everything can change in an instant, and no matter how you prepare, the storm can knock you flat. Knowing that it is all random, the luck of the dice roll, is uncomfortable for most of us to grasp. I have found that the majority of people do not like to dwell on uncomfortable, preferring to live in a world of their own construct. The only pity there is that growth is impossible as a narcissist. I believe that we can become so much more, that we can stretch our wings and swell to twice our size, if only we were willing to work at it. So many people never get the chance to live their life to the fullest, I feel compelled to live more deeply simply because I have the golden ticket… that chance to do so. =)


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