“Que Sera, Sera, what will be, will be!”

Dear Doris Day,

I heard that you died today at the age of 97.   A long life by any stretch of the imagination.   

They say you will be cremated, as you wished, without any fanfare.  I’m sorry if I’m intruding on your final wishes, but I can’t let you go like that.

Doris Day, you were an amazing actress, singer and advocate.  You were a complicated woman whose existence deserves to be more than a footnote gracing the pages of a dust covered history book or an inaccurate page in Wikipedia.  You deserve more than an annual birthday celebration on Turner Classic Movies, a birthdate that my daughter proudly shares with you by the way, or the occasional chuckle I get when I’m  in the mood to wear one of my many hats and remember that it was you who taught me how a silly hat could take the stuffiness out of a room full of business suits.

Although we never met, you have been this unwavering role model of positivity in the recesses of my existence for over half my life. 

Why? 

Well, for one thing, you never let tragedy, heartbreak, or disappointments stop you from moving forward.   You were this picture-perfect screen image of the all-American woman and yet, your private life was a complicated series of twists and turns and more than the occasional cliff dive.   You could have shouted from the roof tops how unfair it all was and no one would have blamed you.  Wolves in sheep’s clothing and all of that.   Instead you chose to see the good in people.  Find the blessings, the positive lessons to be learned and without insulting your fans, you enlightened them that “perfect” is not at all what we ultimately should strive for as human beings.

Que Sera, Sera, whatever will be, will be.

You were born Doris Mary Kappelhoff of Cincinatti, but Hollywood changed your name to “Doris Day” after the song “Day after Day” became a hit.  The name Doris Day sounded so much sunnier and happier, less German (remember we were heading into WWII) than Doris Kappelhoff.     I imagine it might have been a relief for you to discard your heritage, after all your father discarded his family for another woman and left your mom to care for you and your brother at a time when divorce was a four-letter word. Then you had to quickly reinvent yourself to the public after a car accident cut short your meteoric rise as part of a dancing duo.  Set-backs, always set-backs.

But just like the song, Que Sera, Sera, and your new name, you took whatever life had to offer you day by day.   The twists and turns and complications a minor roadblock to all life had in store.

Que Sera, Sera, whatever will be, will be.

Doris, you had these twinkly blue eyes that ignited with mischief and knowing, above a spray of freckles that started on one cheekbone, paraded across your nose and landed on the other side of your face.  In an era of glamorous leading ladies, you stood out like a country girl at a picnic.  

I have always had freckles, I can relate.

The movie and television executives didn’t much care for your freckles and would layer pancake make up on your face to try to hide them.  But somehow, some way, those freckles would make an appearance in each and every movie and television program you made, blinking brightly as if to say, “Hey America, this is me!”  ‘

Que Sera, Sera, whatever will be, will be.

My connection to you began when I first heard you sing, “Que Sera Sera.”   I think it was the theme song to your television show, but I might have heard it from one of your movies.  I don’t remember which, but the lyrics always resonated with me.

“When I was just a little girl, I ask my mother what will I be?”   “Will I be pretty, will I be rich, here’s what she said to me.  Que Sera, Sera, whatever will be, will be, the futures not ours to see, Que Sera, Sera…what will be will be.”

I read that you didn’t really like the song.  You thought it a children’s song compared to the other songs you were blessed to sing in your lifetime and figured it would fade quickly if you ignored it.  But over time, the song took on a life of its own.  Representing women, men, all those seeking acceptance.  You understood the song stood for our need as human beings to be loved and wanted and appreciated.  But more than that, you understood that despite your own personal dislike of the tune, the song served as a reminder that the human narrative isn’t necessarily all our own doing.   We can all make a difference.  So, you unselfishly let your musical legacy be defined by this song.

Que Sera, Sera, whatever will be, will be.

Doris, you had this voice that took on a lyric and drew us in. It would start soft as a whisper. Notes melodically floating through air over mind and skin and then building, carefully building until those beautiful notes would be set free to soar magnificently into the great beyond.

But it was how you learned to sing that way that impressed me the most.  At a time when segregation was common place in America, you proudly stated to all that your vocal inspiration was the great African American jazz singer, Ella Fitzgerald.   You said Ella had a keen understanding of how to master not only the melody, but create clean, relatable connections to the lyric and that you would practice singing to her over and over to get the nuances of a song just right.

At the time of those comments, it would be thirty years until the Civil Rights Movement, but here you were a white girl from Ohio openly promoting a person of color as their singing inspiration.   America didn’t blink because you didn’t.   

Que Sera, Sera, whatever will be, will be.

In the movies Doris, you were (and are) one of the few actors, man or woman, to show that human beings are multi-dimensional and capable of shape shifting between the silly absurdities of day to day life and corresponding gut punches of chaotic drama.  You also proved that women could hold their own with a man in a script and on-screen.

Never once did I think you were miscast in any of the thirty-nine films you made.  Some I liked better than others, some I can quote every line, but you owned every scene you were in.  

Silly musical comedies that provided a welcome respite from a war weary nation; satirical movies that made fun of gender stereotypes and romance in a way that allowed us to laugh at the absurdity of the mating dance, and powerful dramas that showcased the physical and emotional abuse of women in a way that shed light on the complexities of human relationships. 

Each role you played left a footprint on celluloid that resonates today because you got that life on film wasn’t much different than real life.  Your own life. Our lives.  My life.  We watched you not so much to escape, as to be reminded that if Doris Day can handle all the silly, absurd and horrible crap of life, then so can we!

Que Sera, Sera, whatever will be, will be.    

You made three iconic movies with Rock Hudson. America believed you as a couple. You even had pet names for each other, Ernie and Eunice. Years after your movie career ended, you invited Rock to be the first guest on your new television show for the Christian Broadcast Network called, “Doris Day’s Friends”. Rock was quietly suffering in silence from Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) and for which the public had been subjected to endless rumors as to how you could “catch AIDS”. You somehow knew your interview with Rock would be your last time together and on camera, you gave him a big hug and planted a huge kiss on him. A simple and kind gesture friend to friend. But when it became known that Rock had AIDS, the media went nuts.

“Aren’t you afraid of getting AIDS?” the reporters asked.  “Did you swap spit?”

“No, my friend is sick and what he needed from me was kindness and empathy. I gave my dear friend a hug and a kiss, end of story.”  The public response was immediate.  If America’s sweetheart said AIDS was something to fight, not to fear, then so be it.   Funding for research came pouring in, and compassion became the order of the day for victims.

Que Sera, Sera, whatever will be, will be.

Doris, when your small dog was run over by a car, out of your sorrow you were inspired to create the Doris Day Animal League (DDAL)to reduce pain, suffering and cruelty to all animals.   When the DDAL merged in 2006 with the Humane Society of the United States it became the single biggest advocate for animal rights in the nation.

One of your first major national initiatives, that continues to this day, was to create an annual “Spay and Neuter your Pets Day” to prevent shelters filling up with unwanted animals.  You then created one of the first “pet friendly” inn’s in America in Carmel, California that has served as a role model for the integration of humans and people in recreational and entertainment spaces.

I wonder if you ever comprehended how your simple act of compassion for your own pet set a course for this country to appreciate and value all of God’s creatures?

Que Sera, Sera, whatever will be, will be.

Doris, how you lived your life taught me that every individual has the power to be a positive role model.  We must remember that the song each of us sings is of value, but is not something everyone appreciates.  We must cultivate that understanding by modeling empathy and love. We need not fear our different, or the different in others. It’s ok. to disagree, to fight, even to argue, but in a way that promotes dialogue, diversity of opinion and not discord.   

We must invite others to our table.

For in the end, Doris your legacy is that our journey on this planet is going to be paved with a whole lot of “Que Sera, Sera’s” and it is up to each of us as individuals what we do with it.

Thank you for your positive example of a life well lived.

PositivelyAnne

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Practicing Intentional Kindness

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No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted.  -Aesop

As I mentioned in my previous blog post, like so many of you ( or those you love), cancer figures prominently in my life story.  Specifically breast cancer,  but there were also a host of other medical issues that came about as a direct result of my cancer treatment (I will share some of that in later posts).  To sum it up, I became intimately acquainted with hospitals and medical professionals pretty quickly after finding that first lump and the next fifteen-month journey literally flipped my world on its head.  Now heading into my 2nd year post drama, looking back on that time, I consider it a gift.  For it was during those long months of struggle that I came to understand how important it is to live my life as positively as I can and to do that, I had to not only follow my doctors’ instructions for self-care, but I had to equip myself with a “Positivity Toolkit” to help me navigate my new world post cancer.  

One of the first tools I added to my “Positivity Toolkit” was to practice intentional kindness.

Prior to cancer, I would say it’s a pretty fair assessment that I felt pretty adept at being kind.  Kind with my family, kind with my friends, kind at work, kind at church, kind, kind, kind!  Yep, kindness was a natural part of my personality and I just never questioned it as being anything I needed to work on; let alone understand that the brand of kindness I was practicing wasn’t always leaving me feeling warm and fuzzy. 

In fact, looking back on my life pre-cancer, my brand of kindness actually caused me a whole lot of personal daily stress…maybe even downright misery. 

Didn’t my husband know I was just being “kind” when I said that?

My employee didn’t appreciate the raise I gave them…why do I bother being kind?

I do laundry all day and all I get for my kindness is more clothes on the floor?

 Yep, I was kind alright.   But the kind of “kind” I was practicing had a price to pay. 

I was fully expecting others to be kind back.

Well, isn’t that the way life is supposed to go?  I’m kind to you, you’re kind to me?  Seems logical right? And for over fifty years I lived my life with those expectations. Then during one of my hospital stays, I saw kindness modeled in an entirely different way (intentional kindness)by a graveyard shift nurse, and I began to understand the importance of making a change in my practiced brand of kindness.    Let me explain.

Hospitals are scary places, period!  I spent enough time in them over the past couple of years to feel pretty comfortable saying that no one goes to the hospital (except for hospital employees and volunteers) with the intent of doing anything other than getting the hell out of there as quickly as possible!  My observation is that in our vulnerability, as patients who have no choice but to lie prostrate, in a hospital bed, beholden to the wims of our disease and our bodies response to the remedy, many patients feel it’s also their inalienable right to morph into Satan and unleash every obnoxious, miserable and all around crabby thing that could ever be said to anybody on the nursing staff. 

Well nurses are trained caregivers, right?    It’s their job to take care of us in all of our crab- fueled glory.  It’s what they are paid to do!!!  That being said, it was shocking to me how many people in the waiting areas, in the ER, in the bed next to mine, in the hospital rooms lining floor after floor after floor, would treat the nurses as if they were the person responsible for them being in the hospital in the first place. 

  “Get me my water!”  “I don’t want to do what you are telling me!”  “You fix me right now or I’ll do something to you!” “Who made this pudding sh**, you?”  “Our family hates you!!!” 

I heard all of these things and much more coming from my fellow patients and even some of their family members.  Now you might be thinking , well people are hurting, a bit of nastiness is to be expected.   Maybe.  But what I saw and heard was this systemic spewing of “negativity”  that knew no bounds.  Nothing was off limits for people to say to their fellow human being, let alone their caregiver.   It made me feel sad and ashamed.

 “Had I ever said anything that nasty to someone trying to be kind to me?”

One particularly late night, I was attempting to sleep after back to back emergency surgeries and I could hear this man verbally tearing into a nurse down the hall.  

“You get your damn behind out of my room, you witch.”  “I do not want you near me!” In response I heard a very calm voice say, “Oh I’m so sorry you are hurting there sweetie..I know it’s hard.  Get some rest and I’ll check on you in a bit.”   Then I heard something crash…maybe a chair…I don’t know.  But it was scary.   I hunkered down in my bed and pulling the covers over my head a million things ran through my mind, but the biggest was: Why would anyone in their right mind become a nurse?  She was just trying to be kind.  She was just doing her freakin job! 

Just then the door to my hospital room opened and this nurse walked in, her face lined with the years and I had no doubt it was the same nurse who the man was yelling at.  I peered skeptically out at her from the safety of the covers over my head.

“Hey there sweetie”, she said very softly. ” I’m sorry.  I’m sorry he’s so loud.  He’s upset and hurting and well, I’m sorry.  How are you doing my dear?”

 “Huh, sorry?”  “YOU ARE SORRY, WHY? (I think I was actually yelling at her)  That guy treated you so poorly, you were just being kind to him and he treated you like crap…you deserve better!” 

Taking my hand, in her careworn one, the nurse sat on the edge of my bed and said something that would change my life.  She said, “Yes, I do deserve better.  But I learned a long time ago that kindness is not what you get, it’s what you give.” 

And there, there in that hospital room, with a crazy guy screaming down the hall, was my introduction to practicing intentional kindness.   Plop…right there in my lap! 

To practice intentional kindness is to give kindness freely and openly, without attaching conditions or expectations that it will be returned.    Powerful stuff!!!

Wow, it’s hard to do.  It really is.  I stumble often.  But the more I practice intentional kindness, I find that kindness is not something I need others to see in me, but something that is living and breathing in my own mirror.  I no longer wear a “kindness” façade with expectations and objectives that no one can live up to.   I am kind because it pleases me! 

So this week, I encourage you to take a look at your own kindness meter and practice intentional kindness with me. 

Together we can do this, one positive step at a time!  PositivelyAnne

If you like my site, please click like so that it moves up the blog foodchain and others can find me.  I figure the more positive souls out there the better, right?!!!  Also, feel free to share briefly your thoughts on kindness and how it’s impacted your life.

All photos and images are my own, except where noted.