I am editing Soul Lost for the umpteenth time, trying to finally–three years, for God’s sake–get the print version published. I have discovered a new characteristic that I had not previously uncovered in my quest for self-awareness. Whereas I lack an attention to detail in nearly all things, when it comes to editing I am a passionate perfectionist. This is not a happy thing. It makes me really slow to finish any writing and has proven a barrier to my ambition for a writing career.
Nonetheless, here I am on a Saturday, reading my first book–again–and I love it. It has a lot of flaws, many things that I would correct if they did not require an extensive re-write, but I love the story and the characters. If I could achieve the same feelings in my more recent writings, given the skills I have since developed, I think I would have a real shot at success.
But here, finally, is my point. This world and these characters are so vibrant to me, that the words on the page take me completely away from this, my physical existence. I can see the green fields, feel the rocking motion of the horse, and touch the cold, hard stone walls of the castles. I can actually leave this world and enter another as solid to me as the one called “reality.” It is a source of great joy and very restorative when I am weary of the mundane or overwhelmed by my own shortcomings. For all of my early years, it never occurred to me that others could not do the same. Now I know that, not only are there others who cannot do it, there is a genuine disrespect for those who are not firmly grounded in the concrete.
Concrete. An interesting and totally unintentional analogy. Having your feet stuck in concrete prevents you from flying, and in fact prevents you from going anywhere but exactly where you are.
What is it like for someone who is not so easily teleported to a different world? I wish I had more readers because I would like to hear the experiences of others, both those who can dwell in imagination, and those who cannot. I have come to believe that there is happiness in both, so long as a person is content to be where he or she is.Still and all, I wish everyone could experience what I experience when I am caught up in a story, whether it is my own or someone else’s. How can I describe it?
My heart actually, physically swells within my chest. A bright light shines in my mind so that I close my eyes, not against it, but to bathe in it. When I open my eyes all the colors of the world are more vibrant,and the sounds are more intense. If this experience is the result of someone else’s vision, such as TV, movies or a book, then the scenes replay in my imagination until they become a real part of who I am. I can hear the timbre of the characters’ voices or notice a familiar tilt of the head or facial expression in the manner of someone with whom I speak. The lines between reality and fantasy become blurred.
More importantly, or perhaps most importantly, I can see the characteristics of the make-believe world in the real world around me. Most would see my husband as a run-of-the-mill guy, hard-working, a devoted husband and father, and a good and loyal friend. To me he is–really and truly, I am not kidding–a valiant knight, remaining determined and true in the protection of his home and the people whom he loves. He has worked long hours for many years, far above and beyond what many people would do, to provide a secure and comfortable life for his family and to be able to help his sons as they launch themselves into the adult world. He remains loyal to a mother who has abandoned him, driven by the memories of the more loving woman who raised him. He pushes on everyday, sometimes so beaten down that he can barely lift his head. And why does he put up with a help-meet who so often lets him down? I think it is because it helps him to see himself through my eyes. No plodder at all, but instead a great hero on a white horse (or in a red Mercedes).
Does it work for others as well? Absolutely.
- My older son is a wise man, a mage in training, often driven close to madness by the depths of his thoughts.He sees the world for its possibilities, and is devastated when it lets him down. Still, he has the potential for greatness, and may yet turn the world on its ear.
- My younger son is a knight, not like his father who is a hero for his steadfastness, but eager and brave and determined to take the world by storm, making it a better place as he is able to mold it to his vision.He does not push on, but charges ahead,occasionally running into battles he did not intend to fight.
- My sister is closer to Joan of Arc, seizing the day with a fiery sword, running the risk of being burned alive by those who would take advantage of her. She projects a young carefree spirit, but that persona masks a person who is both cautious and serious, a person just now discovering the incredible depth of her ability to love.
- My best friend (you knew I would get to you) is a shape-shifter. (Are you surprised?) On the outside she is whatever the situation calls for: a practical number-cruncher; an obsessively detailed peruser of computer code; a self-confident business person, etc, etc. All of these shapes hide the essence inside, a brightly burning light of kindness and generosity and compassion, and (dare I say it?) the poetic heart of a true romantic.
There are others, so many, many others. Every single person in the world is the hero or heroine of their own story.
So I exist with one foot in reality and one in fantasy, and, for me, the line between the two is a little blurry. I see fantasy in my reality, and reality in my fantasy, and it’s a pretty great way to live.