Tuesday, November 3, 2009

the reality/dream clash

Yesterday I had a rather painful heart to heart with a friend of mine. At 42, he was realizing that his dream of a career as a performer, of being a rockstar actually, wasn't going to happen. It was crushing, to watch him crumble. I've know for a long time that this was most likely not in the cards, but he held on tight to this fantasy, which got him through the grunt work and hardship of every day life. I think we all live with an illusion that we can be whatever we want and whether we actually go out and do it doesn't matter, as long as we hold onto it in our imagination. Losing weight. Finding the right relationship. Moving to a bigger apartment (that's a NYC-centric fantasy), writing a book. My books have inspired countless people to aspire to write too. Not that I've known any of them to actually do it. But the thought that if I could, then they could, stokes some egotistical creative fire.

I am grateful that this writing path doesn't have age limits. Or a looks requirement. I work in the corner of my living room, or back corners of coffee shops, in ripped jeans and shredding t-shirts. Ok, I confess, while I can often look casually thrown together, my outfits are thoroughly thought through. I am very aware of how I go out into the world—my socks always match my scarves—trust me, I have many of both—I would never clash bags and belts. I can try on 5 different coats before I head out the door (this is prime season for my vintage) to find just the right fit for the day, but I never have to worry about the vertical creases in the middle of my eyebrows or the occasional grey hair that shows up. Well, I do think about both, but those don't keep me from pursuing this dream.

What does stop me up is the bone-crushing fear that it will all fade away. I have the opposite problem from those who dangle their life fantasies in front of them, as sources of motivation and hope. I'm living a fantasy at the moment and am terrified it will evaporate into nothingness. FLOW will be officially on sale in seven days. This book that I've dreamed of, I never gave up on, that was by far the hardest, most painful, most emotionally draining experience of my life is a reality. A reality that I'm SO INCREDIBLY PROUD OF. It's beautiful. Stunning really. Smart. Thoughtful. Educational. Funny. Thought-provoking. And it's doing exactly what I wanted it to do—starting conversations and getting people talking about something we almost never talk about. We're getting press. Some good, some bad. Honestly, it doesn't matter to me. I'm happy, thrilled, that there's awareness and attention. But now that I'm living the part that was dangling in front of me for so long, I'm unnerved. I'm humbled. Sometimes frozen in my tracks. It's not easy to fantasize when reality is breathing down your back. Who am I to make any kind of lasting dent in this world?

But, there are moments when the light shines. This arrived in my inbox yesterday:

. . . You have every right to be nervous. A nervous wreck if you like. The book you've written is David going against the Goliath that is millennia of old Patriarchic rule. They have done their mighty best to stamp out the feminine and I'm in no class to explain to you the details. Suffice to say, I'm hoping, nay, I'm praying your book is that stone that takes the giant down. Or at least gets its face all bloodied.

But you tip the scales with this... you get one brave game changer on your side and down that giant goes.

Elissa, you rock. You're one of my heros.

So, maybe the dents are already starting.

Day 34 is taking a deep breath and fighting back the self-doubt.

1 comment:

Andrea Stern said...

You do rock! And I know, from getting to live one of my dreams, (getting into Quilt National, my first one was in '05) that it can be surreal, and humbling and exciting and more. And that there will be more dreams to follow.