Vivien Cooper Ink
January 8th, 2023
Growing up, I was desperately in need of someone to help me figure out what the heck was going on at home. Terrible things were happening all around me. I didn’t know what on earth was going on or why. I just knew that it wasn’t good and often left me in bad shape.
I was a born detective, built to get to the bottom of things, but this was a bit above my pay grade at that young age. My mother used to call me Nosy Drew, a take-off on the Nancy Drew detective series of books that was popular among young girls like me. But this was a job not even Nancy could have tackled.
My home life was unpredictable, chaotic, random, profoundly disturbing—and often physically and emotionally painful. You know what wasn’t random or unpredictable? T.V. shows. These shows became a substitute teacher and life coach. They showed me how normal (or relatively semi-normal) family life worked. Take Father Knows Best, I Love Lucy or Leave It to Beaver, for example.
They gave me something to aspire to, long for, admire, and study. I would think to myself, Ahh! So, that’s how a normal family works. That’s what that looks like. Got it. I want that!
And then there were shows like All in the Family, which taught me about screwed-up family life—but the predictable kind, which was way more reassuring than my unpredictable version. You never had to wonder how Archie Bunker was going to react to certain things. Even if his reactions were outrageous, which they were, you could count on them. They were predictable. I liked that.
You could say that T.V. educated me by showing me these models of life. T.V. was also a good life coach, in the sense that it gave me my first elementary tools for living. Master Po and Grasshopper from Kung Fu both taught me about taking a spiritual approach to life. And shows like Mannix, Columbo, The Rockford Files and The Streets of San Francisco gave me a virtual apprenticeship on getting to the bottom of things. They took my Nosy Drew/Nancy Drew training to the next level.
To this day, I’m still trying to get to the bottom of things. So, I watch and love shows like Monk, Elementary, The Mentalist, and Medium. And I’ve helped many a book client get to the bottom of the mysteries of their lives when I’ve (ghost)written and developmentally edited their life stories for them.
This is a great way to figure out the mysteries of your own life—by writing about them. Or finding someone like me to tell it to verbally, someone who will write your story for you and as you. In writing about life, we discover and excavate surprising things. They’re treasures, all of them, even when they make us hurt, cry, laugh—and sometimes all three at once. It wasn’t just the T.V. shows, either; it was the commercials between the shows. Some of those jingles are as familiar to me as my favorite songs. Many have stayed with me for a lifetime. Take, for example, my recent search through the fridge for a lemon. I was pulling jars and packages off shelves and opening the produce drawers, saying to myself, Now, where is that danged lemon? Enter the little old man who lives in the file room in my brain, always ready to help. (Does anyone else have a file room manager who lives in their brain, ready to spring into action to help—or sabotage—you, as the case may be? I picture my fella as ancient, tall, and lanky, sitting on an uncomfortable wooden chair, in an old-school file room, bored to death. He’s just waiting for the call to come in, so he can finally have something to do.) Anyway, while I was looking through the fridge for a lemon, he started singing to me, “You won’t get a lemon from Toyota of Orange!” How ingenious is that? My brain knew I was looking for a lemon and, while it may not have known where the lemon was, it knew where it wasn’t—at Toyota of Orange. When I’m yawning and I say out loud to no one in particular, “I am sooo tired!” The file-room fella in my brain pipes up with some sage advice from Lucy Ricardo from the I Love Lucy show: “Are you tired, run-down, listless? Do you poop out at parties? Are you unpopular? The answer to all your problems is in this little bottle: Vitameatavegamin! Yes, Vitameatavegamin contains vitamins, meat, vegetables and minerals. With Vitameatavegamin, you can spoon your way to health…” If only life was that simple. When it isn’t, there are always the lessons I learned from Kung Fu—and all the spiritual development since. And just like all these shows and jingles, God is with me. Always.