The Lives We Lead

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“Every dreamer knows that it is entirely possible to be homesick for a place you’ve never been to, perhaps more homesick than for familiar ground.” 

– Judith Thurman

A whiff of perfume, a song through my headphones, the sight of a tree standing brilliantly against a clear blue sky – makes me reminisce about places I’ve never been but that I am sure I know very well.  Sometimes I am transported to a a tiny street where I can find a dusty cafe playing jazz music and serving red wine, other times it’s a glamorous world of cool marble foyers and high ceilings and open windows looking out across an ocean. Sometimes it’s rolling hills and olive trees and the smell of burning grass and running and climbing and tumbling… sometimes it’s a room with a fire and creaky wood floors and the smell of hot cider and the feel of wool blankets and snow outside for miles and miles. Sometimes I long for the scenario so badly it aches, like its something I once had that has since been ripped away from me in some tragic turn of events.

A large majority of my life has been based around these fantasies of what I imagine that life is like, or could be like, in different places, countries, houses, jobs, different scenarios, with different people – influenced by stories read when I was 11, thick books of stock photos of exotic places and houses I would pour over when I was 14, or songs I listened to at 17.

But which scenario do I pursue? Is it possible to have and experience them all? Each of these lives are possible if fully pursued, but how do you pursue a desire that literally changes with the wind, with the sight or smell of something new?

* * *

“I saw my life branching out before me like the green fig tree in the story. From the tip of every branch, like a fat purple fig, a wonderful future beckoned and winked. One fig was a husband and a happy home and children, and another fig was a famous poet and another fig was a brilliant professor, and another fig was Ee Gee, the amazing editor, and another fig was Europe and Africa and South America, and another fig was Constantin and Socrates and Attila and a pack of other lovers with queer names and offbeat professions, and another fig was an Olympic lady crew champion, and beyond and above these figs were many more figs I couldn’t quite make out. I saw myself sitting in the crotch of this fig tree, starving to death, just because I couldn’t make up my mind which of the figs I would choose. I wanted each and every one of them, but choosing one meant losing all the rest, and, as I sat there, unable to decide, the figs began to wrinkle and go black, and, one by one, they plopped to the ground at my feet.”

– Sylvia Plath, The Bell Jar
* * * 

And yet during all this, I am living another life, the one that is my “reality”, the one I’ve created that includes little pieces of all these dreams and childhood picture books and stories and songs. Life is a little bit of all these fantasies, but at the same time it is never fully any one, individually. Is it possible for anyone to be completely satisfied and fully involved in the life currently being lived without ever dreaming or fantasizing of another?

There have certainly been many moments of sublime contentment, weeks while traveling, days exploring a new place, moments while surrounded by good friends or people I love, where I have thought YES, this is exactly where I want to be, exactly the life I want to be living right at this moment. But for the most part, we move forward, striving towards something we dream of, that may or may not be.

Then again, our physical reality is viewed through the individual lens of our mental reality… So as on that waterslide in Ohio, am I not exactly the person that I feel that I am, living that life I imagine, even just for those few moments?