Do We Really Own Anything?

A vehement email landed in my inbox today from a woman asking how I would feel about the 50 Shades of Grey series if I’d known that author E.L. James  had allegedly stolen the story from another writer. It went on for paragraphs and there was passion behind every word – clearly the person who wrote the email is pained.

(For the record, I am not making that accusation and I know nothing about the origins of these books. That is a matter to be decided by a court and I am not in any way involved or interested in being involved in that conversation.)

I didn’t read the books because of the author. Even being a writer myself, I hate to admit that I bought the books because of all the buzz and didn’t care much about the author except to wonder whether she set out to write erotica or just stumbled into it.

As a writer, I believe fully that we must respect the intellectual rights of another. There is nothing worse than one’s work being stolen and claimed as another’s. It’s happened to me, and yes it hurt, it angered me, it pissed me off. It was early in my journalistic career and I was shocked that someone more experienced and higher up the newspaper food chain would pull such a slimy stunt.

But she did and I am still here and if I’m not mistaken, I’ve done pretty damn well at getting my writing out there in spite of her all those years ago. In fact, I’ve even been friends with her and worked with her in other capacities. Life goes on.

I also believe in Karma: what you do will come back to you. If an author steals another’s work, she’s not free and clear, even if she sells a million books. Somehow, it will zing her later.

It’s not my karma to work out. I am only responsible for the decisions I make and the backlash to those.

We all live by stories – the stories we tell ourselves to take us down one path vs. another. The places we shop, the people we spend time with, we make those choices on the basis of a complex web of explanations and story lines that only we know, deep inside. That’s all we own.

So if one author is ranting and claiming someone else wronged her – that’s the story she’s choosing to live – rather than create something new for everyone to know her for.

We all have examples of people we hate but others like. You may think one business is the best in town, but I don’t like the person behind it so I won’t shop there. And vice versa.

I had a great time reading the 50 Shades series – it was fun, exhilarating, tantalizing, and perplexing. Conversations spun out of it, a joy ride.

And now I’m on to something else that gets me thinking. That’s life. We own only our worldviews. Even this moment is not ours to claim.

What would you rather spend time with – anger and discontent, or the anticipation of possibility, this beautiful moment in front of you?

Here’s how the day looks to me: clear-as-water blue sky, tree branches above my house illuminated by rising sun, the silence of a new day that holds in its grasp promise and potential and unexpected destinations. My children finish school. Summer begins, each day a slate to draw anew. Tonight, we will snuggle up together and not be mindful of bedtime because tomorrow they can sleep in. There is a freedom before me. Why look back?

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