Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Mustering Reality

Periodically I sit in my car, thinking in between the music or the audio book, and I wonder: why am I driving a ten-year-old Saturn with broken parts from two different crashes and drinking a free pop from work when I should be sitting in the sun somewhere on a white sand beach with a margarita in my hand brought to me by some bronze god or goddess whose only desire is to serve me because I am so disgustingly rich it's nothing for me to tip twenty dollars for one drink?

Then I remember that this is real life.

There's always a part of me that keeps going because I'm only doing whatever it is I'm doing until I'm rich and famous. Whether it's serving coffee to irritatingly rude people who don't tip on a $46.00 bill, cleaning a toilet that's had better days, or repeatedly pushing the CD button in my car because even my CD player won't work on the first try. I keep going because I think... this can't possibly last. Something will happen. Money will fall from the sky. Someone will like a story idea I send in for submission. I will be the one person who wins a million dollars on a scratch-off lottery ticket.

Then I remember that this is real life.

There is no white beach in Middlebury, Indiana, but there is a lot of rain, a good many terrible drivers, and a consistently cow-wy smell. Somewhere, sparkling beneath the sun is a glimmer of hope. Hope inside my weary soul, or my frazzled brain, or my broken spirit. It shimmers hesitantly, sporadically, and whispers "Just... keep trying. A little harder. Someday you'll be on that beach. And it will be the best margarita you've ever had in your entire existence."

Then I remember that this is real life.

I used to have the most complicated, infuriating, physically and emotionally painful anxiety attacks. And it was always some loop. I'd think about eternity: living forever and ever and ever and ever, until you die. Oh, wait... no, you don't die. You live forever and ever and ever and ever. Until you die. No... no death. You live forever and ever and ever. Until... panic... there's no end... it's eternity... forever and ever and why am I in fear of something that's supposed to be wonderful? Even things being "wonderful" forever and ever and ever and ever is massively frightening to me. And if I were really thinking about it right now, instead of typing it in a nonchalant manner, it would strike stone-cold dread into my heart, deep in the pit of my dropping stomach I would feel it like a lump of undigested red meat. Forever. And ever. No end. I liken these anxiety attacks to the mild, back-of-my-mind assumption that someday things will be great. Stellar. Phenomenal. My wildest dreams will come true because I will be independently wealthy. My children will have no worries about college or cars or paying rent. I will drive the '67 GTO I've always wanted, my husband will have his brand spanking new Mustang, and we'll have our luxurious home in Las Vegas, and another in New York, Australia, Italy, and a vacation villa in Mexico.

Then I remember that this is real life.

Real life.




The problem with real life isn't that it's horrible. It's just the shift that bothers me, really. The shift from one paradigm to another just leaves me with a sense of jet lag, that's all. Like I was actually on this marvelous vacation and it took me 29 hours to get back from it in three different time zones and when it was all said and done, I couldn't remember the beauty of it all, just the dragging, bone-settling experience of restless exhaustion. Shifting, again and again, from the "Everything will be wonderful someday" to the "Then I remember that this is real life" paradigm.

The fact is, I love my life. I love my husband, my kids, my dogs, my home, my family, my friends. There are irritating people everywhere that don't tip on a $46.00 bill, toilets everywhere that need cleaning, and even a brand new CD player might not work all the time. Even on that beautiful white sand beach, the bronze god or goddess serving me might sneeze in my fabulous margarita. Nothing compares to the life that's going to be AFTER this one. I can't sit around expecting that overwhelming happiness is going to drop into my lap someday. I CAN, however, work as hard as I need to, and then harder, to make a better life here for myself and my family. I can support my husband in his endeavors, give him time to himself and take time for myself as well. I can encourage my children to be what they feel led to be as they're becoming adults. I can write. I can sing. I can enjoy things - both significant things like a committed loving monogamous relationship and insignificant things like a mediocre margarita and a little karaoke -- in THIS life. This real life.

This is real life.

And I'm okay with that.



Enough philosophy. I've started the audio book "On Writing" narrated by the author -- none other than Mr. Stephen King. And it's already been very inspiring to me. I am always appreciative when I listen to some other writer talking about writing, or read an article or blog about such things. It forces me to search myself -- what do I really want to write? What am I good at writing? What do I stink so badly at writing that I should avoid at all costs? How should I go about getting my next book/article/story published? All of these questions push to the front of my mind, and when things are finally in the forefront, sometimes it causes this frightening thing called "Progress". I begin thinking, then I begin researching, then I begin submitting. Then I begin getting rejection letters, then I begin getting... well, frustrated. Then I begin pretending I don't have time to write when, really, if I'd get my I've-gained-12-pounds-eating-junk-food butt off of the couch, I'd have way more time than I let myself believe. See? Another cycle. I'm in the optimistic phase right now, though, so I'll just latch onto that for awhile and see where it takes me.

In the end, I sure hope you're having a better day than I am!



  1. You may or may not have any idea how long I have been grappling with the question: Why don't I go out and get exactly what I want? I want a beach front house, overlooking the ocean. I want a wife to share it with, someone I would give my entire world to if they asked me. I want a Hummer. An original Hummer, not this H3 nonsense. I want an acting career. I want a directing career.

    This is real life, as you so elegantly stated. And I have heard that phrase with far greater frequency than I ever hoped I would. A cold, sobering dose of reality is often how it is evoked. But I don't buy it. I don't want to buy it. It has gotten to the point that I hate it. I hate those words. Real life. Reality. I'm sorry, that's just the way things are. Welcome to the real world.

    I wonder why I don't just go and take it. Grab hold of the things that I know will make me smile. Maybe it is, in fact, because the world doesn't always cooperate with your plans. Things, unfortunately, never seem to fall in my lap. Maybe the cliche is true; the things worth getting are the things you have to work hardest for. Nothing good ever came easily.

    I don't know. I don't have the answers to my questions. I wish I did. What I do know is I am a 20-something with no idea what to do. I know I have a voice. I know I want to be heard, felt and loved. I know I want better for myself. And I don't want to think of this as a hard life. A harsh reality. Cold. Sobering. I hate that way of thinking, but often times that is exactly what I come back to and it sickens me.

    The thing is, from the ~7 weeks I got to know you, I am keenly aware of the value you have as a person. I guess it just goes to show how hard it is to really understand someone on the inside, because I know a lot of people who would love to have what you possess. I'm one of them.

    Envy is an unfortunate aspect of my character. It speaks to my competitive nature. But I do want you to realize that you are a wonderful and unique person of value and I have read your blogs and find you fascinating. I hope you get every single thing you want in this life, the 67-GTO, the Mustang, Beach, Margarita and maybe we can even conjure up a bronze God to serve your whims. Because you deserve it.

  2. Geez. I'll have what **he's** having.


    SJ, I love you more than I love the luggage I'd use to get to that white sand beach. :>) And you don't know HOW many times I've pondered in my heart-of-hearts what you've pondered in yours.


  3. Thank you, both. Sincerely. Sometimes I wonder if this blog thing even makes a ripple on the surface of my heart, or anyone else's heart, so it's great to have feedback. I appreciate you both very much. I'm slowly but surely working my way towards things I want in this life. It's just certainly taking a lot more time than I ever would have expected. But perhaps that's just part of growing up. (Peter Pan is beginning to make more and more sense the closer I get to each new decade of life.)