Friday, November 30, 2007

I'm Gonna Live Forever

All children believe that they will be famous when they grow up. Scratch that – some children believe that they will be famous when they grow up. They’re the ones who feel unpopular, underappreciated, in need of the revenge that comes with success. It’s surprising how difficult it is to relinquish that dream – my ex-husband never quite got over the fact that he wasn’t an NHL hockey player. I always laugh when I tell people that – more than anything else, it testifies to his ability to nurture absurd grievances, his exaggerated sense of entitlement. But am I really any different? I am equally haunted by the imagined, famous version of my adult self, the famous author/gymnast/figure skater that accompanied me through childhood.

*****

My students are writing essays this week about social class in Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, and many of them are lumping “fame” alongside wealth and pure blood in the list of traits that are valued only by shallow Slytherins. Throughout the series, Rowling makes it clear that Harry’s fame is a burden that occasions him much embarrassment (in the form of shutter-happy Colin Creevey) and even social rejection. Snape resents Harry in part because he suspects him of being an attention-hog, of using his fame to get away with stunts that no one else could pull off. His allegations are unfair – Harry neither seeks nor relishes his notoriety – but fame remains a vicarious pleasure in these novels. The wizarding world’s answer to Radio Free Europe is “Potterwatch,” and there’s something thrilling in the way that opposition to Voldemort rallies around me, I mean Harry, the man with the lightning-bolt-shaped scar.

*****

At the moms-in-crisis group last night a woman spoke who has been through every form of abuse in her life. She escaped drug addiction and sexual abuse, raised two children on her own, putting herself through university and developing a career as a teacher with no support from anyone. But the pivotal point in her life occurred when she finally relinquished her dream of being a famous folk singer. It was an almost laughable statement – until she pulled out her guitar and opened her mouth. She sang a song about her relationship with her schizophrenic mother, and another about the longing for heaven. I had goosebumps; I dashed tears from my eyes. Her music broke us all open, made us able to speak to one another more honestly than had ever been possible in our previous sessions on menu planning and infant care. I am amazed, though, as always, at how much maturity it takes to see value in that, rather than in packed concerts and interviews on Entertainment Tonight.

*****

I heard a sermon once about Moses. He was a hot-headed guy in his youth – he wanted to lead his people in an uprising against Egyptian oppression. He even killed a man, once, in defense of a fellow Israelite. But then he lost his nerve – he traded Pharaoh’s court for a shepherd’s life, finding meaning in his wife and children rather than in dreams of glory. When the fiery bush called him back to the Nile to proclaim deliverance for his people, he balked. I’m not a good public speaker. Send someone else. My Sunday School teachers always explained these words as evidence of Moses’ astonishing refusal to trust God. I think, though, that his hesitation is a measure of his worth, the best sign of his readiness for the role he had been called to play. Only when he stopped seeking them did fame, leadership, and history come for him.

*****

Laura Ingalls Wilder didn’t publish Little House on the Prairie until she was in her sixties. Life is long. I can still hear that Siren call of fame beckoning from around the corner. I don’t grieve the loss of fame in part because at some level I haven’t yet given up on it. I can picture myself in the nursing home, tapping out blog posts and still waiting happily, expectantly for the world to take notice.

50 comments:

Karen said...

I always thought that about Moses - that it was two sides of the same coin - he had to know that he could and couldn't do it.

slouching mom said...

You so deftly tied these bits together. I enjoyed this so much, perhaps the last paragraph the most. I, like you, haven't given up on the idea of fame. But neither do I expect it. And the two together leave me in a quite content frame of mind, just as you are/will be, as you tap tap tap out those blog posts.

Loved this post. You tapped tapped tapped out a winner.

Mad Hatter said...

Dang. I thought I made it here first but karen was quicker.

This post is a perfect balm to Sweetsalty's post the other day about watching her days slip by. The comment I left her way got lost but now I see this post here standing neatly as nuanced answer.

BTW, you're bigger than john lennon, baby, and we know who he ousted.

Luisa Perkins said...

Beautifully done.

Heidi Hyde said...

This bit was really something. You have a beautiful way with words, I loved how you tied it all together. I wish this comment didn't sound so lame, and you could read between the lines and realize how much I truly appreciated this post...

-HH

kgirl said...

Love this post. I thought giving up my dreams of glory (as a Great Canadian Novelist - small glory's ok for me) meant that I had grown up.
Now I just think that like Laura, I may have to wait a bit. It's still good to have dreams.

Julie Pippert said...

The times, lately, that I am chasing some thought to catch it and make it coherent on this subject...it's due to you and Gwen and your ideas on this.

I think this is very insightful.

Yes, I think you nailed the why upfront, to large degree. And yes, like you I haven't entirely given up on someday finding my niche of success.

Julie
Using My Words

bubandpie said...

Kgirl - That was the electrifying thing about the Moses story for me - because it seems like such a healthy maturing process to give up one's hubris and ambition to embrace a life as a shepherd, husband, and father - but then he finds out that this wilderness wasn't home - it was just a sojourn, a prelude to other things.

Slouchy - I was thinking about your "big-time blogger" post as I wrote this, actually - I know we have this thing in common, this contrast and strange balance between our choices and our desires.

Mad - *grin*

Crystal said...

I loved closing of this post. It is a beautiful thought that we all might be happy and blog posting (and waiting for fame) while sitting in the nursing homes.

Lawyer Mama said...

You and Gwen have made me think a lot about this topic over the last months. Still thinking. I love how you wove all of these together, by the way.

Kathryn said...

I think the world is already taking notice of you.

Teah said...

Thank you.

-The Shiny Happy Mama- said...

Great post!

cinnamon gurl said...

I think it's good not to require or expect fame but still believe it's a possibility. I like that my life still has possibility, that things could take a major departure from the path thus far.

Nap Warden said...

What a great post...Just think, we'll be able to say "We knew you when..."!

andi said...

I was going to be a singer or an actress. Now I'm too fat to do either. I still can't let go of being a published writer. Not necessarily famous, just published.

http://pootandcubby.wordpress.com

Suz said...

While putting a book away yesterday, I brushed up against my old diary. Sure enough, in entry after entry, I voiced my desire for fame. You could hear it in the awkward phrase and tone of the diary itself. This was a diary written to be read by other people. But, it was boring, as so many quests for fame have a tendancy to be.

Lisa b said...

I totally imagine you blogging from the nursing home, having accomplished many other exciting things too.

your mother's group sounds so inspriational.

Terri said...

I never really thought about it before, but I agree with you about Moses; and I, too, envision myself fulfilling lifelong dreams even yet.

Sue said...

Oh, how I love this post. I blogged about this once - how for such a long time I wanted to be a singer, how I worried over what people thought of my singing, what would come out of singing, if anything would come out of singing - missing the whole time that the gift was the solace I received from singing and the joy - the joy that came from singing. That was the gift. That was the blessing.

Wonderful post, I loved it.

McSwain said...

You explained my former (failed) acting career and why I needed to have it in one very quick post. :) And perhaps also why I don't need to have it anymore. With older age and hopefully some maturity comes some self-acceptance. I hope.

JCK said...

I love how you just open yourself up - unravel, reveal. It is something that is difficult to do.

A beautiful moment in your group when the woman pulled out her guitar and started singing. It is those moments that trigger reflection and a questioning of our own desires. I think we see a reflection of ourselves.

Sheila said...

Beautiful post. You have a lovely way with words.

This may be one I use for Beauty...on the weblog. I'll let you know.

painted maypole said...

you know, I think this way, too. in fact, even when I was in college, I would think "man, when I am in my 40s and 50s, world, watch out!" Because I knew I wasn't the beautiful petite girl they look for for the young parts on stage and screen. No, I am the tall, formidable imposing force of a woman for the older roles.

or at least, you know, I think I could be.

A Military Spouse said...

Wonderful writing, brave transparency. Hope is what escaped Pandora's Box, isn't it? Hope and that pesky Free Will, seems to be what keeps life so interesting.
Don't think I've been brave enough to comment before, but I have admired your writing for a few weeks now and I thank you for sharing it.

nomotherearth said...

To further what Painted Maypole said - Bea Arthur didn't become famous until he was older.

Steve said...

Count me in with your husband - my dreams of the NFL still haunt me...

Whenever I'm throwing the ball around, I still have thoughts that a scout is going to catch sight of me and beg me to sign with his team. For a somewhat sensible guy, it's amazing how I've been unable give that idea up.

Llama Momma said...

I just stumbled on your blog and love it. Thank you.

Gwen said...

And your writing rips me right open so often, G, too, just like that singer.

But I still wonder what it is about "fame" that matters so much. Is it a way to chase immortality? Is it cultural? I'm all about the small life, or about finding a way to have a meaningful, small life, which is just the other side of what you're saying, I suppose.

Beck said...

My dad says that publication and semi-fame has destroyed any joy that writing ever had for him.
And that was what I suspected - I have no desire to be a Famous Writer. I just like writing.

Omaha Mama said...

I giggle thinking about it. In my adolesence I told all of my friends that if I had Cindy Crawfor's stylists, I could totally have her hair. They never did believe me. I thought between my brown hair and the mole on my face, that I was practically her twin. Tee hee.

I enjoyed this post a lot, how you tied it all together. A great read for me on this Saturday morning.

Anonymous said...

We've already taken notice!

Love,

The world

odd facts said...

Like how you tied everything together. Nice and braided.

Janet said...

You wove a captivating post, a common thread running through each tale.

I always think there is plenty of time for fame, if I even want it. If I was famous, I would definitely want a quiet sort of recognition.

Amy said...

This is beautifully written. I am glad to know I'm not alone! I am a famous actress you see! Not some twinkie like Sienna Miller; a real one like Judi Dench or Toni Collette.

Thanks for this...

Antique said...

I'm an exceedingly average middle of the pack kind of galin all respects and always have been. Middle of the packers never get famous. Leaders and trailers do, but not middlers. If not for Laura Ingalls Wilder and Grandma Moses, at 47 I might be okay with that, but their stories keep that spark of hope aflame.

kittenpie said...

I hav eto wonder - outside of their own circles, ARE there famous folk singers or famous bloggers? I didn't know ONE blogger until I started doing it and reading them and hearing about other bloggers through the grapevine.

Catherine said...

I will totally be blogging in the nursing home...but no one will be reading since that will be SO 2007, and we'll be SO out of date...

What you said about Moses I've always said about the office of the President. The way the campaigns are run now, I think the qualities necessary for election are mutually exclusive with the qualities that would make you a successful president...

Angela said...

You've touched upon several things that rattle around in my brain lately....particularly about the power of giving up, letting go...and letting things happen as they will. It's a free fall, but you've reminded me how amazing it can be when we keep our fingers off of the controls, as Anne Lamott says.

Patois said...

And, assuming I'm still alive (as I am quite a bit older than you), I'll still be reading your posts, in awe of the famous Bub and Pie.

Carrien said...

I have been experiencing this the past few years. Letting go of the grandiose ideas I had, and my search to matter, stand out, be special, has led to more immediate happiness than anything else I have ever done.

There is a lot to say for contentment.

And yet, like you say, I too have the thought in the back of my mind that perhaps, eventually, when I have let go enough, and matured enough, that something special will come and call me.

mamakie said...

Great post - don't we all have dreams of being seen or heard by a wider audience? Mine are deep down, held there by these little people in my life at the moment. Your last comment about Laura Wilder has given me hope.....my time will come one day, I hope.

Bon said...

smiling in recognition.

Heather said...

Beautiful!

Sarcastic Mom (aka Lotus) said...

I'm famous - in my own home. ;-)

It's amazing the ministry powers that music can have.

NotSoSage said...

It's also a strange notion that we grow up with that we must be accomplished by a certain age...this is a weird reference, but I remember watching the movie, Singles, as a teenager and one of the characters saying, "I thought that by the time I was 25 I would have it all together. You know, be married with a house and kids. Here I am. 25. Things are...pretty much the same." It seems so absurd now, but at 17 I remember thinking, "Well, and why don't you?"

Jennifer said...

I need to start a "perfect post" collection in my sidebar. This would be one.

Mimi said...

Oh wow. What a fantastic post. I'm pondering everything. I always wanted revenge fame. But the clearer eyes of 34 show me that, if I got it, I would have been a real dink. That's not too comforting to realize.

lildb said...

the irony of what you say, it's just enough to create a lovely dissonance in this post, just enough to make it sizzle with truth.

good like a meal.

Donna said...

Interesting observation about Moses, and I think you're right-on with it. I came here from Toddled Dredge.